How to Pack a Healthy Snack for Summer Athletes

Published on 
June 27, 2017


Summer vacation is upon us, and with summer comes a variety of summer sports leagues. During this time of year, many children attend daylong sports camps and meets, weekend-long tournaments, and late-afternoon-into-evening sporting events. Although many events have concession stands with snack options available, many of these snack options are high-fat or high-sugar options that are not conducive to a good athletic performance. So the question is, “What should my child be eating during the summer sport season?”

chla-sports-snacks-smart-bites.jpgYoung athletes need a good amount of simple sugars (readily-digestible carbohydrate for energy) for quick energy, protein for muscle recovery, and plenty of fluids to make up for sweat loss. Snacks for young athletes should combine simple sugars with high-protein foods to promote quick but lasting energy and help aid in recovery between events. For kids on the go in the summer time, it is important to make snacks portable and nonperishable, as snacks are often carried in a gym bag and left in the heat of the summer day. Some good examples of snacks that could be made ahead of time and that provide all the nutrients children need in between events include:

  • Peanut butter and honey or peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • Trail mix (pretzels, mixed nuts, dried fruits, M&Ms, etc.)
  • A piece of fruit and a small pack of beef jerky
  • High-protein granola bars or sports bars

Fluids are also extremely important for young athletes, especially in the summer heat. Children often get overheated due to poor sweat production and poor fluid intake. Parents should check with coaches to make sure that plenty of fluid breaks are given throughout a practice or daylong event. Although water is a great way to rehydrate, children participating in sports should be given drinks that include simple sugars and electrolytes to make up for losses in sweat and to provide quick energy. Good examples of drinks to provide children for sports include:

  • Gatorade or other similar sports drinks
  • Coconut water
  • Fresh fruit or 100% fruit juices
  • Flavored water (with Crystal Light or other water flavoring products that include some simple sugars and electrolytes)

Juices with no real fruit juice, sugary water drinks (such as Capri-Sun or Hugs drinks), and soda (both diet and regular) should be avoided as they only provide simple sugars but do not contain the electrolytes needed to make up for what is lost in sweat.

But what if you don’t have the chance to prepare a snack in advance and the concession stand is the only option available? Don’t fret—there are usually options available that will provide the nutrients your child needs.. The best options at concession stands usually include:

  • Fruit
  • Pretzels
  • Light pasta salad
  • Yogurt
  • Granola bars or high protein sports bars
  • Sports drinks or water

What to avoid at concession stands:

  • Candy and other high-sugar, low-nutrient foods should be avoided, as these cause energy bursts followed by energy crashes, which in turn can be detrimental to athletic performance.
  • Also, avoid high-fat or greasy foods such as French fries or pastries because these take a very long time to digest and may cause stomach cramping or other GI distress during athletic performance
  • Soda should be avoided due to high-sugar, low-nutrient content and high-caffeine content that may cause energy bursts/crashes and possible gastrointestinal distress during the sporting event.

Encourage your children to go out there and have fun, and feel confident that they are staying well-nourished and well-hydrated during their sporting events this summer!