By Jill Castle, MS, RDN (as published by USA Swimming and republished here by permission of author)
I like real food. I like my young athletes to eat real food. So, when it comes to youth sports nutrition, I am always looking for innovative food products that can do the job of nourishing and fueling the growing athlete.
Here are some of my favorite food products of 2016 for young swimmers:
Fair Life Chocolate Milk
Want milk with more calcium, more protein, and not too much sugar? Fair Life Chocolate Milk may be your answer. Ultra-filtration is the process used to concentrate calcium and protein, and reduce sugar and lactose, the natural milk sugar that many Americans have difficulty digesting.
Of course, the chocolate milk has sugar added back in, but the overall sugar content is still less than other chocolate milk competitors (12 grams of sugar per 8 ounces versus 24 grams of sugar in organic chocolate milk).
Fair Life Chocolate Milk is a delicious option for athletes who are looking for a tasty recovery beverage.
*Available in 11-ounce single serving containers
Nutty Goodness Fruit and Nut Snacks
Nutty Goodness is a snack made with nuts, seeds, fruit, herbs and spices…and nothing else. Nutty Goodness also happens to be organic, gluten-free, vegan, wheat-and dairy-free. Packaged in a re-sealable bag for easy portability, these flavorful snacks are perfect for a quick light bite prior to, or after, an event.
88 Acres Seed Bars
A granola bar without the granola? Is that possible? It is with 88 Acres, the Boston-based company making seed bars. Those with tree nut and peanut allergy, rejoice. Your tasty alternative is here.
Inspired by the lack of bar options for individuals with food allergies, the creators made their bars free from all major food allergens (milk, egg, wheat, peanut, tree nut, fish, shellfish and soy). And best of all, they didn’t sacrifice flavor in the process.
Kelly’s Four Plus Granola
Sometimes it takes an athlete’s mom to make a great fuel source for other athletes. Hence, this small batch, hand baked granola was born out of a mom’s need to feed her hungry, growing rowers. Every flavor starts out with four main ingredients (100% whole grain rolled oats, canola oil, honey, and pure maple syrup) and other ingredients are added to make up the six different available flavors. Four of the flavors are nut-free. This granola is great straight out of the bag, on top of yogurt, oatmeal or cold cereal.
Athletic Foodie Snacks
Athletic Foodie was founded by Garrett Weber-Gale, an Olympic Gold Medalist in swimming, after a bout with high blood pressure and a need to revamp his diet. He quickly became aware of the impact of nutrition on his sports performance. Since then, he’s been making a difference in young athletes’ lives with his Athletic Foodie products.
Athletic Foodie snacks are individually portioned. Each package tells the swimmer when to eat it: pre-workout, during workout or post-workout, leaving the guessing game behind.
Pureed Fruits and Veggie Energy Packs
Clif Athlete Series showcases a variety of pouched fruit, grain and veggie combinations. Modeled after baby food pouches, these energy packs are easy to throw in a duffle and consume between events. With flavors such as banana maple oatmeal, banana beet with ginger, and sweet potato and sea salt, the combos pack in the complex carbs that are required and beneficial for endurance activities.
Trader Joe’s Fruit and Nut Mixes
Trader Joe’s has the market on individually packaged trail mixes, a line of products they call “handfuls.” From their Omega Trek Mix (almonds, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds (pepitas)) to their Go Raw Trek Mix (raisins, cashews, walnuts, almonds and filberts (hazelnuts)) and everything in between (my favorite: Simply Almonds, Cashews and Chocolate Mix), Trader Joe’s does the swimmer a big favor: keeps the portion size to a “handful.”
In the grocery store, the category of granola bars is overwhelming. It’s easy to just grab the first bar that looks as if it will taste good. But, finding one that tastes good and is nutritious can be a costly experiment.
Of course, everyone’s taste buds are different and granola bars vary greatly, even within brand names, but the brands Kashi, Kind, and Cascadian Farms have nutrition labels that generally meet the criteria of “not too sugary, not too fatty, and a good source of protein and fiber.”
If you are curious about finding a healthy granola bar, but aren’t sure which parameters to look for, check out my granola bar purchasing guide.
If you’re looking for a bar that packs more punch (translated: a bit higher in calories and protein), try a Bonk Breaker energy and protein bar. It may be just the hefty snack you need for your next grueling workout. Not only are there several unique flavor options, these energy bars are gluten-free and made with real ingredients—the kind you recognize and can pronounce.
*Disclosure: At the time of this writing, I have no affiliations with any of the companies mentioned in this article. All opinions are my own.
Jill Castle, MS, RDN is a registered dietitian, childhood nutritionist, and youth sports nutrition expert. She is the author of Eat Like a Champion: Performance Nutrition for Your Young Athlete. Learn more about Jill at www.jillcastle.com and check out her free list of 70 Awesome Pre-Workout Snacks for Kids.