Healthy Bus Snacks for Athletes
Athletes commonly travel by bus to games and competitions. Knowing the best bus snacks to pack can help to ensure athletes are fueled to perform at their best. Let’s take a look at some tips for planning bus snacks for before and after competition. Then we will explore healthy bus snack ideas for athletes.
Planning Healthy Bus Snacks for Athletes
When planning snacks for your next bus trip, aim to include snacks that provide a good source of carbohydrates as well as snacks that contain protein. Carbohydrates provide athletes the energy they need to perform at their best. Protein is important for helping athletes build and maintain muscle mass.
Bus Ride Before a Competition
On the way to a game or competition, focus on eating carbohydrate-rich snacks to help provide you with energy for your upcoming activity. If it is a long bus trip and you have several hours until you compete, add protein to your snack to create a “mini-meal” on the bus.
Bus Ride Following Competition
On the way home from your competition, plan snacks that can help you meet your recovery nutrition needs. This includes snacks containing:
- Carbohydrates to refill energy stores used during the competition
- Protein to support building and repairing muscle mass
- Fluid and electrolytes to replace sweat losses
Bus Snacks for Athletes Ideas
Let’s now explore a variety of healthy bus snacks that athletes can pack for their next trip.
Fresh fruit is an easy, portable bus snack that athletes can take with them on their trip. Fruit provides carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals making it a nutritious choice for athletes.
Great fresh fruit options to enjoy on the bus include:
Keep in mind that once fresh fruit is sliced it should be held cold, not at room temperature. This means sliced cantaloupe, honeydew melon, watermelon, and pineapple should all be kept in an ice chest on the bus until you plan to eat it.
Dried Fruit and Applesauce
Dried fruit is another healthy, high-carbohydrate snack that athletes can enjoy on the bus. Consider packing individual boxes of raisins or dried cranberries. In addition, dried apple slices, pineapple, mango, and papaya are all great dried fruit options.
Applesauce squeeze pouches are a portable snack option that is perfect for enjoying on the bus prior to competition. Each pouch contains ~15 grams of carbohydrates, which will provide you with a quick source of energy for your upcoming activity.
Granola Bars and Fig Bars
Granola bars and fig bars are a great snack to throw into your bag for the bus. Choose carbohydrate-rich granola bars that are made with whole grains.
Some great granola and fig bar options include: Kate’s® Real Food Bars, Nature’s Bakery® Fig Bars, and Clif Bar®. KIND® also has a variety of whole grain bars available, including breakfast bars, cereal bars, and crunchy granola bars.
When selecting bars to enjoy on your bus trip, keep in mind that bars containing chocolate may melt and make a mess if they get hot. If there is the potential your snack bag will be left in the bus during your event, you may consider choosing bars without chocolate.
Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a great option for athletes to prepare in advance and take with them on the bus trip. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich provides carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats, making it a nutritious bus snack for athletes.
If you prefer other types of nut butter, such as almond butter, this is also a great option for your sandwich. For individuals with nut allergies, consider trying SunButter® products. SunButter® spreads are made with sunflower seeds, thus they are nut allergen free.
Note: If you are planning snacks for a team to enjoy on the bus, make sure to find out if any athletes on the team have nut allergies. If unsure, avoid sending any snacks that contain nuts or nut butters.
In addition to enjoying nut butter on a sandwich, consider enjoying your favorite nut butters as a spread or dip with other snack items. Ideas include:
- Mini bagels
- Graham crackers
- Crunchy granola bars
- Apple slices
- Celery sticks
Consider purchasing individual serving size pouches or containers of nut butter to include in your bag of bus snacks. This is a quick and easy way to add protein and healthy fat to your favorite snack items.
Nuts contain monounsaturated fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals, making them a nutritious bus snack option. You can purchase individual serving size packages of nuts at the store or pack your own snack bag of nuts prior to the trip. Since different types of nuts provide different nutrients, consider mixing several types of nuts together to enjoy on the trip.
Nuts are a great plant-based snack option for athletes. If you are looking for additional plant-based snack ideas my recent blog, High-Protein Vegan Snacks for Athletes, may be of help.
Beef or turkey jerky is an easy, mess-free bus snack for athletes that provides a good source of lean protein. In general, 1-oz of beef or turkey jerky provides 9-12 grams of protein. Pairing jerky with a high-carbohydrate snack, such as whole grain crackers, is a great way for athletes to build a “mini-meal” on the bus.
Pretzels, Pita Chips, and Whole Grain Crackers
Pretzels, pita chips, and whole grain crackers are great carbohydrate-rich snack options for athletes. In addition to carbohydrates, these snack options also contain sodium, which can help stimulate thirst and encourage athletes to hydrate. They also tend to be lower in saturated fat than other chip options.
Rather than bringing a large back of pretzels, pita chips, or crackers with you, pack individual servings into small bags you can enjoy throughout the trip. This will help your snack stay fresh and minimize exposure to germs from multiple individuals putting their hands into the same large bag.
Individual bags of trail mix are a great bus snack for athletes. If you purchase a premade trail mix, make sure to choose one that includes dried fruit and nuts. You can add in your own pretzels or snack crackers to boost the carbohydrate content of the mix.
You can also build your own trail mix as a snack for the bus. Simply toss your favorite dry cereal, pretzels, whole grain crackers, pita chips, dried fruit, nuts, and seeds together. Then pack the trail mix into individual serving size bags to enjoy on the bus.
If you have time prior to your bus trip, consider pre-making muffins using a high-protein baking mix. Kodiak Cakes® and Krusteaz® both have a variety of protein muffin mixes available. The prepared muffins contain both carbohydrates and protein, making them a great bus snack option for athletes.
Bus Snack Ideas for the Cooler
If you plan to take a cooler with you on the bus to hold your snacks cold throughout the trip, there are a variety of other snack options you can consider. As a reminder, if any of your cold snacks are left at room temperature for more than 2 hours, they need to be thrown away.
Snack Ideas for the cooler include:
- Greek yogurt*
- Cottage cheese*
- Cheese sticks
- Sliced fresh fruits and vegetables
- Premade deli sandwiches (turkey, ham, or roast beef)
*Purchase individual serving size containers of Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and hummus to enjoy as bus snacks.
Other Travel Considerations
In addition to snacks, consider what other items you may need to pack to have with you on the bus for your snacks. I always suggest packing extra napkins along with a small bag to place your trash in. Also make sure to pack any utensils needed for your snacks.
Don’t forget to plan for drinks to take with you on the bus to help you stay hydrated. Water, sports drinks, 100% fruit juice, and low-fat milk (if cooler space allows) can all be great options.
As a reminder, taking time to plan ahead for your hydration needs is just as important as planning for your snacks on the bus trip.
Taking time to sanitize your hands prior to eating is important. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the use of hand sanitizer for cleaning hands when soap and running water are not available.
Make sure to choose a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Keeping a hand sanitizer readily available in your travel bag is a great idea for athletes.
Ready for Your Bus Trip
You are now set with a variety of ideas for packing healthy snacks to help ensure you are fueled to perform at your best. Having the right foods available at the right time is an important key to sports nutrition success.
If you are looking for additional sports nutrition travel tips, check out my blog: 7 Best Gas Station Drinks for Athletes.
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About the Author
Mandy is a Sports Dietitian Nutritionist in the San Antonio, TX area. She is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian, a Board-Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, a Licensed Athletic Trainer, and is a Certified Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine. Mandy believes the key to reaching one’s full potential, both in everyday life and in sports performance, relies on a healthy nutritional foundation. Learn more about the work Mandy does here.