Healthy Snacks for Active Kids FAQ

Weeknights can be hectic for active families. Active kids come home from school and often have to be rushed out for a sport activity. This can be stressful for parents (and kids too)!  Too often, parents will rely on grabbing food on the run. Fast food restaurants or pre-packaged food are often go-to's but aren't always the best option.  You may have questions about what you should feed your child to meet the demands of the physical activity and fill that after school hunger gap. Healthy eating-on-the-go doesn't have to be difficult! Here are some helpful tips to make those evenings less stressful, and to fuel your athlete for their activity.  

What are some healthy snack ideas for active kids? 

Healthy snacks can be quick and easy too! Try:

  • A bagel with nut butter or cheese
  • Yogurt and fruit
  • Homemade trail mix (cereal with dried fruit, nuts)
  • A small muffin with milk
  • Vegetables and hummus
  • Whole grain crackers and cheese

Rethinking how we see food can help save money and help your family to eat well. Unwrap a banana instead of a chocolate bar. Dip fruit into yogurt instead of cookies into frosting. Prepare veggies and hummus instead of fries and ketchup.  Little changes can make a big difference.

When should I feed my child before the activity?

When your child eats can affect how they enjoy their activity. It is best for your child to eat a larger meal 3-4 hours before their activity. That being said, if the activity is at 5 or 6 p.m., and there is not time to have dinner, then make sure your child's lunch is a larger meal. A good hearty meal  should include foods from each of the four food groups:

  • Include foods from the grains, vegetables and fruit groups. This is where most of your child's energy will come from (carbohydrate sources). 
  • Add some milk products or alternatives such as yogurt as well as meat and substitutes food groups. This will help your child to get the protein they will need to sustain their appetite and to repair their muscles after activity. 
  • Try to keep the meal low in fat, as fat takes more time to digest.

When your child returns home from school,  provide a snack 30-60 minutes before the activity. At this point you should focus more on a carbohydrate- based snack. This would be something like a fruit, vegetable or grain product.  This snack could also be in liquid form, such as a smoothie, if your child has a hard time tolerating solid foods right before being active. Provide a balanced meal and fluid (water, milk) when returning after the activity.

If the physical activity or sport is a bit later and you have time for dinner, aim for a smaller meal 1-2 hours before the activity. The content of the smaller meal should be the same as the larger meal stated above, only the portions would be reduced. If your child had a smaller dinner, allow a healthy snack and plenty of water or milk after the activity. 

How can you make healthy meals and snacks the easy choice? 

The best way to provide healthy fuel for your athlete - and to prevent yourself from making a stop at a "quick-but-less-than-healthy eatery" on route to the activity - is to plan ahead.  Look at your weekly schedule and find those crazy nights and plan and prepare for them ahead of time. Try some of these shortcuts for meal prep:

  • Involve your children in the planning and preparation of the meals and snacks. They will be more likely to eat the food.
  • When you have more time on the weekend, prepare a casserole. Precook some meats and freeze. You can also cook certain grains such as rice and quinoa and freeze them in proper quantities.
  • Prepare your ingredients for a crockpot recipe the night before. Set it up the morning of and come back to a warm meal ready to go. When you are preparing meals, double up on the recipe for a meal the following week.  

These little tips can save you a lot of time!

You can also organize and prepare your snacks ahead of time:

  • Make your child's favourite muffins or homemade energy bars. Freeze them individually for quick snack in the lunch box, or after school or before and after the activity.
  • Prepare and cut up your vegetables ahead of time. The same thing works for larger fruit such as cantaloupe or other melons. Place them in individual containers for snacks ready to go. You can add an individual yogurt or hummus to complete the snack.
  • Slice some cheese and wrap individually. Add some crackers and you have another snack!
  • Designate a drawer or area in the refrigerator for those cold snacks. Do the same for a drawer in the kitchen for your containers or for your non-refrigerated snacks.

Planning even just a few meals a week will help reduce a lot of the stress. It will help ensure that your meals are more balanced and healthy. Planning snacks will prevent your child from playing their sport hungry. Throw in a re-usable water bottle and you are all set to go to the game!

Check the healthy snacks main page for more great content. 

Want to speak with a Registered Dietitian?

  • Call Telehealth Ontario and ask to speak with a Registered Dietitian. Available Monday-Friday 9am-5pm at 1-866-797-0000 (TTY: 1-866-797-0007)

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