Inside: Looking for healthy team snacks for kids sports? Here are ideas from pee-wee games to high school sports.
Whether you’re a new sports parent or a sideline regular, you know that snacks are part of most youth sports.
As a registered dietitian and parent who’s been on the sidelines for pee-wee soccer, youth t-ball, flag football, and high school tennis, I’ve supplied my fair share of team snacks along the way.
So if you’re on snack duty, I’ve got some great game day snack ideas for you–for different age levels.
Team Snack Reminders
- Bring enough for the entire team (it’s always nice to have extras for sibling spectators too)
- Check in about food allergies, such as peanut, nut, and dairy allergies
- Pack perishable snacks in a cooler or insulated bag with cold packs
- Rinse all fresh fruit (except bananas and clementines), including outside of melons before cutting into them
Team Snacks For Pee-Wee and Rec Sports
At this level, most pee-wee and rec sports games last an hour or less. For these weekend or weeknight games, most young kids don’t really need much of a snack to sustain them. After all, most of them are likely going home afterward for lunch or dinner.
But some coaches and parents like gathering for post-game team snacks.
In that case, fruit is a perfect solution. It’s a natural choice after sports (remember orange slices on the sidelines from your own childhood games?). Fruit is refreshing and full of fluid and carbohydrates, and it’s usually safe for children with food allergies.
In my experience, parents are often pleasantly surprised when someone brings it–and if it goes over well, other parents may be inspired to do the same. And many children don’t get enough fruit anyway.
I developed this list when I was sharing ideas for healthy soccer snacks, but it’s great for any sport:
Whole Fresh Fruit:
- Bananas (budget friendly!)
- Clementines (easy for little hands to peel)
- Peaches or nectarines
Cut Fresh Fruit:
- Orange slices (tried and true!)
- Watermelon cut into wedges or sticks (here’s how to cut watermelon into sticks)
- Fruit kebabs on wooden skewers with grapes, melon, and strawberries
- Kiwi halves: serve with plastic spoons to scoop out the fruit
Fruits & Veggies To Go:
- Paper cups of berries
- Paper cups of cherries
- Paper cups of carrot and celery sticks
- Pre-packaged bags of baby carrots
- Paper cups of pineapple chunks
- Packaged fruit cups (+ spoon)
- Paper cups of melon balls
- Small baggies of grapes
- Mini boxes of raisins
- Packaged applesauce cups (+ spoon) or pouches
What about drinks? I recommend skipping sugary drinks in favor of water. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, water is the best drink before, during, and after sports for most typical youth sports–especially at this level.
Want Help Changing Team Snacks?
I helped implement fruit-and-water snack plans for my kids’ pee-wee and rec sports teams. Here’s my hard-earned advice and some free resources for you to make change on your kids’ teams: How Parents Can Create a Healthy Snacks Plan For Kids Sports
Team Snacks For Older Athletes
During middle and high school, sports tend to be more intense and kids are more active. Their games may last longer, and they may be playing after school, when they’re hungry for substantial snack. They’re also at an age where their appetites may be much larger.
Though fruit is still a great idea, these athletes may need more substantial fuel. So consider bringing a bunch of bananas, a bag of clementines, or apples plus something else. Here are some ideas:
- Granola bars and protein bars
- Cheese sticks and whole grain crackers or pretzels
- Yogurt tubes or pouches
- PBJ sandwiches (use sunflower seed butter butter if there are allergies)
- Homemade trail mix with cereal pieces, dried fruit, sunflower seeds, and chocolate chips (pack in zip-top baggies)
- Mini or full-size bagels with cream cheese
- Cups of hummus with pita chips
- Bananas or apple slices with squeeze pouches of peanut butter or seed butter
- Shelf-stable chocolate milk boxes and bags of popcorn
- Cups or pouches of applesauce and hard-boiled eggs
- Individual bottles of yogurt drinks or flavored kefir
Need ideas for snacks to give your youth athletes at home or on the road? Check out my list of 21 Nutritious Sports Snacks For Kids
What About Sports Drinks?
If kids are exercising or playing sports intensely for more than 60 minutes and need to replenish quickly during the activity, sports drinks can be helpful–especially if it’s a hot day. It’s much easier (and gentler on the tummy) to take a few gulps of sports drink during a quick break between matches than to sit down and eat a snack. Sports drinks are also useful for endurance athletes like marathon runners who need to restock on the go.
But sports drinks are often overused–especially during youth sports.
Sports drinks like Gatorade were created for elite and endurance athletes, to deliver a combo of quick hydration and carb and electrolyte replacement during exercise.
In their 2011 clinical report about sports drinks and energy drinks, the American Academy of Pediatrics says:
“Water is also generally the appropriate first choice for hydration before, during, and after most exercise regimens…For most children and adolescents, daily electrolyte requirements are met sufficiently by a healthy balanced diet; therefore, sports drinks offer little to no advantage over plain water.
Electrolytes aren’t special ingredients found only in sports drinks. Sodium and potassium, which can be lost through sweat, are easily replaced through food for most kids. Meals and snacks such as a banana, half a sandwich, crackers and cheese, or yogurt and fruit can restock lost sodium and potassium AND provide nutrients like protein.
READ MORE: The Truth About Kids and Sports Drinks
What About Energy Drinks?
Some teen athletes are using energy drinks to boost performance. But these drinks aren’t made for people under the age of 18 and may supply harmful amounts of caffeine that can negatively affect their play. Read more here: What Every Parent Should Know About Energy Drinks