Hydrate with Foods

Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD

Snacking has gotten a bad “rap” over the years! Most people think of snacking as having a candy bar, sitting on the couch with a bag of chips or spooning a pint of ice cream into your mouth, but as a sports dietitian, I am going to argue snacking can be healthy and important for you as an athlete. It’s all about what is in your snack!

As an athlete, you have a variety of eating opportunities over the course of a day. Your goal is to keep your body fueled so that it can move, run, jump and lift to the best of its ability! When the body does not have adequate nutrition, energy levels stay low and prevent athletes from performing at their optimal level. Thus, it is important that athletes eat three square meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) plus 2-3 healthy, nutrient-rich snacks throughout the day.

Snacking can be a great tool for maintaining a healthy weight and keeping energy levels up. First, small meals and snacks eaten frequently throughout the day keep your body energized and your blood sugar stable. Second, having a healthy snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon will help you from feeling famished at the next meal and from running out of energy at practice. Finally, eating snacks opens the door to include more nutrient-rich foods throughout the day, such as fruit, yogurt, almonds and high-fiber granola bars.

So, what should your snacks consist of? Every snack should have two parts. First, all snacks should have some form of high-fiber carbohydrate such as a fruit, an oat-based granola bar or a serving of 100-percent whole wheat crackers/pretzels. Carbohydrate is the body’s #1 source of energy and thus should be eaten often throughout the day. However, that is not all! Second, make sure your snack has a lean protein or healthy fat such as Greek yogurt, 2-percent string cheese, almonds, natural peanut butter or even avocado. Protein and fat slow down digestion and help you feel full faster and stay satisfied longer. Check out these five healthy snack options:

• 1 serving whole-wheat crackers and 1 oz 2-percent cheese
• 1 high-fiber granola bar and 15 almonds
• 6 oz low-fat Greek yogurt and 1 cup whole-grain cereal
• 1 apple and 1 Tbs. natural peanut butter
• 1 banana and a hard-boiled egg