Best Fuel for Kids' Sports: 10 Expert-Approved Snack Ideas


Note: This blog is not medical advice and is for informational purposes only. For any specific nutrition recommendations or questions, please refer to your child’s pediatrician or healthcare provider.

As parents know, keeping kids fed and satisfied can sometimes feel like a full-time job. Proper nourishment is essential to our children as they are growing so fast and constantly exerting energy. This is true for all kids, but when your little one is also into sports—you must stay vigilant and ensure you are fueling them appropriately.

Food Is Fuel

As pediatrician and mom of three Joana Fraser, MD says, “Nothing runs on an empty tank! And when it comes to kids, their tanks can become empty quickly and frequently.” The food our kids consume impacts their physical health in so many ways. “By consuming the right types and amounts of foods,” Dr. Fraser tells us, “You can ensure your little one's energy intake is perfectly balanced for growth, development and plenty of physical activity.”

Before the Game

Whether they’re prepping for a little run around the playground or for the big game, Dr. Fraser suggests giving your child, “Something to drink (ideally water) and a meal or snack within 1 hour of being physically active.” Before a more intense physical activity, “a snack is better than a large meal,” she says. This is because playing with a full stomach can be uncomfortable and can also cause “a sluggish feeling as the body is more focused on digestion rather than exercise.”

In terms of what types of food to offer, kids’ dietician Kacie Barnes, MCN, RDN, LD says, “the best thing for kids to consume before being active is a combination of carbohydrates and protein.” Carbs help provide energy, while protein fuels all those muscles being used while active.

Pre-Game Snack Ideas:

  • Banana with nut butter
  • Toast with hummus
  • Half a sandwich with nut butter
  • Once Upon a Farm Refrigerated Oat Bar
  • Piece of fruit with string cheese

After the Game

In addition to lots of liquids (water being the ideal), Dr. Fraser says, “A snack or meal should be eaten within 2 hours of any prolonged activity or sport.” (Barnes recommends approx. 30 minutes after.) Dr. Fraser notes that kids are really good at listening and reacting to their thirst and hunger cues—listen to them. “Let them drink as much as they want,” says Dr. Fraser, “and if they’re hungry, let them eat as much (wholesome, fresh and ideally minimally processed) food as they want!”

For food, be sure to include carbohydrates, fat and protein. Stick with whole foods whenever possible, and avoid foods with added sugar or too much added salt. “If the exercise has been very sustained (>2hr) and/or in hot weather,” Dr. Fraser notes, “it is also ok to add a little salt to the food since a lot of sodium is lost during sweating.”

Post-Game Snack Ideas:

  • Once Upon a Farm Pouch (e.g. Overnight Oats)
  • Yogurt bowl with (low-sugar) granola
  • Cheese and crackers
  • A bowl of (low sugar) cereal with milk
  • Once Upon a Farm Dairy-Free Smoothie

As Barnes says, “Extremely active kids do need to eat more often.” They typically shouldn’t go more than 2–3 hours in between meals and snacks. “Make sure to have good, hearty, carbohydrate- and protein-rich snacks on hand.” You really want to make sure they’re eating enough and covering their nutritional bases.

So, when game day comes around, just remember: clears eyes, full tummies, can’t lose.

Shop Our Favorite Pre- and Post-Game Snacks