5 Healthy Post-Game Snacks Young Athletes Will Love
Healthy After Game Snack Ideas That Kids Love
Great game, kids! You played a forty minute game and you deserve some replenishment. Head on over to the sideline where there is a snack waiting for you. You played hard so we can justify loading you up with hundreds of calories of processed food and added sugar. We might even stop for pancakes and hot chocolate on the way home because it was rainy and cold. We love sports!
Do any other parents feel pressured to provide an entire sack lunch for kids after a game? Kids work up an appetite, and their bodies truly need calories to sustain them through physical activities. However, they usually do not NEED the amount, or quality, of food that is often provided after an athletic event. What they need is a nutrient dense snack and clean hydration that will fuel their bodies and prepare them for their next event. We have some ideas for you. But first...
Let’s talk about sugar.
Sugar is a main culprit in turning snacks “unhealthy”. What does sugar do to our bodies? It increases the risk of obesity, heart disease, type II diabetes, acne, depression and cancer. It also drains energy levels after the spike of energy we get after consuming it. Knowing this, why do we so willingly prescribe sugar to our kids when we are trying to improve their health by encouraging them to play sports? A mentor of mine, and collegiate strength coach, once told me that he would have a bunch of freak athletes walking around if they would fuel their bodies properly. The best of the best do not replenish and recover with juice boxes and donuts.
Don’t get us wrong, we like sugar, too. It’s tasty, we get it, and in our house we LOVE our treats. Because it is so accessible it would be wise to limit it more often than not. Don’t worry, kids are NOT missing out and have ample opportunities to consume added sugar. Every holiday (which can span a month, it seems), school birthdays, weekend treats, church socials, grandparents, etc. Between all of these they are covered!
We’ve been creative about consuming some of the post-game treats we’ve received. We often split up the three or four items and use them for weekend or after school treats. We saved a Gatorade we received one week and diluted it with water, then drank it during the next game. Sometimes we find another home for a sugary snack. Sorry, it’s true.
It is getting harder and harder to monitor sugar intake, but we are making improvements. After game snacks are one way we feel we can share good health with other families. We are far from “zero sugar consumption”, and we are ungrateful for the efforts fellow parents make in supplying our children with tasty food. This is a decision we have made as a family just because our bodies really do not feel great when we fuel them poorly.
We did a little research to see just how much added sugar is in a typical post-game snack. Even with our awareness, we were surprised when we added up the sugar content of some popular treats.
Common post-game snacks. Grams of added sugar are listed next to each item, with the total tallied at the end:
12 oz Gatorade 21g, Ritz peanut butter crackers 5g, small orange = 26g—Juice box 9g, fruit snacks 12g, pretzels 1g= 22g—Capri Sun 10g, Rice Kristie treat 8g, trail mix 9g = 27g—12 oz G2 Gatorade 7g, chocolate chip granola bar 7g, Go-Gurt 8-10g = 23g
Now there are a few nutrient dense options sprinkled into the list above, but a lot of these foods are processed and the total sugar content is VERY high. The recommended maximum daily amount of added sugar for children 4-6 years old is 19g, 24g for children 7-10 years old, and less than 30g for children 11+. A child has met or exceeded their daily limit if they consume one of the snack combinations above!
Let’s make some changes.
Here are some suggestions for minimizing post-game (and daily) sugar intake:
- WATER. ALWAYS. Give the kids water instead of a sugary drink. Even fruit juice like apple or orange juice contains a lot of sugar. Juices do not contain the fiber necessary to process all of that sugar. Sugar-sweetened drinks like sodas, juices and sweet teas are loaded with fructose, a type of simple sugar. Consuming fructose also increases your hunger and desire for food.
- PLAN AHEAD. Spend a little extra time preparing a whole food option. Popping homemade popcorn and putting it into individual baggies takes a lot more time than grabbing the assorted bag of chips at Costco. Slicing veggies and washing grapes takes longer than adding a fruit snack to twelve lil’ kickers’ snack bags. These efforts are worth it in the long run. Take the time to supply nutrients instead of always choosing convenience. But believe me, sometimes convenience is called for. In those cases, do your best and “make the better choice”.
- FUEL YOUR ATHLETES. Aim for nutrient dense items that provide protein, carbohydrates and vitamins. Nuts and seeds, real pieces of cheese, homemade protein bites, pieces of real fruit, sliced veggies and hummus are all great post-game options.
Here are FIVE of our favorite after game snack bags to throw together:
- Popcorn (with light coconut oil and salt, or Skinny Pop) -orange - almonds - water
- Trail mix - grapes - water
- Protein bites - banana - water
- Pretzels - 1 oz cheese - apple slices - water
- Carrot sticks - hummus - raisins - water
Are you looking at these suggestions thinking, “Those things are boring, there is nothing fun in that bag, the kids won’t like those, that isn’t enough, where is the kid food?...” We did an experiment. We brought one of the above post-game snack ideas to a soccer game and did not hear one complaint. The girls dug into their bags as usual, and one girl came back to see if we had any extra bags for her hungry, envious sister.
Sure, your young athletes have fast burning metabolisms and can handle a lot of calories. They might not play football past fifth grade, so you may not think their nutrition matters that much for their performance. We want to emphasize that nutrition DOES matter. Healthful, mindful consumption of sugar DOES MATTER. Refueling and giving the simplest, best whole food to our kids REALLY matters.