What kid doesn’t want to cool down with a flavorful energy or sports drink? While these tasty beverages are typically marketed as healthy, they’re often full of artificial sugars, colors, and flavors. Alternatives to energy drinks, as well as energy-boosting foods, are a better way to keep young athletes going throughout tough practices and even tougher games.
When I worked as a sports camp counselor, camper hydration was always at the forefront of my mind. Kids and teens would often forget to fuel up as they became consumed by whatever sport they were playing. Here, I will share some of my favorite alternatives to energy drinks and some fantastic energy-boosting foods, including the most effective thirst-quenching beverage in the business.
1. Coconut Water
Just like adults, children lose salt and other minerals when they sweat. Coconut water naturally contains an impressive list of nutrients including vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, and calcium. Kids may find its subtle flavor more appealing than H2O, while mom and dad will enjoy that coconut water’s packaging fits in any cooler.
Coconut water is a good way to stay hydrated, but it also contains added calories and natural sugars that could lead to an upset stomach if consumed in excess (also a side effect of sports drinks). It’s a good idea to stay on top of the amount your child is drinking throughout the big game to make sure it’s not too little, not too much, but just right.
If you’ve read my series on half-marathon training, you know I’m a big fan of bananas when used for energy as well as recovery. This accessible fruit is full of potassium, which helps to prevent muscle cramps and regulate fluids.
Bananas are a great snack post-workout as well as before engaging in any athletic activity. A peanut-butter and banana sandwich on whole wheat bread incorporates much-needed protein and carbohydrates that will keep your young athletes going throughout their busy day.
Smoothies are another quick and nutritious way to ensure your kids get the energy they need to stay strong throughout their after-school activities. One of the added benefits of fruit-based smoothies (besides supplying vitamins, minerals, and fiber) is that you can sneak in vegetables without picky eaters ever knowing they’ve had their greens.
Check out some quick breakfast smoothie recipes for the whole family and experiment with your own favorite fruits and veggies. Pro tip: Blueberries overpower the color of any smoothie, so be sure to add them into the mix if you want to disguise the green color of spinach, kale, or any vibrant veggies from your picky eaters.
4. Homemade Oatmeal Bars
Oatmeal is a great source of carbs that provide the energy needed to push through the wall in the final moments of any athletic endeavor. While oatmeal is easy to make, delicious, and nutritious, it isn’t always convenient. Homemade oatmeal bars give you the freedom to take this energy-boosting food with you on the go.
Minimalist Baker’s five-ingredient granola bar has become my go-to recipe as it’s simple and endlessly adaptable to anyone’s taste. Along with rolled oats, the sparse ingredients list includes almonds, natural peanut butter, agave nectar, and dates. Dried fruit, vanilla, and even chocolate chips can be added to the mix to further appeal to your kids’ appetites.
Kids need to perform at their peak abilities throughout after-school activities, so they have to stay hydrated. When it comes to that job, water is the most effective drink available. Kids—especially the younger ones—should be reminded to drink water before, during, and after participating in sports. MomsTeam offers this hydration guide for kids ages 6 to 18. You can reference it to make sure your children are drinking enough fluids to stay hydrated and energized throughout their activities.
Sports drinks may be tempting thirst quenchers, but there are many more effective, healthy, and natural energy-boosting options available to keep kids at their peak condition until the final whistle blows. Do you have any go-to sports drink alternatives? Let us know your favorites with a #GoodMatters tweet.
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