Healthy Sports Snacks for Kids

boys eating orange slices at halftime during soccer game
Alistair Berg / Digital Vision / Getty Images

The best snacks for active kids in sports help them support growth while having enough energy to be active in their sport. This involves not just refueling for practice and play, but also refueling to ensure adequate energy stores for the next time they participate. Like with all kids, you want to allow autonomy in food choices and also create snacks and meals that are appealing.

The sky is the limit when it comes to what foods are best for pre-game and post-game fueling. So much depends on a child's personal needs and preferences. You'll want to follow your team's snack policy, if it has one. Beyond that, the tips below will provide you with ideas.

Pre-Game Sports Snacks

Each athlete's needs will vary a bit. Just like with adults, preferences also will vary, so it's a great idea to start experimenting with what might make a kid feel best for practices and games while it's still the off-season.

In general, if a child is eating within an hour of activity, focusing mostly on carbohydrates is a good idea. Carbohydrates are quickly digested and used. If a child has a little longer before the activity begins, combining carbohydrates with protein will provide more extended energy.

Again, experiment to see what works for your child. Some kids can eat anything right before hitting the field or court and feel just time and others might experience digestive symptoms if they don't time their pre-game eating appropriately.

Also, while you may be tempted to make the carbohydrate offerings all whole-grain foods, it's important to remember that the increased fiber in whole-grain foods takes longer to empty from the stomach. Some kids might do better with more refined carbohydrate foods right before practice or a game. Again, experiment to see what works best for your child.

Pre-game snack suggestions include:

  • Whole-grain bread, crackers, tortillas, or pretzels
  • Cereal
  • Enriched pasta or brown rice
  • Plain popcorn
  • Apples, bananas, pears, oranges, or any other fruit
  • Dried fruit

Carbohydrate and protein snack ideas:

  • Crackers and cheese
  • Fruited yogurt
  • Nut/seed butter and jelly sandwich
  • Tuna/turkey/chicken sandwich
  • Cereal with milk/yogurt
  • Granola or energy bar

Because large amounts of fiber or fat can take longer to digest, it's best to steer clear of pre-game snacks that contain an abundance of either of these such as bars or cereals with lots of added fiber or large amounts of fried foods.

Half-Time Snacks

During a game, it's most important for kids to stay hydrated, so keep the water flowing. A half-time snack that contains primarily carbohydrates like fruit, crackers, or pretzels is ideal for half-time because there won't be a lot of time for digestion.

Fresh fruit is a great option because it's easy to prepare, it contains lots of water and nutrients, and also fairly wide-ranging kid appeal.

  • Bananas (cut in half for younger kids so they can peel and eat more quickly)
  • Orange slices
  • Clementines (peel ahead of time for little ones)
  • Grapes (avoid for kids under 5)
  • Small slices or chunks of melon
  • Apple or pear wedges (sprinkle with orange juice to prevent browning)
  • Berries

Post-Game Snacks

Immediately following a game or intense practice, kids need lots of fluids to replace what they've lost to perspiration as well as a combination of carbohydrates and protein. Milk is an easy choice because it combines hydration with protein and carbohydrates but there are lots of options below.

If they've really been sweating and/or it is extremely hot outside, athletes also need sodium and potassium. These electrolytes can be found in a variety of foods. They are also are offered in sports drinks. In general, for kids, the recommendation is to replenish with water and a snack. But, if a sports drink is needed, it's important to remember that there's a big difference between sports drinks and energy drinks.

Post-game carbohydrates and proteins help kids refuel and re-energize. Not only is getting a snack or meal in after practice or a game important to immediately replenish energy, but it also helps to replete energy stores that will help a child with the next day's game or practice, too.

If you're providing a team snack, find out if any children have allergies so you can ensure you bring a snack the entire team can enjoy. Options:

  • Fresh fruit (see list above) or applesauce
  • Fruit frozen into kabobs or pops
  • Dried fruit, including leathers or rolls made with 100% fruit
  • Granola bars
  • Whole-grain crackers or bagels, topped with peanut butter, cheese, or low-fat cream cheese
  • Yogurt
  • String cheese
  • Cottage cheese and fruit
  • Smoothies made with yogurt, fruit, and vegetables
  • Popcorn, pretzels, chips with hummus or guacamole to dip
  • Muffins (watch for nut allergies)
  • Trail mix (but beware nut allergies)
3 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. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 15 fueling snacks to take to your child's game.

  2. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 8 gameday nutrition tips for young athletes.

  3. 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

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By Catherine Holecko
Catherine Holecko is an experienced freelance writer and editor who specializes in pregnancy, parenting, health and fitness.