• By Talia Follador
  • In Uncategorized
  • August 11, 2020

Snacks to Fuel Hungry High School Athletes

By Heather Mangieri, RDN, CSSD

This hasn’t been a typical year for anyone, including high school athletes. The last sports season came to a sudden stop, and we’re still unclear how this year’s sports will play out.  Whether your child’s sports season will be typical or involve a modified practice and competition schedule, it’s still important to fuel with healthy foods. That includes nutritious, portable snacks that can be eaten at home, school, or while traveling. 

What Is A Healthy Snack?

The word snack might conquer up visions of chips, pretzels, and energy bars, but a healthy snack is much more than that. A snack is meant to provide valuable nutrients that support health, growth, and development. For high school athletes, they also provide the additional fuel needed to play sports. 

To help you visualize a healthy snack, think of them as mini-meals. You wouldn’t have a bag of chips for dinner, and you shouldn’t have a one for a snack, either. Instead, you might have a handful of chips with something else – like a turkey sandwich or a small chicken wrap. 

A healthy snack should supply a combination of a few food groups – and provide your body with carbohydrates, some protein, and even some dietary fats. It should also provide vitamins and minerals, and include a source of fluid.

Things To Consider When Packing Snacks For High School Athletes

High school athletes often go from school straight to practice. Some athletes, like swimmers, often practice before school. Having the right container to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot is key to increasing snack variety. 

The easiest way to keep portable cold foods cold is to have a mini cooler with a few ice packs. Coolers come in a variety of sizes based on how much food you need to pack. If the only meal eaten away from home is one snack, a small insulated bag should be enough. If you’ll be packing enough food for after morning practice and after-school, a larger sized cooler should be used. After packing the cooler, put a few ice packs on and around the food to keep everything cold.

Another useful container is a food jar or soup thermos. A high-quality container should keep hot food hot for at least 4 hours.  That’s perfect for an athlete that has morning practice and needs breakfast or snack before starting school.

High school athletes that are gone all day, or that travel, should take multiple snacks with them. Packing a combination of cold, warm, and shelf-stable snacks is the best way to assure they get enough food to fuel their extra requirements.

Healthy, Balanced Snacks To Fuel Hungry High School Athletes

If you’re not sure what a healthy snack looks like or you just need some ideas, I’m sharing a few options below. All of these snacks include a combination of foods so that your athlete gets a wide variety of nutrients. Be sure to drink water with snacks, too, so that hydration needs are met.

Turkey Sandwich With Chips Or Pretzels

Sandwiches are great snack options and are easy to eat away from home. Turkey provides protein while the bread and potato chips provide the carbohydrates. You can boost the nutrient quality of any sandwich by adding some veggies to it – like a piece of lettuce, some spinach leaves, a few slices of tomato and thinly sliced carrots. Athletes that need a smaller snack can eat ½ of a sandwich, while those that have greater nutrient requirements can eat a whole sandwich.

Tuna Salad Wrap With An Apple

Tuna salad is an easy snack option because it is portable and pairs well with lots of different foods. Wrap some in a flour tortilla with your favorite vegetables, and put it in a container to take with you. Paired with an apple, you get a meal complete with carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals. If you’re eating the snack at home, make a tuna melt by adding some shredded cheese and putting it in the toaster oven for ~5 minutes. For a smaller snack, cut the wrap in half and eat part as an after-school snack and the other half once you finish your training or event.

Greek Yogurt With Fruit And Nuts

This snack idea doesn’t require any cooking or meal prep at all. You just have to remember to buy a few containers of Greek yogurt at the store. Pack a container in your mini cooler with a bag of berries and some nuts, and you have the easiest snack ever. Don’t forget a spoon, and an ice pack to help keep it cold all day long.

Peanut Butter And Jelly Sandwich With A Carton of Milk

A good old PB & J might be the most common snack for athletes. It’s a super easy option because it doesn’t require a special container to keep it hot or cold. Make it the night before, then put it in your backpack as you head out the door for school. The peanut butter and jelly sandwich alone is a good snack, but having it with a carton of milk provides additional protein, as well as fluid and other essential nutrients

A hard-Boiled Egg, Crackers, Grapes, And Carrots 

A snack doesn’t have to be one item – it can be a variety of foods that together, make a balanced snack. This snack provides protein from the egg, and carbohydrates from the crackers, grapes and carrots. Each one of the foods in this snack contributes different vitamins and minerals needed to support healthy growth and development, as well as sports performance.

Fruit And Oatmeal

Oatmeal is a great source of complex carbohydrates – the fuel source athletes need for energy. This is a great snack for all athletes, especially those with a morning practice. Pack warm oats in a food thermos so that they stay warm, and keep the fruit in a separate container. After practice, enjoy the warm breakfast in preparation for a long day of school. 

The key to having healthy snacks available is preparation. All of these snack ideas can be eaten at home, but if you need to take them with you, you’ll need to plan accordingly. With a little prep work, you’ll be well fueled and on your way to a winning season.

About the Author


Heather Mangieri, MS, RDN, CSSD, has over 21 years of professional experience working in the areas of Healthy Living/Wellness, Sports Nutrition/Adolescent Sports Nutrition, Weight Management & Disordered Eating. Her company, Heather Mangieri Nutrition provides food, fitness and nutrition consulting and communication services for organizations, companies and individual clients. She also works with the media and industry to create and deliver messages on products and brands that she believes support a healthy lifestyle. Heather resides in Pittsburgh with her three children.