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5 Team Snacks That Aren't Orange Slices


17-year pro Matt Whiteside's complete, easy-to-follow guide.

The challenge of providing healthy team snacks for young ball players — other than orange slices — isn’t always easy.

With the demanding schedules often placed on today’s kids (and their parents), quick and convenient is important, but so is finding something that can provide the vitamins and minerals young athletes need for exercise without the added sugar and sodium found in some quick and convenient solutions.

The good news, said Toben Nelson, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at the University of Minnesota, is that there are a lot of healthy snack options that don’t have to cost a lot or take a lot of time to prepare.

“It just takes a little awareness of what is a healthy choice and a small amount of advance planning,” said Nelson, who was involved with the School of Public Health’s recent Healthy Youth Sports Study.

Nelson offers the following suggestions for healthy team snacks, which are also outlined in the study:

Most any kind of fruit or vegetable. Bananas and apples are easy to find and pack. Dried fruit is also a convenient option, and it can be purchased in bulk and will stay fresh. Frozen grapes can be hydrating and refreshing on hot summer days. Cut-up vegetables such as carrots, cucumbers and celery with low-fat veggie dip or hummus can be a healthy alternative for young athletes.

Ants on a log. Slice celery, fill with peanut butter and top with raisins.

Whole-wheat tortilla roll-ups. Spread low-fat cream cheese on tortillas, add your favorite veggies then roll and slice into pieces.

Mini pizzas. Toast English muffins and top with pizza sauce, low-fat mozzarella cheese and veggies.

Frozen banana pops. Dip bananas in yogurt, coat in either crushed graham crackers or cereal, then freeze.

Mini sandwiches. Include lean meats or peanut butter; cut into fun shapes with cookie cutters.

Prepackaged healthy snack. Yes, they do exist. Options that can often be found on sale can include string cheese, plain popcorn, pita chips and hummus, rice cakes, trail mix, nuts, granola bars (aim for less than 10 grams of sugar), animal crackers, whole-wheat chips and salsa and whole-wheat crackers with apple butter or cheese.

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Parents should also be aware of some of the common traps of snack items that may appear healthier than they are.

Nelson said one of the biggest culprits is sports drinks, which are heavily marketed to young athletes. Families have come to see them as essential equipment, he said, when in reality the drinks were developed for prolonged and vigorous exercise and for exercising in extreme heat.

“The vast majority of kids don’t need the extra sugar and sodium, or the other additives, contained in sports drinks,” Nelson said. “Water is usually the best choice.”

Parents should also be wary of items that say “low fat” or include terms such as “fruit” or “vegetable” on the packaging, said Stephanie Mitchell, clinical dietician at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

“Low-fat items often replace the fat with sugars so they’re not inherently healthier,” Mitchell said. “Also, items like veggie chips or fruit snacks are not necessarily healthy just because they have the words ‘fruit’ or ‘vegetable.’

“Fruit snacks are basically candy and have fake fruit flavors, and vegetable chips or straws may contain a small amount of a vegetable but can still have fat and usually contain a lot of various chemicals and preservatives.”

From GameChanger and Karen Price.

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