Sport nutritionists recommend the best between-meal snacks.
Why they’re good: Sure, there may be foods with more potassium but bananas are chock full of good carbohydrates. They are a good source of vitamin B6 and are vital for managing protein metabolism. (Runners need more protein during and after workouts.)
When they’re good: Before, during, or after exercise. They’re great blended into a smoothie. Or simply whip frozen banana chunks with milk in a blender for an awesome recovery shake.
Why they’re good: Carrots are low-calorie but filling, so they’re excellent if you’re watching your weight. They contain carotene and vitamin A, which promote eye health and strong immune function.
When they’re good: Eat them at night when you want something to munch but don’t want extra calories. Or eat them before dinner if you’re famished. This way, you won’t overindulge once you sit down for your meal.
Cereal With Milk
Why it’s good: Most cereals are vitamin- and mineral-fortified, and they’re great with fresh fruit sliced on top. Cereal is quick to prepare, easily digestible and a healthful way to satisfy your sweet tooth. (Even some sweetened cereals are a good low-fat alternative to cookies). Choose cereals that have 5 grams of fibre or more per serving.
When it’s good: Fine as a pre-run snack, a post-run pick-me-up, or even as a trail mix during a long, easy run.
Nutrition Tip: A good goal is to eat six meals spread over 16 waking hours – about one every 3 hours.
Why it’s good: It’s no surprise why runners love chocolate milk: the stuff is cold and helps keep you hydrated. It also provides plenty of protein, carbohydrates and B vitamins. The calcium in milk will also help keep your bones strong.
When it’s good: An ice-cold shot of chocolate milk is the perfect reward after a hot summer run.
Why it’s good: It’s packed with protein, which runners need more of than sedentary people for muscle rebuilding and repair. It serves as a good calcium source as well.
When it’s good: Any time except just before running. Great with fruit after an intense workout or race.
Why they’re good: These little morsels are low-fat and high-carbohydrate, and provide a good amount of vitamin A, fibre and potassium.
When they’re good: Any time. Toss chopped apricots over your muesli at breakfast, or eat whole ones plain before your afternoon workout or as a sweet treat after dinner.
Why they’re good: Dried plums, also known as prunes, contain no fat and are packed with carbohydrates. They’re also a good source of fiber and potassium. Eating potassium-rich foods helps lower high blood pressure.
When they’re good: Dried plums make a healthful snack almost any time. But don’t eat them just before your run, as they can act as a laxative.
Why they’re good: Many are designed especially for runners, and you can choose from high-carb, low-carb, or protein-plus bars. They’re tasty and come in all flavors.
When they’re good: Prerace, mid-marathon, or post-race.
Nutrition Tip: Eat when you know you’re going to use the kilojoules
Yoghurt With Fruit
Why it’s good: Yoghurt is a great source of calcium, protein and potassium, plus it’s low in fat and fairly high in carbohydrates. The live and active cultures in yogurt will boost your immune system.
When it’s good: Any time. Some runners swear by it as a highly digestible pre-race snack, despite its protein content. However, be wary of flavoured yoghurt, which contains a lot of sugar.
Why they’re good: A low-kilojoule muesli bar will satisfy your sweet cravings, without the unnecessary kilojoules in a chocolate bar. And unlike chocolate bars, muesli bars come with B vitamins and iron.
When they’re good: As an occasional sweet treat.
Why they’re good: Soybeans in any form are a high-quality source of protein, iron, B vitamins and heart-healthy isoflavones (which boost bone health). Soy protein has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease and cancer.
When they’re good: Eat them after your workout, or as a low-kilojoule but filling afternoon snack.
Hummus and Wheat Crackers
Why it’s good: This filling snack packs plenty of protein, fibre, vitamin B6 and folic acid. The latter is especially important for a healthy pregnancy and has recently been shown to prevent anaemia and breast cancer.
When it’s good: Hummus works well as a substantial mid-morning or afternoon snack. It’s also a more healthful evening alternative to peanuts or other fried party snacks.
Why it’s good: Studies show oatmeal helps lower cholesterol. Oatmeal will also fill you with plenty of carbohydrates to boost energy and alertness.
When it’s good: An excellent pre-race food, or any time you wake up feeling hungry and ready for a hearty breakfast.
Rice Cakes With Peanut Butter
Why they’re good: Rice cakes are low in kilojoules, most of which come from energising carbohydrates. Peanut butter is an excellent source of protein and heart-healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat. It also contains vitamin E, which helps with muscle recovery. And you don’t have to stop with peanut butter – you can also use other nut butters like almond butter.
When they’re good: A perfect stick-to-your-ribs snack for mid-morning or mid-afternoon.
Why they’re good: If you use fruit and soy milk, smoothies are an easy way to consume a healthful dose of fibre and soy. Smoothies also furnish plenty of vitamins C and A, plus potassium and calcium.
When they’re good: A cooling summer treat, a smoothie works well for breakfast, before a run, or as a refreshing, re-energising, post-run treat.
Tortillas Filled With Beans, Salsa, and Cheese
Why it’s good: Bean tortillas with mozzarella cheese and tomato salsa are high in protein and folic acid and also provide calcium, phosphorous, iron and zinc.
When it’s good: As a substantive, post-run snack or light meal.
Why it’s good: Tuna comes with protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fats. Research shows that men who eat at least 85-110g of fish per week are less likely to die of a heart attack, and that women who eat at least two servings of fish per week reduce their risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
When it’s good: Perfect for lunch or an afternoon snack. Consider a tuna salad with low-fat mayo and sliced tomatoes.
Note: Trust us on the next four. At first glance, these four treats may seem like junk food, but they’re not. Each provides tangible benefits for runners, so enjoy them guilt-free.
These fun, tasty, fat-free snacks are easily digested and provide a quick hit of carbohydrates. Many runners swear by gummy bears when they need a quick pick-me-up on long runs or during marathons. And try a few on those afternoons when your energy sags.
Nutrition Tip: After exercise, even if you have no appetite, get something in your stomach.
Unbuttered or lightly buttered popcorn is low in kilojoules (mostly from carbohydrates), yet filling. It’s perfect when you crave a salty food but don’t want many calories.
Like popcorn, pretzels are a low-kilojoule carbohydrate treat. Even the salty kinds are okay for runners who don’t have high blood pressure, as they’ll help you replace the sodium you lose through sweating. They’re excellent as an afternoon snack.