Are your little (or not-so-little) ones in pre-season right now? The school year is almost here, and with the first marking period come the first fall sports. Soccer, football, field hockey, track, tennis, cheerleading, volleyball, or any other sport — and I know I’m forgetting one or two — if your child is on a team, you’ll probably be thinking about snack time.

Orange wedge L1020044

Orange wedges are a great gluten-free snack for sports, but they aren't your only option

Of course every sport, township, and age range is different, but one thing that’s fairly consistent is the request that parents supply half-time and after-game snacks for the team. If your child is gluten-free, this can be a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, when it’s your turn to bring snacks you have a great opportunity to introduce tasty, healthy gluten-free treats to your child’s friends and teammates. On the other, you may find that every week is snack week for you — because your child may not be able to eat the gluten-full team snacks brought in by other parents (although given the prevalence of high-sugar, highly-processed convenience snacks, for some parents this may actually be a blessing in disguise).

Whether you’re making gluten-free after-sports snacks for one child or twenty, we’ve got you covered. Read on for some easy gluten-free snack ideas that will have your athletes feeling their best on the field (or court or track) and off.

Food in Bar Form

There are plenty of pre-made gluten-free snack bars out there, which will be nicely pre-wrapped and easy to bring. However, if you want to do something a bit more finely tuned it’s very easy and often more cost-effective to make your own bars at home. All you’ll need is a bit of pre-planning.

Although No Meat Athlete didn’t set out to make a gluten-free energy bar, the way their post is structured is perfect for those of us with dietary restrictions. Because the recipe is ratio-based, you can choose the binders, sweeteners, flavors and bases that you like best. One of my favorite parts about these energy bars is that they sneakily contain beans. Of course, with example combinations like Cranberry Pistachio with cinnamon and vanilla, or Maple Pumpkin, no one will notice the addition of beans (or the absence of gluten). Of course, you’ll want to make sure everything you choose is gluten-free, including the oats!

Food on a Stick. Seriously, what doesn’t taste better on a stick?

Especially for little ones, you may want to use a nice blunt popsicle stick instead of a pointy wooden skewer. Keep in mind that popsicle sticks are wider and shorter; you may need to adjust the foods you use, and you may need to bring two kebobs per child. For bonus points, use cute cookie cutters to cut foods into stars, flowers, hearts, or other fun shapes. Keep in mind that some of these foods are more temperature-sensitive than others.

There are lots of gluten-free foods that can be kebabed, whether you want to go sweet or savory (or both!):

  • Fresh fruits like melon, pineapple, strawberry, apple, or grapes
  • Dried apricots, pears, or mango
  • S’mores-sized marshmallows (OK OK, these aren’t healthy per se, but if they are surrounded by fruit…)
  • Cubes of your favorite gluten-free cake, brownie, or soft cookie (ditto my above parenthetical)
  • Cheese, for example low-fat or regular cheddar, Havarti, Gouda, or small fresh mozzarella balls
  • Thick-cut gluten-free cold cuts like turkey or ham. Be sure to request slices that are at least 1/2 inch thick, or roll the slice of meat and cut each cigar-shaped roll into inch-wide slices. Or, go with something pre-cut like pepperoni.
  • Bite-size pieces of grilled chicken breast
  • Bell pepper for bright colors and crunch
  • Jicama if you’ve got adventurous eaters, for an unexpected sweet-crunchy-vegetal surprise
  • Cherry or grape tomatoes (probably not on the popsicle sticks)
I think my favorite “recipe” would be alternating slices of apple, cheddar, and turkey — but I’d also happily say aloha to a mix of ham, pineapple, and red pepper.
Foods that are ready-to-go
OK, sometimes we don’t have time to get all fancy. Here are some ideas of healthy, gluten-free snacks that don’t require any or much prep work before you bring them to the game:
  • String cheese or Babybel
  • Clementines or the perennial favorite, orange slices
  • Juice boxes. Keep them in the freezer and then move them to a cooler on game day. By the time the kids reach for them they’ll be half-frozen, slushy treats
  • Single-serving bags of baby carrots, especially when paired with squeeze packets of nut or seed butters (keep an eye out for peanut allergies)
  • Single-serving bags of trail mix. Get as involved as you want: some stores sell pre-wrapped single services. Or, buy a pre-mixed trail mix and bag it at home. Or, pick up your favorite nuts, dried fruits, and other tidbits and mix it up in a big bowl. I like roasted unsalted almonds, lightly salted cashews, dried cherries, raisins, and blueberries, and chocolate chips or chocolate-covered raisins.

Remember, if you’re unsure of which brands are gluten-free, your gluten-free grocery guide can help you find plenty of items in your local supermarket.

What are your favorite go-to gluten-free treats for sports practice?