Great Snacks for Young Athletes

Every youth sports parents knows that you can’t show up to a soccer match or baseball game without a tub of snacks and drinks in tow. However, the unhealthy eats that tend to be on sale during sports season aren’t always the most nutritious option for an active child. When considering pre-, mid-, and post-activity snacks, avoid doling out candy, chips, crackers and other foods that are high in fats and sugars and lacking in necessary nutrients. Create snacks and quick meals that offer vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates and fluids. Snacks for young athletes provide necessary nutrients while still appealing to their craving for salty, sweet, and refreshing foods. Water and fresh fruit are great for half-time and after performances. However, parents can choose from a number of creative options that children will love. Remember, young athletes should always have a snack one to two hours before their activities!

Pre-Game Energy Boosters

Apple slices with nut butter offer protein, vitamins and fluid. Strawberry cheesecake roll-ups are simply low-fat or fat-free cream cheese spread on a tortilla and topped with sliced strawberries and a sprinkle of sugar. Roll and cut into bite-sized pieces. Both options also provide the carbohydrates needed as fuel. The fiber and protein also stay in the stomach longer, which ensures the energy boost lasts. Other good carbohydrate options include meals containing meat and starchy or brightly-colored vegetables. Macaroni and cheese remains an all-time favorite with children.

Half-Time Break Snacks

As time is limited, quick snacks of fresh fruit provide vitamins, minerals and an energy boost along with much-needed rehydration. Fruit juice infused water is the right combination for replacing lost fluid and electrolytes. Fresh fruit is always an ideal option and may include:

  • Clementine or orange slices
  • Apple and pear slices
  • Berries
  • Grapes
  • Halved bananas
  • Melon chunks

Post-game Snacks

After a practice, game or other physically demanding activity, youngsters need to rehydrate. If they perspired under the hot sun, they also need to replenish their electrolytes. A combination of carbohydrates and protein before and after activities helps replenish energy while providing muscles and connective tissues with the nutrients needed to recover and repair. Good post-activity recommendations include:

  • Fresh fruit, frozen fruit pops or fruit leather
  • Fig bar or oatmeal cookies
  • Bagels or crackers topped with nut butter, low-fat or fat-free cream cheese and fruit slices
  • Pudding cups
  • String cheese
  • Trail mix
  • Yogurt

 

*Originally posted on PhilipWardSeattle.org

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Benefits of After-School Sports

After-school sports have a lot to offer children as they grow into young adults. In addition to being great for a young person’s physical health and well-being, youth sports have a wide range of mental and social benefits; they teach children the value of teamwork, resilience, and hard work. As a parent, I’ve seen firsthand the benefits that after-school athletics can offer children, and I highly recommend that other parents consider signing their children up for a seasonal sport or extracurricular activity. Let’s take a look at how after-school activities can benefit youths.

Establish Discipline and Commitment

Committing to a sport means waking up early on a game day – even when you don’t feel like rolling out of bed. This dedication is a great lesson for children to learn in preparation for becoming a young adult. It takes time and discipline to achieve an athletic skill set; over time, the children will learn firsthand that they have to work for what they want. They will also feel proud of themselves for going on those days when putting in the effort led to their having a good time or reaching a new milestone.

Learn Emotional Management

It can be frustrating to lose a game or struggle over a new skill. Experiencing these difficulties will teach your child to better handle negative emotions and prioritize good sportsmanship over personal frustrations. This will ultimately lead to more emotional stability and helping the child better process emotionally charged situations off of the field. Learning how to win gracefully has a similarly positive impact; children can both build their confidence and learn how to celebrate with humility.

Maintain Physical Health

Participating in team sports helps your child maintain their physical health and refine their basic motor-skills. It is also an opportunity for your child to learn their limits and athletic capabilities. Knowing when to push harder and when to stop is essential, and taking part in a  sport is one of the best ways to test (and set) limits and boundaries. Parents can help push this self-care even further by showing their athletes how eating the right foods can impact their game positively or negatively. You are never too young to benefit from healthy eating habits.

*Originally posted on PhilipWardSeattle.org