Feeding Kids: Sports and Activities

Stumped on what to make for the team dinner or confused about the best snacks to bring to the game? Here are tips on the best way to fuel your little athletes.
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i love my team

Photo by: Heather Wahl

Heather Wahl

Stumped on what to make for the team dinner or confused about the best snacks to bring after the game? Here are tips on the best way to fuel (and refuel) your active little ones.

Team Dinners

Team gatherings are a great way to build team morale and make sure everyone gets a good meal the night before a competition. There's no need for parents to over-think the menu. Provide plenty of fluids (water, 100% fruit juice and milk), some fresh veggies and pasta.

Some parents feel the need to shy away from carbs but this is exactly what athletes need prior to exercise. Pasta dinners are also easy and cost-effective. Add some protein from meatballs, turkey meatballs, chicken breast or chicken sausage, plus a big salad with vinaigrette dressing and voila -- all your nutritional bases are covered.

When the weather permits, cook up a team barbecue complete with turkey burgers, veggie burgers, plus pasta and potato salads. Remember to make accommodations for anyone on the team who's vegetarian or has food allergies.

Don't forget dessert! A large fruit salad or watermelon wedges and some small baked treats will please the whole crowd. Cookies, brownies or cupcakes decked out with team colors are always popular.

A team brunch might also be a good idea before the team hits the road for a trip. In this case opt for bagels with cream cheese and peanut butter, smoothies, yogurt, fresh fruit, frozen waffles and scrambled egg wraps. All will provide healthy fuel that is easy to grab and go. Don’t forget the fluid here either. Water, 100% fruit juice and if it’s a hot day, sports drinks to take on the bus ride.

Before and During Activity

If your athlete has had a meal a few hours prior to activity (a practice or a game) a small snack might be all they need. Half a bagel, a banana and some water should keep their energy levels in tip-top shape.

Longer soccer games, track meets, or tennis tournaments might require some quick fuel at half time or in between sessions. In this case, choose foods like crackers, bananas, oranges, fig bars (like Fig Newtons) or small granola bars – nothing too heavy that they won't have time to digest.

After Activity

When the activity is over, it's time to recover energy stores and worn-out muscles. Instead of sugary doughnut holes and brownies, bring along chocolate milk boxes, peanut butter crackers, trail mix, small containers of yogurt, homemade energy bars, string cheese and mini-bagels or a bunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Make sure perishable options are packed on ice and offer water and sports drinks (on hot and humid days) to help replenish sweat loss.

Tell Us: What do you pack for your kids' sporting events?

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana's full bio »

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