It can be difficult to ensure that your young athlete is getting enough protein—especially when they are leaving early in the morning for practice before school and staying late for a second practice or other extracurricular activity. Processed, carb-based snacks can become an easy choice due to their shelf-stability and transportability. However, there are plenty of non-perishable whole food-based and protein-rich options available that, with a little prep work, can sustain your athlete throughout practices and classes.
TrueSport Expert Kristen Ziesmer, a registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, shares a few of her favorite healthy, whole food options for protein on the go.
Peanut butter or almond butter
Peanut butter is high in vitamins B and E and is rich in protein. Almond butter and peanut butter have a similar nutrition profile: two tablespoons net around eight grams of protein. Aim for 1.5 servings to get enough protein, but make sure your athlete tolerates nut butter well.
While it is ideal to serve this snack with an apple or banana, if your athlete is known for forgetting food, stick to shelf-stable additions like pretzels, banana chips, or crackers.
Check that your school allows students to bring in foods containing peanut butter—some will not due to allergies.
Build your own trail mix
Protein sources include any type of nuts. Take in a good variety for bonus micronutrients, such as almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachios, or walnuts. In addition to nuts, dried edamame, hemp hearts, roasted chickpeas, and wasabi peas can give added protein.
It might shock you how small a serving of nuts is! A food scale can show you how much an ounce is, and one ounce of nuts roughly contains 4-6 grams of protein. It’s good to aim for 15-20 grams of protein per meal/snack, so you will want to have several servings of nuts or legumes in your athlete’s snack bag.
Building your own trail mix with a mix of nuts and dried fruit allows you to tailor it to your athlete’s exact preferences, such as swapping raisins for dried cranberries or apple slices, sneaking in pretzels, banana chips, or chocolate chips for bonus simple carbohydrates, or even sprinkling the whole mix with salt and pepper or mixing it up by flavoring it with chili powder or cinnamon.
Check that your school allows students to bring in foods containing nuts—some will not due to allergies.