The Best Snacks to Fuel Youth Athletes

boy drinking chocolate milk


As an assistant coach of a high school girls cross country running team, I know firsthand that we often call on the parents to supply food items for the kid's practices and competitions. This is an important role parents can play in helping promote good health and performances in their children, as well as the entire team. Kids are rarely in full control of their food choices as they likely don't do their own shopping and cooking. They're also not as knowledgeable about what their bodies require as growing, active people.

When one young athlete shows up to a practice or game with a packed snack, it's common that they might be too embarrassed, shy or otherwise pulled away from consuming it. However, if the entire team is provided with a nourishing bite, no one is singled out. This is a great way to use peer pressure in a positive way and to the advantage of developing healthful habits and create a positive experience around eating healthy food in a group environment. Whether it is nourishing dishes for team potlucks, fun snacks for team camps, or fuel for competition, what you supply can make a big difference. 

Aim to provide whole food options for snacks. Many young athletes need the calorie density and satiety offered by real food. Sport-specific snacks are also extremely useful in getting the athlete to consume something to energize their workout. Having real food before or after practices and sport food for during competitions helps make distinction to young athletes about how to appropriately utilize snacks and sports nutrition. It is tempting just to grab treats that you know will be devoured, but most foods that are marketed to fuel sport are already on the sweet side, so whenever possible, try to provide something semi nutritious.

At the end of the day, we know as a parent you're pretty busy, so providing anything is better than nothing. However, in the interesting in promoting the nutrition of your child's team, here are some tips and suggestions for quick and easy yet healthful snacks you can bring.

Tips for Providing Snacks With Ease

Place a standing order on Amazon to get snacks delivered before games.
Stock up on shelf-stable foods to avoid last minute trips to the store. 
Talk to the coach(es) about what is needed.
Create a sign-up sheet to keep the task organized. 
Use a large plastic tub with a lid as a “snack bucket” that everyone can contribute to throughout the season and that is brought to all practices and games. 
Don’t forget non-food items like napkins and paper plates and bowls.
Ask your kid what their friends are currently eating. 
Invite your child’s teammates over to make bars or cookie to get them involved in the process.
Ask the coach about food allergies. 

Nutritious Options to Bring for Your Child's Team

Milk boxes, regular or chocolate; coolers can be a pain, but there are shelf stable options! Check out Horizon Organic milk boxes—plant-based options exist, too.
Granola Bars
Fruit
Energy bites
Hard boiled eggs
Dried fruit
Trail mix
Protein bars
Oatmeal cookies
Cereal
Smoothies or juice boxes
Hummus
Pretzels
Yogurts
Electrolyte drinks
Nut butter & jelly sandwiches
Cheese sticks or cubes
Cut veggies
Crispy chickpeas
Baked chips 
Popcorn

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About the Author

Lori Nedescu

Lori Nedescu is a self-taught personal chef and qualified board-certified sports dietitian-nutritionist. She holds a master’s degree in human nutrition and has racked up over 11 years professional experience in the dynamic field of wellness, including recipe demonstrator, corporate wellness coach, public speaker, digital media producer, personal nutrition advisor and freelance writer. As an elite road cyclist and marathon runner who was diagnosed with celiac disease, Nedescu understands first hand that eating a whole food, nutritious diet can greatly affect one’s performance, mood, health and overall increase quality of life. Through her brand ‘Hungry for Results@HungryForResults, she provides a fun and authentic approach to food, nutrition, fitness and lifestyle counseling.
Lori Nedescu is a self-taught personal chef and qualified board-certified sports dietitian-nutritionist. She holds a master’s degree in human nutrition and has racked up over 11 years professional experience in the dynamic field of wellness, including recipe demonstrator, corporate wellness coach, public speaker, digital media producer, personal nutrition advisor and freelance writer. As an elite road cyclist and marathon runner who was diagnosed with celiac disease, Nedescu understands first hand that eating a whole food, nutritious diet can greatly affect one’s performance, mood, health and overall increase quality of life. Through her brand ‘Hungry for Results@HungryForResults, she provides a fun and authentic approach to food, nutrition, fitness and lifestyle counseling.

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