As a kid, I met the end of August with mixed emotions. I was bummed that summer vacation was ending. But I was psyched about my preseason gymnastics “clinics”—two weeks when I got to spend full days tumbling, mastering new tricks (and—ugh!—doing push-ups, pull-ups and other exercises included in our “conditioning” routine).
I still remember how much my teammates and I looked forward to our lunch breaks. (Try these healthy lunches for kids!) Having burned through our breakfasts, we were hungry. Now, as a nutritionist, I realize just how important it was that we refueled with nutritious foods that helped power us through our afternoon sessions.
At 2 years and 3 months old, respectively, my sons aren’t yet old enough to go to gymnastics clinics—or soccer camps…or football “double sessions”—but I’m already thinking of the energy-boosting snacks I’ll pack them, just like the ones my mom packed for me during clinic weeks. Here are some of my favorite power recipes for active kids:
Mini Rice-Cake Stacks: Filled with peanut butter and bananas, these rice-cake sandwiches provide a good mix of carbohydrate and protein, both nutrients needed to “recover” from a workout. Bananas deliver potassium (an electrolyte, the same compound delivered in many sports drinks).
Gorp (trail mix): This energy-packed mix contains almonds, dry-roasted peanuts, dried cranberries, chopped dates and chocolate chips. Customize it with your favorite dried fruits and nuts.
Almond-Honey Power Bar: This delectably chewy homemade energy bar includes roasted nuts and seeds, almond butter—and slower-digesting oats for long-lasting energy.
Thermos-Ready Smoothie: Ready in just 5 minutes, this homemade smoothie is full of fruit, which delivers antioxidants, compounds that protect the body from free-radical damage (which increases with vigorous physical activity).