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 5 Quick and Easy Snacks to Sustain Your Athlete's Energy

5 Quick and Easy Snacks to Sustain Your Athlete's Energy

Simple options that you can pack for your athlete

Teaching your young athlete what healthy snacks look like – and ditching that reliance on fast food or ultra-processed snacks – isn’t just important for their athletic endeavors, it also impacts their overall health. For adolescents, research has shown that snacks, even when necessary, tend to detract from overall diet quality. But that doesn’t have to be the case with nutritious, balanced snack options.

When it comes to the best type of snack to fuel your athlete for long school days and practices, lead with a protein source and add carbohydrates to create a well-rounded recovery snack. Check out these simple options that you can pack for your athlete to eat before or after practice to fuel and recharge them throughout the day.

Scrambled Egg Rice Bars
For game day or right before a hard practice, topping off your athlete’s carbohydrate stores is key. Using sticky sushi rice, these bars are carb-focused, and by adding scrambled eggs (and some optional mix-ins according to your athlete’s preferences), you can add a small amount of fat and protein for more long-term fuel without impacting digestion. Bonus: Eggs have recently been shown to aid in children’s growth and development.

• 2 cups sticky rice
• 4 eggs
• Optional: low-sodium soy sauce, chopped shallots, shredded cheese

• Use a rice cooker or cook sushi rice on stovetop according to directions
• Scramble eggs in a frying pan, adding in any additions like shallots that need to be sautéed
• Mix eggs, rice, and add-ons together in a big bowl
• Spread evenly about 1-inch thick on a baking sheet covered in wax paper
• Refrigerate
• When cool, cut blocks (around 3x3 inches) and individually wrap
• Keep refrigerated – these should be eaten within three days

Half of a PB+J Sandwich
For a harder practice, like a longer cross-country run or drill-intensive soccer session, a more substantial snack may be required to fuel your athlete through the afternoon.

Elevate the traditional PB&J by swapping peanut butter for almond butter, slicing real strawberries onto the jam to add more real fruit, and choosing a bakery-fresh whole grain bread versus the white stuff. (Most parents opt for white bread thinking kids will reject whole grain, but studies have shown kids are just as happy with whole wheat!)

Making this sandwich with high-quality ingredients provides the right blend of macronutrients for your athlete and is easy to eat quickly.

• Natural almond butter (look for a label that just lists almonds and salt, with no added sugars)
• Jam (brands like Smuckers now offer honey-sweetened, no-sugar, and reduced-sugar options, opt for one of those over the sugar-packed generic brand)
• Whole wheat bread (fresh from the bakery, or a bread like Rudi’s Sprouted Multigrain Bread, which can be found in the freezer section)

Greek Yogurt with Dried Fruit and Honey
Protein-packed Greek yogurt gives your child the longer-term energy he or she needs, while dried fruit provides faster-burning sugars to kickstart practice time or speed recovery afterwards. Opt for a low or no-fat plain Greek yogurt: while Greek yogurt’s higher fat content isn’t a problem for a breakfast option, it can lead to some gut distress if eaten ahead of practice and it won’t help refuel post-workout. Pick plain yogurt to avoid added sugars and remember that most store-bought flavored yogurts are packed with more sugar than most nutrition guidelines recommend. Adding honey allows you to monitor how sweet the yogurt is, and fresh berries are a better flavor burst.

• 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (look for 2% fat content for higher protein with fewer harder-to-digest fats)
• 1 cup mixed berries (opt for what’s in season)
• 1-2 tablespoons honey or real maple syrup

Build Your Own Trail Mix
For a longer, less explosive effort, like a long run day for a cross-country runner or an extended practice for a hockey player – trail mix is an easy option for before, during, or after to refuel with a mix of protein, fat, and carbohydrates.

Skip the store-bought sodium and sugar-laden trail mixes in favor of one that you make yourself. This way, you avoid added sodium and even sugars that can end up on roasted nuts (or sneak into ‘mountain trail mix’ in the form of M&Ms!). You can buy items separately in bulk, or you can even consider dehydrating fruits at home. Mix and match some of the trail mix classics and add a few new options for a unique, nutrient-dense mix.

Add more dried fruit for longer endurance efforts or keep the mix 50:50 for when shorter bursts of energy are needed and your athlete will be sitting around waiting for the bell to sound.

• Almonds – Even a few almonds a day have been shown to improve overall diet quality, possibly thanks to their high fiber, protein, magnesium, and vitamin E content.
• Walnuts – Children who eat nuts are actually less likely to be overweight, studies have shown, and walnuts provide a high dose of the much needed Omega-3 fatty acids often missing in a young person's diet.
• Dried blueberries – An uncommon addition to trail mix, blueberries boost fiber, vitamins, minerals, fructose, and antioxidants.
• Dried tart cherries – Packed with antioxidants and they have even been linked to increased recovery for athletes.
• Pumpkin seeds – Get a unique blend of protein, fiber, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus by adding these seeds.
• Banana chips – For a more endurance-based trail mix, banana chips add a hefty dose of carbohydrates.

Hard-Boiled Eggs with Apple Slices or a Banana
For a shorter or easier effort, your athlete may not need a hefty snack, and this simple option provides healthy protein, fat, and carbohydrates without overdoing it. Eggs are an easy option, since each one boasts seven grams of satiating protein plus fats. For carbohydrates, apple slices provide natural sugars in the form of fructose for a little energy boost without overdoing it, or a banana can boost the amount of carbohydrates if you have a hungry athlete.

A Stash of Healthier Quick Options
If you don’t have time to pack homemade options for your young athlete, have a few easy choices on hand for those busy days when dinner is coming soon, but they’re hungry immediately after practice:

GoGo Squeez Organic Fruit and Vegetable pouches: These 60-calorie pouches are made up of apple, peach, and sweet potato puree, and contain two grams of fiber per serving for a quick carb boost without a cookie.

Clif Z Bar Protein: Clif’s Z bars are designed to be child-friendly portions at only 130 calories per serving, and the protein-boosted versions add five grams of protein to the whole grain bar.

Organic Valley 1% Chocolate Milk: Shelf-stable organic milk provides seven grams of protein per serving, while the chocolate brings the carbohydrate count to 20 grams. The 130-calorie serving is a quick-hit for pre or post-practice to tide an athlete over if dinner is happening soon.

Remember to keep these quick and simple healthy snacks readily available for your athlete because if they aren’t provided healthy options, children are more likely to eat unhealthy treats, even if they’re not hungry.

TrueSport®, a movement powered by the experience and values of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, champions the positive values and life lessons learned through youth sport. TrueSport® inspires athletes, coaches, parents, and administrators to change the culture of youth sport through active engagement and thoughtful curriculum based on cornerstone lessons of sportsmanship, character-building, and clean and healthy performance, by creating leaders across communities through sport.

 Runner Safe on Chopper to First Baseman

Runner Safe on Chopper to First Baseman

Monday Manager
By Tom Succow

In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses a runner being safe on a chopper to the first baseman.

Tom Succow is currently the assistant coach at Yavapai College in Prescott, Arizona. In 2017, Succow retired as the Head Baseball Coach at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix, Arizona, after 42 years at the helm. Succow accumulated over 700 wins during his tenure, as well as a state championship in 2006 and three state runner-up honors in 1982, 2007 and 2012. Succow is a four-time USA Baseball coaching alum, including an assistant coaching position with the 2003 16U National Team, which won the gold medal in the International Baseball Federation AA World Youth Championships in Taiwan. Succow was honored by the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) as National Coach of the Year in 2007 and is a member of four Halls of Fames, being inducted into the Arizona Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2003, the Brophy Hall of Fame in 2007, the National High School Baseball Coaches Association (BCA) Hall of Fame in 2013, and the Arizona High School Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame in 2016.

 Sometimes Actively Coaching Looks Like Not Coaching At All

Sometimes Actively Coaching Looks Like Not Coaching At All

FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster

Thanks in part to the Minor League season being cancelled this past year, my spring and summer were without baseball for the first time since I was probably four or five years old. Living in central New Jersey where Coronavirus initially hit hard and forced a state-wide lockdown, kids all across the Garden State were without baseball much of the spring and summer as well. But as things started to open back up once we got into summer, knowing that I had a lot of free time on my hands, one of my best friends asked if I wanted to help out coaching his son’s team. Without much going on and while dearly missing baseball, I jumped at the opportunity.

If there were rankings for 10-and-under for fall baseball, which embarrassingly enough there probably are, you won’t find our Jersey Shore-based Tribe Red 10u club anywhere on any list of the top teams in the age group. This group was about to embark on their first experience playing on that intermediate, 50’ mound/70’ base field, with rules now allowing for leading and stealing. With that in mind, our practices focused on having fun while teaching players basic fundamentals as well as new aspects of the game, including taking a lead or pitching from the stretch.

In late September, after a solid month of practicing twice a week, we entered our first tournament, a one-day, two-game deal that gave our team some real competition. This was also my first real exposure to this level of amateur baseball. Walking around the complex with other games going on, the scene shocked me. Seemingly every single pitch, coaches from just about teams were shouting direction from the dugout. It was suffocating coaching.

To pitchers: “Push off the mound. Get your arm up. Get the ball down. Go from the stretch. Pick off. THROW STRIKES!”

To hitters: “Step to the pitcher. Keep your front side closed. Open up a little bit. Line drive swing. Barrel up. Head down. SWING AT STRIKES!”

To the defense: “THREE! THREE! THREE! FOUR! FOUR! FOUR!”

In the rare instance when there was no directive coming from a coach, the game screeched to a sudden halt, with players habitually looking into the dugout, waiting for someone to tell them what to do. These coaches- all well-intended, I’m sure- were creating robots on the diamond, paralyzing them from being able to just go out and play. This experience made me realize one of the most important aspects of coaching that doesn’t get nearly enough attention: active coaching requires us to NOT always actively coach.

The ability to figure things out, I believe, is an innate human trait. Think about it in this light: a child doesn’t learn how to walk by attending an “Elite Walking Camp” at 12-months old. They learn by falling, getting up, and then trying again. Maybe a parent will help the child stand for balance, but eventually will let go as their kid takes his or her first steps. Eventually, the child figures it out with minimal guidance.

Kids who are just learning the game are going to make mistakes all the time. For some perspective, even Major Leaguers make mistakes quite often. Just like a parent when their child is learning how to walk, as a coach, you have to learn how to let go so your players can learn how to play the game. And they will learn, by metaphorically falling down on the field. We have to let them play, let them fail, and let them figure it out.

At its core, coach’s job is to help players, so the urge to instruct whenever we see a window to do so is understandable. The perception of a coach not doing anything when everyone in the ballpark sees a mistake is one of a coach who doesn’t know what he’s doing, or worse, doesn’t care to help. To the trained eye, however, in many cases the reality is that not only does this coach know exactly what he’s doing, he cares SO much that he is consciously deciding to bite his tongue.

It is easy to be told what to do, and then go out and do it… or at least try. But in order to be able to do things on their own, players need to learn how to think for themselves. Constant direction removes that necessary layer of player development, and for teams trying to win, you may be sacrificing an out or a run in the process that affects the final outcome of the game. But without question, this short-term loss will produce a lot more wins, long-term.

Even though it may not look like coaching to everyone in the stands, some of your greatest impact on your players may come from those moments when you choose not to do anything at all. Stepping back, and letting players do what they think is right will open up the window afterward to teach them exactly what is right. The next time it happens, they will be ready do it right on their own, because you helped guide them to the path that is the way.

Darren Fenster is currently the Minor League Outfield and Baserunning Coordinator for the Boston Red Sox. Previously, Fenster was the Manager of the Portland Sea Dogs, the Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. A former player in the Kansas City Royals minor league system, Fenster joined the Red Sox organization in 2012 after filling various roles on the Rutgers University Baseball staff, where he was a two-time All-American for the Scarlet Knights. Fenster is also Founder and CEO of Coaching Your Kids, LLC, and can be found on Twitter @CoachYourKids.


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