pre-game snacks

Jello Legs & Strategizing Pre-Event Snacks: Something I Learned the Hard Way

"Shoot!", I thought as I was about fifteen minutes from taking the ice for my warmup.  "I forgot my snack.  Oh well, too late now.  I'm sure I'll be fine.  I'm sure I don't actually need that banana.  I feel fine.  It's just like eight total minutes of skating."

An easy snack that I love pre or post exercise!   Sun Butter Banana Oat Bites   can also be found here

An easy snack that I love pre or post exercise! Sun Butter Banana Oat Bites can also be found here

Fast forward about twenty-five minutes later.  I made it through my warmup and, I'll say, it was decent.  I did not feel strong like I knew I could feel.  However, I just rationalized it as nerves that always vanish as soon as my music begins and carried on.  After a mediocre warmup I exited the ice and kept warm while talking with my coach. "I'm feeling stronger", I thought.  "I can do this."  I removed my skate guards and handed my sweater to my coach.  The announcer called my name and as the cold icy air pierced my skin, I lifted my head high, took a deep breath, and skated out to my beginning pose, trying to leave my hesitations in the warmup room.

At this point in my skating life, I felt like I at least had my early morning pre-performance eating strategy pretty much down.  I knew my go-to meal, timing and routine for these early morning competitors.  What I was still working on, however, was the timing for those awkward mid-day to late - afternoon performances.  This competition happened to be around 12:30 p.m., smack in the middle of the day and lunchtime. At that point breakfast had certainly worn off and the question was, do I eat lunch before or after my skate? I couldn't eat a huge lunch because then it might not digest in time.  But should I eat a little something before I compete or wait until after I finish?  With limited time to go, I brushed off the necessity of this pre-performance snack, telling myself it was simple superstition and went on with my warmup routine.

Now I was standing on the ice, focused on the task at hand, ready to go.  My music began and I pressed into my first strokes and leaned into those beginning edges.  Unfortunately that is as good as it got.  The program was rough, to say it kindly.  I remember literally talking to my legs while skating, saying "What are you doing?  Get it together!"  But it was useless.  My legs felt like jello and my body was shaky, making landing any jump next to impossible and causing spins to be far from tight and centered.  That was one of those performances that I was happy to end and as I put my skate guards back on and made my way to my family I realized how low my blood sugar was. I was hungry and a pre-performance snack would from then on be a pre-performance staple.

Athletes work hard every day so that they can perform their best when it counts and it is important not to let a lack of pre-performance nutrition be the reason those practices don’t pay off. It is important to determine what nutrition your body needs for an optimal performance and to determine not only what but also when the body needs it, then making it a necessity in your practice and performance day plan (remember, never perform on something you have not practiced on first!).. Now, if a meal was eaten an hour or two or three before the event, a snack may not be needed. However, in the instance like I have talked about here, where the last meal was far away, a snack is most-likely a benefit or necessity.

Remember that the closer you are to the event, the simpler your snack should be. That means the closer you get to the event the less protein, fiber, and fat a snack should contain as these components are all more difficult for the body to digest. Need some ideas? I’m leaving you with a few of my tried and true favorites below.

Happy fueling!


10 simple pre-event snacks for the young athlete

  • Fresh fruit (banana, grapes, orange slices, melon, etc. whatever is best tolerated by the athlete)

  • Dried fruit (raisins, cherries, apple, etc.)

  • Simple granola bar (low fiber, low fat, low protein - think "easy to digest", like a Quaker Chewy granola bar)

  • Pretzels

  • Crackers (salty crackers if you’re a heavy and / or salty sweater)

  • Jam sandwich

  • Slice of toast with honey

  • Dry cereal (My go-to’s are Cheerios & Quaker Oatmeal Squares)

  • Small fig bar ( I really like these)

  • Pre-event homemade trial mix (dry cereal + dried fruit)

Happy Fueling!



Food to Fuel the After-School Practice

School has officially begun or is about to begin.  While mom and dad work hard to get a balanced breakfast in their young athlete in the morning, the athlete is now on his or her own for about 7 hours a day in regards to food and nutrition.  This seven hours is a time that can include fueling for an afternoon practice or recovering from a morning workout.  However, often times it is not.  No one is close to guide the athlete's food choices, remind him or her to drink water, to see what he or she had for lunch or to see if lunch was even eaten.  

The challenge for the child or teen athlete is to not get so caught up in projects, friends and activities during the day that they miss snacks, skip lunch or forget to drink fluids.  Many times we see athletes skip lunch to finish last-minute schoolwork, hang out with their friends or simply because nothing appeals to them at lunch.  They either arrive to practice way under-fueled or they may grab fast - food on the way to practice or a game.  Either situation usually leads to a sluggish athlete and sub-optimal practice.

There is only so much we, as the parent, the coach, the dietitian, the trainer, the (fill in the blank) can do, but we can at least help explain to our athletes what an impact their food & drink choices throughout the day have on their practices and performances.  After talking we should then show them how to take this information and make it tangible.  We can work with them to find fueling healthy snack and lunch options that they can take with them to school, keeping in mind that this is going to have to be a compromise.  The meal or snack can be super healthy, but if they won't eat it, the health factor does not matter.  When working with your athletes you should:

  1. Go through the kind of foods they need to fuel (carbs, protein, a little healthy fat).

  2. Have them pick out food that they WILL EAT out of the list you created together.

  3. Help the athletes assemble their meal and snack bag for the day.

Get started assembling fueling meals & snacks with the below general guidelines and examples...


  • favorite low sugar whole grain cereal

  • whole grain bread, pasta, wrap

  • Whole grain crackers


  • favorite fresh fruit

  • favorite dried fruit


  • raw veggies

  • cooked veggies


  • poultry / fish (salmon or tuna for a bonus of healthy fats) / lean beef

  • beans / tofu / eggs


  • low-fat plain milk or chocolate milk

  • low-fat yogurt

  • low-fat cottage cheese

  • cheese slices / sticks


  • avocado

  • nuts & seeds

  • nut butter or seed butter (like sun butter for those with a nut allergy)

  • olive oil / olive oil - based salad dressings

  • if you choose salmon or tuna as your protein, you will also be getting some healthy fat



  • low-fat milk

  • smoothies

  • Gatorade (for during or after intense practices in the high heat)

  • 100% fruit juice (for added calories)

  • remember that foods like fruits & vegetables, yogurts, applesauce & soups also contribute fluid


  • dried fruit

  • fresh fruit

  • pretzels

  • graham crackers

  • juice box

  • toast (white bread) with jam

  • low fiber, low protein granola bar


  • Turkey & cheese wrap with lettuce, tomato, hummus + an apple

  • Tuna salad (made with a mix of light mayo & mustard) + crackers + grapes

  • Peanut butter, honey and banana sandwich

  • Salad with fresh veggies, grilled chicken + vinaigrette dressing

  • Bean and veggie soup

  • Cooked oatmeal made with low-fat milk, cinnamon, about 1 tsp of honey and fresh fruit on top

  • Bowl of cereal with low-fat milk topped with fresh fruit

  • Toaster waffle sandwich (with peanut butter and jelly)

  • Cottage cheese with diced tomatoes, cucumbers, turkey slices and a dash of salt & pepper

  • Chicken salad (see my Confetti Chicken Salad Recipe to be posted next week!) with whole grain crackers and fruit

  • Cooked whole - wheat pasta spirals with roasted tomatoes, oregano, thyme and ground turkey + fresh fruit

  • Mexican Salad Bowl: 1/2 cup cooked quinoa + 1 cup cooked veggies + 1/2 cup black beans (rinsed & drained) + 1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro + 1/4 cup salsa mixed in + 1/4 cup low-fat feta

  • Trail mix made with unsalted dry roasted almonds, dried cherries and whole grain cereal

  • Graham crackers topped with nut butter & dried cherries or raisins

  • Hardboiled eggs + carrot slices & hummus + an apple

  • Whole grain granola bar (I like Kashi, some KIND bars, Larabar, & some varieties of NuGo Slim) + low fat Greek yogurt.

I hope this gives you a little guidance as to how to help you and your athlete eat for afternoon and evening practices and games.  Follow it strictly or use it as a base to create your own delicious and energizing meals and snacks.

Happy Fueling!