Sports Snacks: Food Options for Hungry Athletes

"What should I eat before I exercise?" That's a key question—as well as what to eat during extended exercise—that athletes commonly ask me. While they know the words carbs, proteins and fats, they often don't know how to translate those words into food choices. The goal of this article is to offer specific food suggestions to fit a variety of sports situations. This is far from a complete list. Please be sure to experiment with new pre- and during exercise foods to learn which ones settle best in your gut, don't "talk back," and enhance your performance.

Pre-Event Carbo-Loading Dinner:

  • Pasta with tomato sauce, meatballs, green beans, French bread, low fat/skim milk, frozen yogurt with strawberries
  • Turkey with potato, stuffing, low fat gravy, winter squash, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls, apple crisp with reduced-fat ice cream

Pre-Game Breakfast

For example, 1 to 2 hours before a 9 a.m. cross-country meet or soccer game

  • Wheaties (or other dry cereal) with low fat milk and banana
  • Oatmeal with applesauce and brown sugar
  • Cream of Wheat with raisins
  • Bagel or English muffin with peanut butter
  • Poached eggs with two slices of toast
  • Yogurt and granola

Liquid "Meals"

If you have trouble digesting solid food

  • Fruit smoothie (milk, yogurt or juice blended with frozen berries, banana chunks)
  • Carnation Instant Breakfast
  • Boost
  • Ensure
  • Low fat chocolate milk
  • Vanilla pudding
  • Pureed peaches


4 hours before a 1 p.m. football or hockey game

  • Heftier portions of any of the above breakfast options
  • French toast with cinnamon sugar, berries, breakfast ham
  • Pancakes with maple syrup, scrambled eggs, fruit cup
  • Veggie omelet with non-greasy hash brown potatoes, toast
  • Breakfast burrito (scrambled eggs, low fat cheese, salsa wrapped in a flour tortilla) plus fruit cup and orange juice