Healthy Snacks for Youth Team Sports

It is almost Saturday and you remember that it is your week to take snacks for the soccer (or lacrosse, field hockey, baseball, etc.) game.  Maybe you are thinking that you don’t want to bring a sugary drink like Gatorade, and a bag of chips or snacks from Costco or Walmart.  Is there anything healthy you can bring?  It is very important that as the team Mom while you are thinking about health and fitness  you consider any food allergies a child on the team may have as you ponder what you want to bring.  Children often have dairy, nut, wheat, soy, and egg allergies.  Here are some great ideas to get you started. 

What to bring:

  • Drinks: Water. Yes, water is the best source of hydration. You can make water fun for younger kids by providing special reusable water bottles (think fun team colors) or asking a sibling to decorate water bottles for the team.   Be careful of plastic water bottles and plastic straws in metal containers. Be sure they are BPA-free. If you want flavored water you can add slices of lemon, orange, or cucumber to the water bottle without adding sugar.  Every child should have their own water bottle and the team Mom can bring a refill container of filtered water even if there is a water source at the field.
  • Snacks: Fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, and low-fat lean protein provide the healthy carbohydrates and protein kids need to refuel after the big game. Aim for snacks that include two different food groups. See the list of suggestions below.

What Not to Bring:

  • Sugary drinks: We recommend avoiding sports drinks, commercial flavored water, juice, and soda. They are usually full of sugar your kids don’t need. The only time routine sports drinks should be considered is for children who are participating in a very vigorous aerobic exercise in hot and humid weather for longer than 60 continuous minutes.  Consider having sports drinks on hand for children who are getting dehydrated.
  • Sweets and salty snacks: We recommend avoiding cookies, candy, cupcakes, packaged fruit cups, chips, power bars, and granola bars filled with candy or chocolate. These foods provide empty calories instead of the long-lasting energy your kids need to finish the big game or their homework!

Healthy Team Snacks to Buy and Take 

  • Individual containers of hummus served with fresh-cut vegetables (celery, carrots, cucumber, etc) or whole-wheat pita bread
  • Low-fat string cheese with fresh fruit (see list below) or whole-wheat crackers
  • Low-fat yogurt or unsweetened applesauce (look for brands that are “no sugar added”)
  • Low-fat plain milk box (avoid chocolate or flavored milk and remember to bring a box of non-dairy for those sensitive to dairy) and a granola or nut bar (choose a healthy bar without chocolate or candy pieces)
  • Individual fresh fruits that are easy for kids to eat, such as clementines, sliced apples or bananas, sliced watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe
  • Whole-wheat mini bagels with nut butter or low-fat cream cheese (if there are any nut allergies on the team, sunflower seed butter is a great substitute), there are also excellent vegan cream cheese products for dairy sensitive children
  • Butter Free Popcorn (invite your kids to decorate the brown paper bags). Try sprinkling with nutritional yeast for a fun delicious “cheesy” addition

Healthy team snacks to make and package

  • Spread nut butter or sunflower seed butter on celery sticks, on apple slices, or between graham crackers. Add raisin, dates or dried cranberry  “ants” for extra fun. 
  • Create trail mix using pretzels, dry cereal (unsweetened, whole grain), nuts, and dried fruit like raisins, dates, bananas, and apricots. (may need to make some without the nuts)
  • Make your own healthy granola and put it into individual bags
  • Layer deli turkey, fresh veggies, and mustard on a whole-wheat or gluten-free tortilla. Roll it up and cut it into snack-sized pieces.
  • Make a sandwich on whole-wheat bread using deli turkey, nut butter or sunflower butter, or reduced-fat cheese and veggies. Serve a half sandwich to each child, or use cookie cutters to cut them into fun shapes.
  • Make fresh fruit popsicles or freeze fresh grapes for a cold, refreshing snack.

Make it fun

Whatever you bring, make sure to consider your audience and their food allergies/sensitivities. Making it fun-themed or unique lets them know they are thought of. Remember some good fluids and some fun healthy crunch and you’ll have a winning healthy team snack. Go, team MOM!!

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