Somewhere along the way, snacks immediately following youth athletic events got complicated – not to mention unhealthy! What used to be orange slices and water has turned into the complex coordination 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 – to replenish fluids lost during games, give a quick boost of energy, and provide the nutrition needed for recovery.
Young athletes need a well-balanced diet to support growth and perform their best. Two key nutrients that help accomplish that are carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrates supply energy and aid in recovery. Good choices 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:
- Yogurt and berries
- Mandarin oranges and string cheese
- Pre-cut apple slices and peanut butter
- Banana with a single serving of nuts
- Turkey wrap
- Trail mix
- Whole grain crackers and cheese (or string cheese)
- Snack bar with protein
- Hummus with vegetables or pita
A note on fluids: Staying well hydrated is important for optimal performance and health. For activities lasting less than one hour, water will do the trick. For more vigorous activities lasting longer than hour, a sports drink may be included.
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.