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Fueling Your Children for Fall Sports

Ah, snack day—that time has come, and it’s finally your turn to bring snacks for your child’s sports team for post-game or practice. Snack day can be fun, but for some parents, the very phrase can inspire fear. What will you bring? Will you go the “health nut” route and risk the kids rejecting your snack because they were hoping for cupcakes, or buy your way to safety with doughnuts, cookies, and chips from the grocery store?

The pressure is on, because keeping your child properly fueled for fall sports can impact their performance on and off the field. And while parents—and kids—may disagree on snacks from week to week, there’s one thing we can all agree on: we all want our kids to have what they need in order to thrive.

Snacks for Recovery and Muscle Growth
Eating and hydrating sufficiently directly after working out is crucial for muscle recovery and growth. Your child’s body is using up stores of energy, glycogen and glucose in order to get through their workout. But afterward, their glucose levels can be so depleted that their bodies will release the hormone cortisol, which signals the body to make more glucose to raise their blood sugar levels. Unfortunately, it will make this new glucose by breaking down muscle—so it’s even possible that they will experience net muscle loss if they work out hard in practice and don’t replenish glucose levels with some form of carbohydrates afterward. Not good for growing kids, much less young athletes!

In fact, this could be why your kiddos are gravitating toward sugary snacks directly after sports. It’s not just that they adore cupcakes (although no doubt they do); it’s that their bodies are in dire need of glucose and they need to replenish their glucose levels soon in order to have enough energy for the rest of the day.

Another important nutrient is protein, which supplies the amino acids needed to rebuild their muscles after a workout. So depending on how much energy your kids are burning off in their sports, try to bring snacks that correspond with what their bodies need.

Healthy Snack Day
Focus on bringing simple, easy finger foods and small portion sizes. These are great snacks to bring for game/practice day:

It’s not easy to make sure your kids are eating healthy, especially when they’re surrounded by sugary snacks and working hard with school and sports during the day. But with a little planning and creativity, you can make sure your kids are recharging from sports in healthy ways that lay the foundation for a lifelong habit of healthy eating. Now that’s a good thing to focus on this fall!

What healthy snacks would you recommend? Share in the comments below!

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