It’s one thing to feed ourselves simple, healthy gluten free food, but it’s a whole other ballgame to feed our kids this way, especially when they are hungry, growing, athletic teenagers. It is a challenge to feed them energizing nutrient dense real food that they will actually like, and then we also have to consider that kids want to feel “normal” and take snacks that somewhat resemble what their friends are eating. No homemade hemp and flax bars…please pleeeeeeease mom.
My daughter Kayley is 13, and volleyball is her thing. She had a two-day tournament recently, and I was assigned the duty of snack mom. (Yes, she shuttered and held her breath as I planned what to pack in their bags.) During these tournaments, the girls are not allowed to leave the facility. Even though we do our best to bring them all filled up with good nutrition, after playing a couple hours, they are STARVING.
Volleyball is a big business here in Texas, so pretty much every facility has a snack bar for the hungry girls. Some of the snack bars have a few healthy options, but honestly, I wouldn’t even call what the girls choose to eat real food. What exactly is in that nacho cheese? The snack bar is not even an option with Kayley’s coach, as she is really in to nutrition and what her players eat. Her first words to them after tryouts were to start watching their sugar intake and cutting out soda. Before their first tournament, she spent part of practice going over game day nutrition, and when she takes them to eat before tournaments – no cokes, and no fries.
Kayley is 13, and just like most 13 year olds, she wants to eat food that will build her body up so she can play well throughout the day, but what kind of healthy snacks will fuel her to do that? Add in the fact that she wants what all kids her age like – pre-packaged (in other words, not health freak homemade) snacks. Are there any packaged foods that this anti-Cheetos mom approves?
What should I pack in these snack bags for her team that provides them with some nutrition in a form the girls will like and won’t embarrass my daughter? What would you put in them?
This is what I came up with…
Child athletes use carbohydrates at a rapid pace, as being young, growing, and very active calls for large amounts of quick expending energy. They need pre-game fuel and post-game fuel. But, they also need endurance, so the kind of carbohydrates as well as the other nutrients that goes with it matters.
Wheat and sugar carbohydrates break down and are absorbed very quickly, especially when they are eaten alone or together. When kids eat these high glycemic foods, their blood sugar spikes and they can work the court really well, but half way through the game, their blood sugar plummets, and they have trouble focusing and having the strength and energy to make it through.
I chose gluten free carbohydrate sources that are natural and deliver sugar to their bodies at a gentler pace. The foods I chose naturally contain fiber, or I paired them with other healthy foods that contain protein, fat, and fiber. Fiber, protein, and fat slow down the absorption of carbohydrates because they take longer to break down, which results in a slower trickling of energy into their bodies. Plus, protein and fat provide a stable longer lasting energy source than straight up carbohydrates and are needed for their bodies to maintain strength and stamina throughout the day.
1. Even though kids love packaged foods, I am not a big fan. So I included several naturally packaged foods like fruit: Clementine oranges, bananas, and apples. Fruit provides a good carbohydrate source trapped in fiber with needed electrolytes too.
2. Kids love packaged foods that crunch. So I included Glutino gluten free pretzels and cheese to go with them – gluten free carbohydrates with a little protein and fat. I could have also thrown in packs of Justin’s flavored almond, peanut, or hazelnut butter or individual hummus cups for pretzel dipping too.
3. Kayley helped me by making a trail mix that included her favorite Marcona almonds and raisins. Again, protein, fat, carbs, and fiber included in this naturally sweet and salty combo. The options for trailmixes are endless and energy boosting – gluten free cereals, pretzels, popcorn, dried fruits, nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, coconut…
4. We threw in Mrs. May’s nut clusters and Larabars too. Both of these options have very few ingredients on the label and are gently sweetened with natural sweeteners. Another favorite of ours is KIND granola bars.
Providing healthy snacks for a team can be expensive! Costco has all of these items except the Glutino pretzels. Since I was in charge of feeding the whole team, buying in bulk was the best option.
5. Another healthy snack you could include is a skewer. Although they aren’t pre-packaged, kids love colorful food lined up on a stick – presentation is everything with them. A couple of skewer options I like:
- nitrate free deli turkey cube, granny smith apple cube, cheddar cheese cube, dried apricot cube
- alternate watermelon balls and mozzarella balls
- alternate nitrate free ham cubes and pineapple cubes
- olive, cherry tomato, basil leaf, mozzarella ball
- folded slice of nitrate free salami, string cheese cube, red grape
- folded slice of nitrate free prosciutto, cantaloupe ball, mozzarella ball
6. Kids also like anything they can pick up with their fingers, so some other sweet and yummy (not pre-packaged but acceptable to my kids) well balanced nutty snacks are almond chocolate balls, peanut butter and jelly bars, chocolate pumpkin seeds, sweet and spicy pecans, and what my family calls “gutty putty“. Gutty putty has protein filled nuts, a gentle sweetener, and lots of filling fiber so kids are satisfied longer.
These are just a few ideas from my recent snack bag project. What snacks do you pack for your kids? Comment and let me know your ideas!