Your Guide to Choosing Sports Snacks for Kids

By: Chris Weiler


Those unregulated, expensive, heavily marketed magic bullets that promise to make us bigger, stronger, faster, feel more energized, lose weight, gain weight, super-hydrate, or in some way give us that competitive edge. Unfortunately, supplements are unregulated by the FDA. This means no assurances of potency, quality, or valid ingredient listing.

With an introduction like that, it sounds like I am against the use of supplements – I’m not. I do however need to put them in the right context for your proper digestion. Today we will look at a sub-category within the supplement market – Sports Snacks for kids.

One of the challenges parents face in the nutrition and supplement marketplace, are the dizzying array of choices, along with their unsupported marketing claims and flawed research. In an attempt to cull the sports snack herd, I have created 3 simple rules that will guide you in your sports snack choices. Each of these rules will be presented in three weekly articles beginning with today’s article, covering Rule #1.

All sports snacks provide the same basic ingredient – carbohydrates. Although some add in protein, most are not of a type or quality to be relevant and counted as a protein food source. As such, choosing a sports snack simply becomes an exercise in avoiding what is bad and choosing between what is left over based on taste. Simply following Rule #1 below, will enable you to make healthy and relevant sports snack choices now and in the future. If you wish to dig a little deeper into the topic, then make sure to also read Rules 2 and 3 over the next two weeks.

Rule #1 – Narrow down list of snack choices by discounting any that contain artificial sweeteners, flavors, additives and/or colors. Simply choose from what is left by taste.

Do NOT eat or drink sports snacks that contain the ingredients below:

  • Aspartame
  • Acesulfame K / Acesulfame Potassium
  • Corn syrup / high fructose corn syrup / Sucralose
  • Artificial flavors, sweeteners or colors
  • Stimulants – Caffeine, Ginko, Guarana, Ginseng, Gotu Kola and Hoodia, to name a few.

Note: Most soft drinks and so called energy drinks violate this list.

Let’s take a look at what sports snacks are left once we apply Rule #1.

  • Water
  • Vita-Coco (unflavored): electrolytes and water, without the sugar.
  • Vita-Coco (flavored): electrolytes and water, with added sugar.
  • Protein + Electrolyte mix. Ex. LG 1 Recovery Drink Mix
  • Milk: Protein + Sugar. Flavored milk, including chocolate is NOT necessary.
  • Whey protein isolate or concentrate that does not violate the ingredients list above.
  • Fruit – Provides natural, simple sugars + fiber to help replenish glycogen in muscles, and just as portable as a sports drink.
  • Clif Bar, Clif Kid Z-Bar, Kashi GoLean Crisp, Flavor & Fiber by Gnu Foods, etc.
  • Any granola mix. Granola Crisps by Yogi are a great choice.
  • Whole grain cereal in a sandwich bag eaten as granola.
  • Dried fruit.
  • Nuts and seeds. Sunflower, Almond and Pumpkin are good choices, unless consumption is restricted by you, friends, teammates, etc.
  • Protein from any meat, fish, dairy or egg source.

Chew on This:

Choose whole food snacks first, such as portable fruit, vegetables, hard boiled eggs and/or beef jerky. When necessary, supplement your whole food snacks with packaged foods that adhere to Rule #1.

Whether Gatorade, a Clif Kid Z Bar or granola bar, manufactured sports snacks fall into the supplement category. By definition they should supplement your real food eating plan, to fill in gaps that exist in your whole food diet.

Daily I see kids eating sports bars and drinking sports/energy drinks on the way to school, during lunch and after school. Beyond unnecessary, this practice overloads the body with fast acting, simple sugars. The body responds by increasing production of insulin, which interferes with a host of proper metabolic processes, including fat metabolization. As I explain in my nutrition book The 3/4 Rule, a strong metabolization and the nutrition that supports it, is all about proper ratios of proteins, fats and carbohydrates, while minimizing artificial additives.

So, sports snack selection is actually pretty simple. Eliminate options by avoiding the ingredients listed in Rule #1, then make your choices based on taste. Ultimately this leads us back to what we have always known… choose whole foods rather than conveniently packaged grab food.

Do you or your children use sports drinks/bars? Why or why not? Which one’s do you use? Are they always in the house and available? If so, why?

Chris Weiler

Chris Weiler

Visit Chris at Powerful Athletes
As a fitness and strength trainer for the past 20 years, Chris has specialized in youth athletic performance, development and rehabilitation.He is passionate about creating systems that make it easy for kids, parents, coaches and educators, to properly integrate balanced physical, mental and emotional development.
In addition to proper physical and nutrition development, Chris has expanded his focus to include how we perform in all areas of life, to express ourselves in achieving personally meaningful goals. Through this, we help create happy, fulfilled lives.He has created programs for and presented to fortune 500 companies such as M&M Mars, Wrigley and Ernst & Young, interviewed by JenningsWire and the Dr. Jerry Kennedy Show, and published online at sites such as Livestrong and iVillage. He is the author of The 3/4 Rule - How to eat as a young athlete and the upcoming book The Reflex - How to Create Thoughts, Words and Actions to Achieve Your Goals.
Chris Weiler

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