What are the top 10 healthy snacks for gymnasts?

First, healthy, nourishing snacks are really important for gymnasts. They are a way to bridge between meals, provide needed energy for long days of training, and help to fuel in and around workouts.

Snacks often get a bad rap because parents think snacks are “junk foods” or things with low nutritional value that kids want to eat instead of their meals. This doesn’t have to be the case. You can easily make high quality, nutritious snacks (that taste good!) with a wide variety of foods that don’t just come from a crinkly bag.

There is a big difference between snacking for hunger and strategically snacking in and around workouts to fuel performance. For gymnasts with big goals and dreams, it’s essential they learn from a young age how to fuel for optimal performance. This is something I teach my clients through 1:1 coaching or our online course for parents—The Balanced Gymnast Method Course.

Unfortunately, gymnastics’ parents often make 3 big mistakes with snacks:

  • Only buying “healthy snacks”
  • Assuming “one size fits all”.
  • Use snacks to replace real meals

Let’s talk about some simple mindset shifts around snacking that can improve your gymnast’s health and performance, and stay tuned to learn my top 10 snacks for your gymnast.

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Stop Only Serving Healthy Snacks

It’s important to serve a wide variety of foods to your children and teens, including the “fun foods”. “Fun foods” are the often less nutritious, higher in fat/salt/sugar foods and snacks that many feel are “bad” or “fattening”.

It’s really important that your children know how to interact with and enjoy the fun foods without feeling compelled to go “overboard”. Many gymnast’s issues with food stem from parents who over-restrict foods (including those higher in sugar, carbohydrate, etc) and focus on only ever serving “healthy food”. The reality is that all foods will forever be present in your gymnast’s life, and they need to know how to listen to their bodies. When parents try to over-restrict the “fun foods”, this deprivation increases wanting and often leads to food sneaking and overeating.

When all foods are morally “neutral”, we can enjoy what we want and not feel the need to FOMO eat (fear of missing out).

Sometimes (most of the time) you can serve nutritious “mini meals” at snack time that include several food groups for energy and staying power (learn more in The Balanced Gymnast Method course). Other times you serve more “fun foods” like warm chocolate chip cookies and a glass of milk.

When you step back and look at your gymnast’s nutrition in “averages”, it takes away the pressure for every single meal and snack to be “perfect”.

Gymnasts May Need Bigger Snacks (Or More Snacks) Than Other Children Or Teens

As children get older, pediatricians and nutritionists often recommend just 3 meals and 1 snack per day. This is often inadequate for the competitive gymnast training 15-30+ hours a week. Most competitive gymnasts need 3 solid meals and at least 2-3 snacks, which is in addition to Performance Nutrition or the pre/intra/post workout nutrition and hydration used to level up performance and energy throughout 4+ hour workouts.

Snacks cannot replace real meals.

It’s often been said that 6 small meals a day is better than 3 bigger meals as it “increases your  metabolism”, but this isn’t true. Multiple studies have shown there is no “metabolic advantage” between 3 vs 6 meals per day.

There is a lot to be said for most of us from a satiety perspective about having a solid meal 3 times a day. In between the meals snacks can be used to bridge hunger and provide energy. But, enjoyed a well-balanced, full meal can help with the psychological side of hunger.

Top 10 Healthy Snacks for Gymnasts

As you can see, there is a lot of misinformation out there in the gymnastics world about snacks. But, snacks can be strategically used in the gymnast’s diet to level up performance and increase longevity in the sport.

To get you started, here are my Top 10 Healthy Snacks for Gymnasts

  1. PB and Banana Toast
  2. Greek Yogurt + Fruit and Granola
  3. Apple Slices + Pretzels + Peanut Butter
  4. Pita Chips + Hummus
  5. Nut based granola bar (like a KIND bar)
  6. Fruit Smoothie (with milk, greek yogurt, or some protein powder as a protein source)
  7. Cheese + Crackers—get adventurous here
  8. Beef Jerky (Trader Joes is my favorite, lower in sugar and salt so not too overpowering)
  9. Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Protein Balls (as seen in The Balanced Gymnast Meal Planning Subscription)
  10. Carrots + Whole Grain Pita Slices + Guacamole
  11. If you want more ideas, you will love

The Balanced Gymnast ™ Meal Planning Subscription which gives you 30 new meal and snack recipes per month, specifically designed for the gymnast.

If you know that your gymnast needs more help with her nutrition and fueling, join The Balanced Gymnast Method ™, our signature online course for parents of competitive gymnasts. This course teaches you how to fuel the gymnast for optimal performance (without the stress and overwhelm) and provides training on assessing growth, navigating sugar, dealing with picky eating, and so much more!