01/07/2013 10:26 EST | Updated 03/21/2013 08:30 EDT

What To Eat Before A Game: Tasty Snack Ideas To Fuel Young Athletes


Game nights can be hectic enough as it is without worrying about which foods will optimize your aspiring sports star’s performance. Luckily, preparing healthy, tasty meals and snacks that will deliver energy throughout the big game may be easier than you think.

The trick is achieving an ideal mix of complex carbohydrates and protein. A comprehensive pre-game eating guide by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign recommends selecting carbs that are high in starch, which steadies blood sugar levels and are easy to digest. The guide warns against indulging in foods that are high in fat (even the healthy kind) and fibre, since they can slow down the digestive system and may impede performance.

You don’t have to be a sports nutritionist to concoct the perfect pre-game meal. Here are five quick, easy and healthy foods that will fuel your young athlete all night long.

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5 Healthy Pre-Game Foods to Power Your Young Athlete. Sldieshow text follows before for mobile readers.

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1. Baked potato with Greek yogurt: Pop a potato in the microwave, add some creamy Greek yogurt and boom! You’ve just whipped up a delicious combination of healthy starch that will stabilize blood sugar levels and protein that will boost energy reserves. As an added bonus, getting your kids to devour this tasty dish that’s also rich in potassium and calcium will be a breeze. After all, who doesn’t love baked potatoes?

2. Low-fat cottage cheese on whole-wheat toast: The cottage cheese packs a protein punch, while the toast offers easy-to-digest starch that will deliver much-needed energy for hours. Serve it as a snack on its own, or add some turkey and tomato slices to create a well-rounded meal that can be eaten anywhere (even in the car!).

3. Lentil soup: Lentils are a great pre-game choice, thanks to their combination of starch and protein. Lentil soup is a fantastic option for busy nights, since you can whip up a batch on Sunday night and simply reheat it before rushing out the door for the big game during the week. For nights when you’re really pressed for time and you haven’t planned ahead, keep a stockpile of organic canned lentil soup in the pantry so you’ll always have something healthy to serve, even in a pinch.

4. Quinoa: No wonder quinoa has become so trendy: it’s easy to cook, and it’s brimming with protein and other nutrients like B vitamins, iron and zinc. To make this nutritional powerhouse more appealing to kids, The Washington Post suggests serving “quinoa sundaes,” allowing each family member to add fun toppings like dried fruit, nuts, veggies and beans to their bowls of quinoa. Kids will love the opportunity to customize their meals.

5. Mozzarella string cheese with an apple: No time for a full meal? No problem. Feed your growing athlete protein-rich mozzarella on the go for a burst of energy. Round it out with an apple, which is packed with pectin fibre that will steady blood sugar levels. Just don’t forget to supplement with lots of water and carbohydrates (preferably in the form of whole grains) after they finish playing.

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