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Healthy Nutrition Tips for Kids in Sports

Kids involved in sports need their nutritional needs met in order to perform well. This isn’t just the day before an event, or the day of, it needs to be long term an on-going. I know for some, this is a tough thing to do, but as parents, we have to be the ones to set the positive example for healthy eating.

I  have a 6 year old daughter who is involved in competitive cheerleading. She practices twice a week, one practice is 2.5 hours long, so we have definitely relied on healthy eating choices to make sure she can perform well during practice, and stays healthy. For weekend competitions, I plan ahead and pack her snacks/drinks. Once you get used to it, it becomes easier, I promise!  I hope some of this information will help you and your young athlete out!

Did you Know?

Kids need to eat a balanced meal (whole grains, lean proteins, and fresh fruits/vegetables), to prepare the body for activity.

Consuming a healthy diet regularly will help their body become stronger, and fight off sickness and infections.

I know some kids don’t like eating certain foods, so, we have to focus on alternatives that have the same nutritional values as the foods they dislike, for example, have them eat:

Dark Chocolates
Skim Milk (or Nut Milks)
Organic Fruit Juices
Whole Grain Cereals (not high sugary ones)
Kids Protein/Energy Bars (Clif organics are my daughters favorite)



Don’t let them indulge in fatty fast foods; that can lead to poor sports performance, and then other health issues.

Don’t use non-healthy food as a reward AFTER the event; fuel them with Bananas, still eating healthy foods, a pat on the back, a medal, etc. It’s nice to celebrate after with a pizza buffet and ice cream, BUT, don’t make it a habit. That can lead to future emotional eating, and seeing food as “comfort”. It’s ok in moderation, but try not to make it a habit every time.

Plan ahead! Pack healthier snacks to take on-the-go, such as:

  • PB with carrots or celery (think ants on a log here)
  • 100 calorie cookie and cracker snack packs
  • Kids protein bars, See Clif bars above, or make your own with this recipe.
  • Apple/Orange slices (great for BEFORE activity)
  • Bananas (for after activity)

Hydrate, but stay away from drinks high in sugar and sodium (they need some, but sports drinks such as regular Gatorade/Powerade are packed with too much), try some of these instead to stay hydrated and replace Electrolytes:

G2 (the better Gatorade choice)
Plain Water
Coconut Water
Make your own hydration drink

Here are some other kids healthy snack ideas:

Greek Yogurt
Avoid sugary yogurt snacks and choose plain Greek yogurt as a healthier option. Four ounces makes for a light snack, delivers over 10 grams of protein, as well as calcium and vitamin D, which kids need to build strong and healthy bones.

You can also add your own fresh fruit and spices, like apples and cinnamon, to amp up flavor without adding sugar. Stonyfield Organic has a great whole-milk variety for little ones (that is what my 6 year old loves, she prefers the tubes), and a non-fat version for everyone else in your family.

Veggies and Hummus
If you haven’t tried hummus, you’re missing out on a creamy snack that can be served in a variety of ways. Made from chickpeas, this nutrient-rich dip is a good source of complex carbs and is low on the glycemic index like other legumes.

Dish out two tablespoons of hummus (Sabra Classic Hummus is a favorite), and serve with veggies like baby carrots and bell pepper slices for a quick and easy kid-sized snack. For something more substantial, hummus also works as a tasty spread on sandwiches. Whip up a batch of your own with this easy, healthy hummus recipe.

Whole Wheat Crackers or Fruits and Veggies with All-Natural Nut Butter
The combination of peanut butter and crackers is timeless, but it might be time for a makeover. Move away from nut butter brands that contain hydrogenated oil, and opt for all-natural peanut butter or almond butter like Justin’s Classic Almond Butter which has no added salt or sugar, or ALDI carries a brand that I use.

You also may want to try sunflower butter. A two tablespoon serving of SunButter has the same amount of protein as peanut butter, but contains more Vitamin E, and has four grams of fiber.

Instead of processed, salty crackers like saltines, opt for apples, celery, or whole-grain crackers. Crunchmaster 7 Ancient Grains crackers are a good choice, as they’re made from wholesome ingredients like brown rice flour and millet.

Beef Jerky
Forget the gas station meat sticks that you may have gnawed on as a kid and embrace quality brands like Brooklyn Biltong or Nick’s Traditional Beef Jerky. This mess-free snack is easy to take on-the-go and can be a great way to sneak more protein in your little one’s diet. For younger kids, break the jerky up into smaller pieces that are easier for them to chew.

Just make sure you pay attention to the sodium content. The sodium recommendation for children ages one to three years old is 1,000 mg a day, four to eight years old is 1,200 mg a day, and kids ages nine and older is 1,500 mg a day. If you want to give your child a high-protein snack without worrying about the sodium content, another mess-free snack are hard-boiled eggs.

Chia Seed Snacks
Are chia seeds one of your go-to superfoods? They’re a great option for children, too. Growing kids need essential fatty acids, like the omega-3s found in chia seeds. These tiny seeds make for a simple, nutrient-dense addition to homemade smoothies, oatmeal, and baked goods, like these GF Banana Walnut Chia Muffins.

They might also like chia pudding and can be modified to include your little one’s favorite fruits and flavors. Here are six tasty chia pudding recipes to get you started. Take 10 minutes to put it together in the morning and it’ll have transformed into a pudding when it’s time for dessert.

You might only think of edamame as a salad topping or a pre-sushi appetizer, but it’s also an effortless snack. It’s a breeze to prepare (gently boil and sprinkle with a little sea salt), and popping the little beans out of their shells is fun for kids and keeps them occupied — a win-win!

Half a cup of cooked edamame is packed with about 9 grams of plant-based protein and 3 grams of satisfying fiber. Find them in the frozen section in most grocery stores, or the more budget-friendly option, 365 by Whole Foods.


I hope this helped you out a bit, and you are doing great being the support system of your young athlete! If you would like a copy of my FREE kid friendly, 5-day eating guide (meals and snacks), please fill out the form below.

Kids Healthy Eating Guide

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