Diet and Nutrition

A Soccer Mom's Healthy Shopping List

January 11, 2017   /
Anne Danahy, MS RD LDN

The start of a new school year also means it is soccer season, and whether your soccer star is a kindergartner hitting the field for the very first time, or a seasoned high school athlete, the rule about what to feed them is the same—keep it healthy.

Soccer players of all ages and skill levels will have more energy and play better if they are fueled properly before and during their game or practice. Their post-game snack or meal is also important to help them recharge and refuel for the next day’s practice—or for homework that night. The good news is that most children do not need special foods like energy bars or sports drinks, unless practice is especially long and intense. For a successful season, and a well-fueled athlete, stock up on these healthy foods the next time you are at the grocery store.

Pregame or pre-practice snacks
After a long day at school, it is important to have a healthy snack to fuel the muscles for practice or a game. The best choices are foods that are high in carbohydrates, with moderate amounts of protein, and a small amount of healthy fat. Carbohydrates provide quick energy and fuel for muscles. A little bit of fat and protein will help your child feel satisfied longer, but too much can be hard to digest and slow them down, especially if it comes from foods like French fries, burgers, or chips. Remember to provide a large bottle of water (or more) for hydration, especially if the weather is hot.

Good snack choices include:

  • Peanut butter and banana sandwich
  • Fruit with a nonfat yogurt
  • 2 cups of popcorn mixed with pretzels, dried fruit, and almonds
  • Cold cereal (unsweetened) with low-fat milk and strawberries
  • Hard-boiled egg with a slice of whole-wheat toast 
  • Pasta shells mixed with some chopped vegetables and chicken 

For early Saturday morning games, keep it nutritious but light with some of these breakfast foods that can also travel well if you need to eat on the run or in the car: 

  • Whole-grain waffles with peanut butter
  • English muffins with a scrambled egg
  • Fresh fruit and Greek yogurt
  • Banana blended with low-fat milk
  • Whole-wheat pancakes rolled up with a scoop of ricotta and strawberries

During the game or practice
Water is usually best to drink during a practice or game, but coconut water is another low-sugar option, which also provides some potassium. If your child has long and vigorous practices (more than 1 hour), sports drinks should be used to replace electrolytes and provide additional glucose (sugar). For a healthy half-time snack, oranges slices, melon cubes, or frozen grapes provide quick energy along with additional fluid. 

After practice or a game
While donuts or ice cream sandwiches might get cheers from your young soccer stars, they are not the best choice for refueling young bodies. Healthy carbohydrate foods, along with a good source of protein, will help to recharge their muscles and replace any calories they have worked off. If your soccer player is headed right home to dinner after practice, they likely will not need a snack, provided dinner will not be too late. If they need something to hold them over, or if you are in charge of supplying the post-game team snack, some healthy options include:

  • Chocolate milk boxes
  • Fresh melon or grape skewers and cheese sticks
  • Baby carrots, mini sweet peppers, and pita chips with a Greek yogurt dip
  • Whole grain crackers, pita or pretzels with hummus
  • Fruit and protein shakes
  • Turkey roll-up sandwiches with lettuce, tomato, and shredded carrots

Make dinner easy on mom or dad
As the kids get older and soccer schedules get busier, it may be hard to juggle driving to and from practice and games with making dinner. While it is fine to get take-out or run through the drive-through occasionally, planning some quick and easy soccer night meals is the healthier option for both the family and your wallet. Create a meal plan and make sure your pantry is stocked with essentials for these easy meals:

  • Quesadillas topped with sliced avocado and salsa
  • Pasta salad with beans, tuna, and bagged, shredded vegetables
  • Veggie burgers topped with canned vegetarian chili
  • Flatbread pizzas topped with caramelized onions, peppers, and mushrooms
  • Crockpot® barbecue pulled chicken sandwiches with broccoli-carrot slaw

Grocery List

Baby carrots
Fresh salsa
Mini sweet peppers
Mixed dried fruit
Packaged, shredded vegetables (broccoli slaw, carrots, cabbage)

Almonds or peanuts
Canned beans
Canned vegetarian chili or chili beans
Deli turkey or chicken breast
Natural peanut (or other nut) butter
Protein powder (for teens who like a protein shake)
Veggie burgers

1% or skim milk
Mozzarella cheese sticks
Nonfat Greek yogurt/yogurt dips
Part skim-ricotta cheese
Shredded cheddar cheese

Grains (look for the whole grain stamp on the box)
Popcorn (plain kernels or lite microwave)
Pretzels, whole-wheat crackers
Whole grain cereal: shredded wheat, raisin bran, cheerios, oatmeal 
Whole wheat bread, English muffins, hamburger buns
Whole grain tortillas, wraps, pita bread
Small sized pasta (shells, rotini), farro, wheat berries, quinoa, brown rice

Bottled water
Chocolate milk boxes
Coconut water
Sports drinks for teens

References and recommended readings

A guide to eating for sports. Kids Health website. Reviewed September 2014. Accessed August 18, 2015.

Hayes D. Eat right to play hard. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website. Published April 5, 2015. Accessed August 18, 2015.

Nelson, S. Let’s play: Nutrition guidelines for active youth and child athletes. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website. Accessed August 18, 2015.