Healthy Sports Snacks for Kids

boys eating orange slices at halftime during soccer game
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Keep young athletes strong and fit with healthy sports snacks. The best snacks help kids refuel, satisfying their need for nutrients and their taste buds. And since sporty kids need different nutrients at different times, plan snacks, meals, and treats accordingly. Limit ingredients that will impede performance, and follow your team's snack policy, if it has one. In general, little kids don't need a snack at all, but so some teams wisely suggest or require, fruit and water only for half-time and post-game snacks.

Pre-Game Healthy Sports Snacks

Help your child make it to half-time feeling strong: Fuel muscles with carbohydrates one hour before an athletic event or practice.

Grains, such as pasta or crackers, are your best bet if kids will be playing for 60 minutes or less; choose whole-grain versions whenever possible.

For a longer game or training session, add some protein or fiber to slow digestion and sustain energy. To get these, choose fruit or low-fat protein options such as milk, turkey, or yogurt. But skip snacks with lots of sugar.

Pre-game snacks to avoid include fatty foods, since these slow digestion, and extra-sweet foods such as soda, candy, and sports drinks. These cause a spike in blood sugar. If sugar levels rise and then drop quickly during a game, your child could become sluggish or even dizzy.

Easy pre-game snack suggestions:

  • Whole-grain bread, crackers, tortillas, or pretzels
  • Cereal (as long as it's not high in sugar)
  • Enriched pasta or brown rice
  • Plain popcorn
  • Low-fat cheese, milk, yogurt, or pudding
  • Turkey, chicken, tofu
  • Apples, bananas, pears, oranges
  • Carrots, sugar snap peas, cucumbers

Half-Time Healthy Sports Snacks

During a game, it's most important to stay hydrated, so keep the water flowing. Again, it shouldn't be a default, especially with so many games scheduled just before or after dinner time; but if kids really need a halftime snack, make it something easy to grab, eat, and digest.

Avoid salty foods, since they dehydrate instead of re-hydrating. The best choice is fresh fruit since it contains lots of water and nutrients, and also has kid appeal.

Best half-time snack suggestions:

  • Bananas (cut in half for younger kids so they can peel and eat more quickly)
  • Orange slices
  • Clementines (be prepared to help little ones peel)
  • Grapes (try frozen ones for something different, but avoid for kids under 5)
  • Small slices or chunks of melon
  • Apple or pear wedges (sprinkle with orange juice to prevent browning)
  • Berries (except cherries, since the pits will make a mess!)

Post-Game Healthy Sports Snacks

Immediately following a game or intense practice, kids need lots of fluids to replace what they've lost to perspiration. Milk (including chocolate milk) and water are good choices. If they've really been sweating and/or it is extremely hot outside, athletes also need sodium and potassium. That's why sports drinks contain these electrolytes. But remember, there's a big difference between sports drinks and energy drinks.

Post-game carbohydrates and proteins help kids refuel and re-energize. While a little sugar is OK, don't go overboard. It's not wise to reinforce the idea that sweets are a good way to reward yourself for a job well done.

If you're providing a team snack, find out if any children have allergies so you can avoid those dangerous foods. And resist the urge to one-up the last parent who brought in a snack! No one likes a post-game snack arms race, with bigger, junkier, more packaged items each week.

Simple post-game snack suggestions:

  • Fresh fruit (see list above) or applesauce
  • Fruit frozen into kabobs or pops
  • Dried fruit, including leathers or rolls made with 100% fruit
  • Fruit-flavored gelatin
  • Granola bars, but watch out for high calorie, fat, and sugar content
  • Cookies (best choices are fig bars, oatmeal cookies, animal crackers)
  • Crackers or bagels: Opt for whole-grain versions if you can; top with peanut butter, cheese, or low-fat cream cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Pudding
  • String cheese
  • Popcorn, pretzels, baked chips
  • Muffins (low-fat)
  • Trail mix (with dried fruit instead of candy; beware nut allergies)
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Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Cleveland Clinic. The best fuel for your body before playing sports. March 2018.

  2. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 15 fueling snacks to take to your child's game. January 2018.

  3. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 8 gameday nutrition tips for young athletes. Updated October 2017.

  4. Amiri M, Ghiasvand R, Kaviani M, Forbes SC, Salehi-abargouei A. Chocolate milk for recovery from exercise: a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled clinical trials. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2019;73(6):835-849.  doi:10.1038/s41430-018-0187-x

Additional Reading
  • Evers, Connie, RD.
  • Gotlin, Robert S., DO: Dr. Rob's Guide to Raising Fit Kids. New York: DiaMedica Publishing, 2008.