After school games are great — whether they’re organized team events or just kids in the neighborhood playing around.
However, that usually leaves one or two parents responsible for snacks, and those items may be donuts, cupcakes from the grocery, or cookies with soda pop. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the kids are running around, so they can load up on sugary or fatty snacks. Here are some facts you should know.
1. The energy store that we use for exercise is called glycogen.
It’s best replenished with carbohydrates from sources that provide a natural absorption of sugar and nutrients. Snacks with fiber like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains slow the absorption of sugar, allow glycogen to be replenished, and avoid the nasty effects of insulin.
2. Exercise causes the formation of free radicals in the muscles.
Antioxidants are important for preventing damage to our bodies during and after exercise. Baked treats and soda do not have any antioxidants. Research has shown that damage to joints, blood vessels, and skin from free radicals starts at an early age. Antioxidants from the SuperFoods that help to remove free radicals are important at any age.
3. Childhood obesity is becoming an epidemic in this country.
High sugar snacks and soda are one of the main reasons for this epidemic. Teaching and modeling a healthy lifestyle is important for children. Helping your children to learn which foods to choose to stay fit is part of providing your child with a foundation for lifelong health. Exercise is healthy and should be complemented with healthy food and drinks. The goal should be to re-hydrate and replace nutrients and energy in a healthy way. We need to get away from thinking that exercise should be rewarded with junk food. Junk food should not be a reward.
Healthy Snacks for Kids That They’ll Love
- Water – Bottled water is a great way to rehydrate hot, sweaty kids.
- Soy – Box drinks of flavored soy milk are easy, refreshing, and taste good.
- Yogurt – Portable yogurt drinks and yogurt in a tube are easy and can be kept on ice until after the game. Look for low-sugar options.
- Fruit Juice – Not my first choice because fruit juices tend to be high in sugar, but it’s better than soda. Look for 100% juice with no added sugar.
- Fruit – Sliced apples, orange wedges, cantaloupe, blueberries, grapes, raspberries, and strawberries can be mixed into individual plastic bags for a colorful snack high in antioxidants. Watermelon is another great snack that always hits the spot. Just bring paper towels and hand wipes.
- Vegetables – Baby carrots, red pepper slices, celery sticks, and cherry tomatoes are easy to get together into individual sandwich bags and are kid favorites. If you need a dip, try hummus or chunky salsa.
- Turkey – Turkey breast chunks with low fat cheese squares are a favorite.
- Crunchy Snacks – Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, plain popcorn, and soy nuts are tasty and great for noshing.
- Sweet Stuff – Applesauce cups, granola, raisins, and dried fruit can help satisfy a sweet tooth without all the junk.
If you like a little bit more production in the snacks, try “ants on a log”: Spread low-fat peanut butter (choose one without hydrogenated oils) or cream cheese on a celery stick and garnish with raisins, sliced almonds, or granola. If you have to bring cookies, check out our Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Chip cookie recipe or our Cinnamon Apricot Oatmeal Cookies.
Remember, snacks can be healthy and fun. Stand firm, set a great example, and trust that other parents are looking to keep their families fit too.