Most athletes know the value of good nutrition at meals, but what about when you want a quick snack between meals? Here are some nutritious foods to keep in your kitchen that can help fuel your body and take the edge off of your hunger:
Graham crackers and nut butters: Choose the nut butters that are freshly ground, usually in the bulk section of the grocery store. Almond butter and cashew butter are nice alternatives to the tried and true peanut butter. Go for whole grain when choosing graham crackers or try flavored rice cakes as another substitute. Favorite brand: Justin Nut butters.
Hummus and crackers: Many bean varieties and flavors are cropping up in the hummus section of the store. It’s a good source of protein and fiber. Choose whole grain crackers for extra fiber and magnesium. Tip: Try spicy black bean hummus with corn tortilla chips for a healthy southern edition. Favorite brand: Sabra.
Yogurt and a crunchy addition: Greek yogurt contains approximately 14 grams of protein, which is the equivalent of 2 ounces of meat, but contains less fat. Add your favorite crunchy addition like dried cereal, crushed nuts, granola or fresh fruit. Favorite brands: Chobani and Bear Naked Granola.
Jerky: Although it is high in sodium, jerky is a good low-fat, non-perishable protein source. The meat is dried and most of the fat is rendered out. Consider keeping this in your gym bag.
Smoothies: Take ½ bag frozen fruit (8 oz) and microwave for 10 seconds to thaw. Add 2 cups of Greek yogurt and blend. You get the antioxidant power of the fruit and 28 grams of protein. A great recovery food after a tough workout. Tip: Frozen fruit can be cheaper than fresh and lasts longer.
Popcorn: A whole grain that is quick and easy to make. Use fat free instant microwave popcorn or invest in an air popper. Three cups of popped popcorn is about 100 calories. Tip: Need variety? After the popcorn is cooked, spray a non-stick spray on the popcorn and sprinkle some good parmesan cheese on top. The non-stick spray makes it stick and is a healthy alternative. Much more nutritious than movie popcorn.
Instant oatmeal: Get the unflavored or plain kind and add your own nutritious additions. Tip: Take 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and add 1 tablespoon of raisins for your version of a peanut butter oatmeal cookie in a bowl. Other mighty additions: pecans and dried fruit (apricots, blueberries, cranberries, etc.).
Trail mix: A favorite high calorie snack for many athletes. Any nut and dried fruit will do. Walnuts, pecans, pistachios and sunflower nuts with some dried cherries provides protein, fiber, omega 3 fatty acids and compounds that help reduce inflammation. You can add dark chocolate chips, Chex cereal or pretzels, for a sweet and salty effect. At about 600 calories per cup, it is a great snack addition to gain weight. Tip: Making your own from the bulk bins at the store is the cheapest way to go.
For athletes of all ages, it’s important you eat the right foods that can help improve your performance. For more information on sports nutrition, visit our website http://www.texaschildrensblog.org/author/randing/
Roberta Ending, RD, MS RD CSSD LD CDE FAND, is the sports dietitian for Baylor College of Medicine department of Orthopedics Surgery and Corporate Programs. In clinical practice, she is the sports dietitian for the Houston Astros and the Rice University and formerly with the Texans and Texas Children’s Hospital.