Somewhere along the way, snacks immediately following youth athletics got complicated – not to mention unhealthy! What used to be orange slices and water has turned into the complex organization of salty and sugar-laden treats and drinks.
As a dietitian in the Center for Better Health and Nutrition and HealthWorks! programs, I would love to see these post-sports snacks and drinks get back to their original intent and purpose – to replenish fluids lost during games, to give a quick boost of energy, and to provide the nutrition needed for recovery.
Young athletes need a well-balanced diet to support growth and perform their best. Two key nutrients to help accomplish this are carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrates supply energy and aid in muscle recovery. Good choices for this include whole grains and fruit. Protein helps build and repair muscles. Healthy examples include fish, low fat dairy, nuts, soy and lean meats and poultry.
Snacks should be an integral part of a young athlete’s overall eating plan, and parents should take into consideration their age and overall activity level when planning for them.
Here are some post-sports snack ideas that are both healthy and easily portable:
- A piece of fruit (apples, pears, bananas)
- Mandarin oranges and string cheese
- Pre-cut apple slices and peanut butter
- Banana with a single serving of nuts
- Smoothie (homemade or packaged)
- Turkey wrap
- Trail mix
- Whole grain crackers and cheese (or string cheese)
- Low sugar cereal and yogurt
- Single-serving hummus with vegetables or pita
A note on fluids: Your child should drink water every 15-20 minutes during activity that lasts less than an hour. When participating in a vigorous sporting event lasting longer than an hour, it is okay for your child to replace the water with a sports drink every 15-20 minutes. Outside of those parameters, a sports drink is not necessary, and the same goes for juice and other sugar-laden beverages.
The above snack ideas, combined with plenty of water, can help our kids feel better immediately following a sporting activity, as well as help their bodies recover and prepare for the next event. While an occasional treat is okay, in my opinion it should be the exception, not the rule.
Editor’s note: Information included in this blog post was originally published in the fall edition of Young & Healthy.