Post-game snacks are a memorable tradition in youth sports. From orange slices to soft-serve, every kid has memories of sharing snacks with their teammates after a game.
But post-game snacks are more than just a fun tradition. Proper nutrition for athletes of all ages can help with recovery and prepare players for their next game. Nutrition is critical to improve performance, increase mental focus, and maintain long-term health for athletes.
In this post, we’ll cover some of the best after-game snacks for youth sports teams.
The importance of after-game snacks
Why are after-game snacks a classic tradition in youth sports? Two reasons:
- It’s a fun postgame bonding activity for players and parents.
- Youth sports nutrition is important for athletic performance and short-term recovery.
Many studies have also shown that proper sports nutrition decreases the risks of injury, builds stronger immune function, and improves mental health. That’s why nutrition has become such an important part of the routines of professional athletes. Even though young athletes are just competing for fun, they can still benefit from healthy after-game snacks.
14 nutritious after game team snack ideas
The National Youth Sports Health & Safety Institute recommends that after-game snacks include both carbohydrates and protein within 60 minutes of a practice or game. Athletes should also eat a high carbohydrate and protein meal within two hours of exercise.
A nutritious after game snack should include a mix of macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).
If possible, you should choose organic or non-GMO options for athletes. Here are some of our favorite snack options. Combine a few of these snacks together to check all of the boxes.
1. Protein-rich snacks
Proteins build and repair muscle. Protein rich foods include meat, seafood, dairy, beans, and nuts.
Unless you’re planning to bust out the portable grill at your team’s next game, focus on nuts as your post-game snack protein. Some nuts that provide a great source of protein include:
- Macadamia nuts
- Brazil nuts
Yogurt can also be an easy option if your players aren’t a fan of nuts. Try bringing both yogurt and nuts as an option and see what the team likes best!
2. Cheese and crackers
Just about every kid loves cheese and crackers. Cheeses are a great source of protein to help muscles recover after a game and provide healthy fats.
Crackers are a good source of carbohydrates. They may not be as healthy as other options like vegetables, but they’ll be a crowd pleaser for the team and a reward for their effort on the field.
Try finding whole grain crackers and fresh cheese. If it’s hard or expensive to find, you can always pick up good string cheese, which kids love. You may need to bring a cooler to refrigerate the cheese during the game.
3. Hard-boiled eggs
Hard-boiled eggs can be a polarizing food—you either love ‘em or you hate ‘em. But their nutritional value is not up for debate. Hard boiled eggs are a great source of protein, healthy fats, and Vitamin D for athletes after practice or competition.
They’ll also travel easily in a small cooler, and you can make a couple dozen in a big pot in just 20 minutes or so. Hard boiled eggs may seem weird as a post-game snack, but give them a shot next season! You can even bring some hot sauce for the players to try on their eggs.
Vegetables are a great option for an after-game snack, especially if you can pair them with a source of protein. Most fresh vegetables will support hydration, are rich in vitamins & minerals, and contain carbohydrates to help with muscle recovery.
You can flavor up your veggies by adding some peanut butter (especially great on celery) or getting some protein rich dips like yogurt.
5. Orange wedges or mandarin oranges
Orange wedges are the classic sideline snack for youth sports. They’re popular with kids because of their sweet taste, but they pack a lot of nutritional value as a post-game snack
Orange slices are rich in water content, so they’ll help your athletes rehydrate immediately following a game. Players will benefit from vitamins and minerals in oranges, including Vitamin C and potassium. They’re also easily digestible, so players can eat a few between games if you’re at an all-day tournament.
You can also buy a big box or two of packaged mandarin oranges to pass out after the game. No work needed!
6. Banana slices
Banana slices support muscle recovery and rehydration because they are rich in potassium, which makes them a great option for sweaty sports. Just like orange slices, bananas are typically easy for athletes to digest.
You can even pass out packets of peanut butter for players to add to their bananas as a protein source, or make peanut butter and banana sandwiches. It’s an added bonus that bananas have natural biodegradable packaging to make them super easy for travel!
7. Apple slices
Apple slices are a great source of carbohydrates for athletes. If you’re at an all day tournament, the fiber in apple slices can help athletes feel full and prevent overeating between games.
Just like banana slices, apples can pair great with peanut butter or other protein rich dips like yogurt.
Apple slices don’t aid in rehydration as well as other fruits like oranges or watermelon, so they might not be the best choice on hot summer days.
8. Watermelon chunks
If your team plays in the summer you have to reward them with some watermelons at some point during your season. Not only does watermelon taste great on a hot day, but it can help with rehydration and muscle recovery in the summer months.
Grapes are another fruit with high water content to help athletes rehydrate after a game. They’re also rich in antioxidants which help muscles recover after exercise.
10. Carrot sticks with hummus
Carrot sticks and hummus combine a vegetable almost every kid likes with a dip that includes carbs and protein. You can get a big back of mini carrot sticks and a package of hummus that’s ready to go. Or, take it to the next level and make some homemade hummus for the team.
11. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches have been a popular meal for kids for generations. They’ll be a crowd pleaser with your players, but they also will include important carbohydrates and protein to help athletes recover after the game.
Try to use whole grain bread to increase nutritional value. Also, keep an eye out for lots of additional ingredients like added sugar in the peanut butter. Ideally, you’ll want a peanut butter brand with simple ingredients—peanuts and salt only.
12. Pretzels, crackers, and corn chips
If you’re competing in an all-day tournament your players might need some fast-burning carbohydrates between games. Simple pretzels, crackers, or corn chips can be a good option. Try to keep the flavors simple so you’re not upsetting anyone’s stomach.
You can also keep the portions somewhat small by bagging them individually for each player. Too many carbs between games could slow down athletes or upset their stomach if you’re playing several games in one day.
13. Chocolate milk
Chocolate milk has been a popular choice for professional athletes for decades, including Klay Thompson, Sloane Stephens, and Katie Ledecky. Just about every kid loves chocolate milk for the taste, so you can consider it a post-game treat for players.
In addition to its great taste chocolate milk contains several key nutrients to help players recover after strenuous activity including calcium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin B12.
However, chocolate milk can cause stomach issues if overserved. Try to keep it to 8-ounce servings per athlete and encourage players to drink water as well, especially if you’re at an all day tournament.
14. Water and sports drinks
Don’t forget to bring lots of water! Often athletes will forget to properly rehydrate after a game. Even in cooler temperatures, athletes should be consistently rehydrating during and after the game.
A small amount of Gatorade can also be helpful to replace electrolytes and add some carbohydrates to the snack. But be careful of athletes drinking too much sports drinks or fruit juices between games as they could cause lethargy or cramping.
5 creative and fun snack ideas
Getting kids to eat healthy becomes much easier when the food tastes good. Here’s a few great options that are quick to prepare, nutritious, and delicious for the team. You can mix things up throughout the year, or find a favorite that your entire team likes and stick with it.
Yogurt parfait bar
A yogurt parfait bar gives your team the option to customize their after game snack. Get an unflavored or vanilla yogurt that goes well with different types of fresh and dried fruits. Set up a buffet style bar for the players to create their parfait.
Here’s a few things you can add to the parfait bar:
- Pineapple, or any other fresh fruit
- Chia seeds or flax seeds
- A fun cereal. It doesn’t have to be nutritious, let the players enjoy themselves after the game. You could try Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Reese’s Puffs.
Trail mix creations
Trail mix is a classic snack that pretty much every kid enjoys. It’s another snack that can pack some protein and healthy fats but still get the team excited to refuel after the game.
Here’s a few popular ingredients you can include in your trail mix:
- Dried bananas
- Dark chocolate
- Sunflower seeds
If you’re looking to have some extra fun and have some time on your hands, add ingredients in your team’s colors to the trail mix and think of a fun name for the mix, like orange M&Ms only.
Mini sandwiches or wraps
Mini sandwiches or sliders are a popular meal at any get together. Throw together a small variety of sandwiches for your team and coaches after a game and you’ll be a hero.
Here’s a few sandwiches that will refuel your team with protein, carbs, and healthy fats:
- Turkey and avocado wraps
- Egg salad
- Ham & cheese
- Chicken salad
- Bagels and cream cheese
- Pork tenderloin (for a fancy post-game meal at the end of the season)
Homemade energy balls or granola bars
Energy balls are a delicious way to pack a bunch of nutrients into a small package. No baking is required, and you can prepare a big batch for your team in a half hour or so. Here are a few common ingredients for athletes:
- Peanut butter (or almond butter)
- Chia seeds
- Chocolate chips
Post -game team tacos
Tacos area meal any kid gets excited about. Preparing a taco bar for a post game meal doesn’t have to be too difficult. Just set up a table and let players build their own tacos. Or, prepare taquitos and keep them warm in a cooler in aluminum foil.
Here’s a few things you’ll need:
- Protein (ground beef or shredded chicken is easiest)
- Shredded lettuce
- Shredded cheese
- Sour Cream
- Fritos (you can even go for walking tacos for less packaging)
Planning and preparation tips
Make sure to plan healthy snacks a few days in advance so you can get any ingredients you’ll need. Always keep it simple, don’t try to overdo it. Most young athletes will enjoy a pretty simple snack after the game, especially if you include some sort of treat in the snack like chocolate, chips, or something cheesy.
Plan based on team size and age
If your team is between the ages of 4-10 and just learning the sport, focus on making the snacks all about fun after the game. Always make sure to include water, but don’t need to worry much about necessary nutrients to refuel the team for the next event.
As your players get older and the team is more competitive, try to include all of the micronutrients and macronutrients for the team to recover - especially if players are playing several games in one day.
Create on-the-go snacks
Make sure all of your snacks travel easily. For example, don’t try to over-do it with a complicated yogurt parfait bar if you’ve got to feed a few dozen players. Try applesauce squeeze pouches or yogurt tubes instead. You want to make sure that everything is easy to store in your car and will be quick to transport from the parking lot to the sideline.
Hydration should be your #1 priority when fueling your players before, during, and after games. Players should always have water with them, but be prepared with extra bottled water for each athlete just in case.
Storage options for snacks and drinks (coolers, warmers, etc.)
Storage for your sports snacks is critical if you’re competing in the elements or at all day tournaments. Most post-game snacks can be stored in a cooler for at least a few hours. If you have something that needs to stay hot all day, you could find a portable food warmer.
You can even get a customized cooler for your team. A cooler could be a fun travel item for the team if you’ll be competing for several years with the same logo and colors.
Win or lose, the post game snack can be a big boost for your youth sports team. Post game snacks are a fun team bonding experience and a good way to encourage healthy habits for young athletes.
Coaches and youth sports administrators can try out these snack ideas and get creative with new combinations to keep the young athletes fueled and ready for the next game.