As an athlete, it’s recommended that you eat every three hours throughout the day, so it’s important to find snacks that travel easily, offer the right nutrients, and actually taste good too. When it comes to nutrition, the goal is to find snacks that fill you up and keep you energized through an optimal blend of mostly carbohydrates, plus some protein and fat to help you feel satisfied for longer.
Here are six snacks options that are shelf-stable, energy-packed, and tastebud-approved.
1. Trail Mix
Trail mix is the easiest shelf-stable snack that can hit all the right notes: sweet and salty, plus a great macro and micro-nutrient nutritional profile for a busy athlete. Even better, it can be easily stored, transported, and eaten anywhere.
Here are a few of our favorite ingredients to include to maximize satiety and taste:
- Protein/Fat: Nuts and seeds are a great source of healthful fats and offer a few grams of protein per serving as well. Walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, and almonds are all great options here. The more varieties you include, the better, since each nut and seed has a slightly different micronutrient profile.
- Carbohydrate: Depending on what you prefer, add carb-based options like raisins, dried goji berries, dried cranberries, banana chips, chocolate chips, Chex mix, and pretzels. You don’t need to add M&Ms to make a trail mix that contains carbs, though there’s nothing wrong with sprinkling a few in!
2. Granola Bars (done right)
Granola bars are obviously the easiest shelf-stable and locker-friendly go-to, but be careful when choosing one. Some granola bars actually have more sugar than a candy bar! Kristen Ziesmer, a registered dietitian, suggests checking the nutrition facts label and looking for granola bars that have less than 10 grams of ADDED sugar (listed below the total carbohydrate/sugar count on the label). This will help you avoid bars that are packed with cane sugar and high fructose corn syrup, while still containing plenty of carbohydrates like oats and dried fruit for energy. Carbohydrates are never your enemy!
3. DIY Energy Balls
If you eat your locker snacks on a daily basis, you can have slightly less shelf-stable options like DIY energy balls. Your energy balls can be made with just a few ingredients and a food processor: no baking required! In a food processor, Ziesmer suggests blending dates or raisins with your favorite nut (like cashews) along with shredded coconut, rolled oats, a bit of salt, and even a pinch of cocoa powder. Blend until they’re smooth, adding more dry ingredients (the nuts, oats, and coconut) until the consistency is thick enough to be rolled into small balls. Put them in the fridge to set, and then store in an airtight plastic bag or container in your locker for up to a week.
4. Pretzels and Shelf-Stable Hummus
If you prefer a saltier snack, a combination of hummus and pretzels is a great way to get carbohydrates, fat, and protein in a fast, easy-to-eat snack. Look for individual packs of whole grain pretzels or buy a bigger bag and divide it into single servings. The pretzels give you some quick energy thanks to their carbohydrate content, while the hummus provides a bit of fat and protein to make the snack more satisfying. Obviously, most hummus needs to be refrigerated, so make sure to look for shelf-stable single-serve containers of hummus. Once opened, don’t return the packages to your locker!
5. Shelf-Stable Chocolate Milk
For a fast hit of carbohydrates, protein, and a bit of fat, it’s hard to beat shelf-stable chocolate milk. There are a few brands that make shelf-stable packs of chocolate milk with organic dairy, or you can opt for almond milk versions if you don’t like regular dairy milk, but keep in mind that it doesn’t offer the same amount of protein as cow’s milk. It’s easy to keep a few of these in your locker for those days you’re running late and don’t have time to actually eat a snack.
6. Coconut Water
If you’re a fan of sports drinks, Ziesmer suggests trying the more natural coconut water, which is available in single-serve shelf-stable packs. It offers electrolytes and carbohydrates, but the water comes directly from a coconut. Often, you can find coconut water infused with pineapple or mango, if you’re looking for something with more carbohydrates. Keep in mind, however, that coconut water doesn’t offer the same level of sodium, which is the most important electrolyte to replace for hydration, as a traditional sports drink.
Fueling throughout the day with healthy meals and snacks is critical for student athletes. These six snack options will travel easily, taste good, and offer natural carbohydrates from fruit and grains, as well as small amounts of protein and fat.