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Health Tip

Healthy Snacks Before Soccer

If you or your child play soccer or some other sport, then snacking is a virtual necessity. Not only do they give you the energy boost you need to play well, but they can be a way to fill in gaps in your diet and give yourself extra nutrients you might miss out on otherwise. Dieticians recommend eating snacks that include low fat pudding or yogurt, especially for people who don’t eat much dairy on a regular basis. We answer your questions about eating snacks before, during and after soccer and other sports.

  • What should you eat? Canned and fresh fruit and fruit juices will give you a much needed burst of energy. There’s a reason that orange slices get passed out during soccer games—they generate the sort of blood sugar you need to run and play hard. Flavored yogurt is always a good choice, as are crackers, pretzels, energy bars and fig bars. Animal crackers or similar plain cookies can be good. Even leftover pasta can do the trick. All of these are carbohydrates, which are what you need while exercising. FIFA, the organization that governs soccer internationally, has recommendations from its nutrition advisory council of either yogurt or fruit juice, both in eight ounce servings, before a game.
  • When should you eat? How far ahead of playing you need to eat depends on how large of a meal you’re consuming. You need to give it time to digest and hit your bloodstream before trying to play hard. A full meal requires between three and four hours; liquid food such as smoothies need one or two hours, and small snacks less than an hour. Individual metabolisms vary, so you should test how much you (or your child) can eat before a game starts without it causing problems. Some people only need very small snacks, such as a pretzel or a graham cracker.
  • Why should you eat? Is it really necessary to eat something before you play. Yes, say the experts, because most goals are scored in the last few minutes of each half. At the World Cup, most goals take place between seventy-six and ninety minutes into the game. That means that it’s really important that you don’t run out of energy quickly. You need to have the stamina to last through to the very end, and that requires consuming some extra fuel before you play.
  • What shouldn’t you eat? Some foods can do you more harm than good. Don’t eat junk food, before, during or after a game. Although sodas, chips, candy bars and french fries are often easily available, resist them for pretzels, raisins and sports drinks instead. These will help you to replenish quickly afterwards, and set you up well for the next game. Plan ahead and pack healthy snacks so that you won’t be tempted to put junk in your body just when you need the good stuff.

Remember that rich, fatty foods will slow you down, and things like candy bars don’t give you the sort of lasting energy you need.

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