Healthy Concession Stand Food Ideas
When planning what food to sell at a concession stand for an athletic competition, don’t forget to include a variety of nutritious options. Healthy concession stand food can be enjoyed by the spectators and also provide the athletes with the nutrients they need to perform at their best.
Let’s take a look at a variety of ideas for healthy concession stand foods that are both affordable and nutritious.
Supporting Athletes with Healthy Concession Stand Food
If you have ever been to an all-day volleyball tournament, baseball doubleheader, or track meet, you know that many athletes rely heavily on the concession stands to meet their nutrition needs on game day.
Unfortunately, the food that is often sold at concession stands is not ideal for supporting an athlete’s sports nutrition needs. Key nutrients athletes should focus on before a competition, between games, and post-game include:
- Carbohydrates: Provide athletes with energy for performance
- Protein: Lean sources of protein that are low in saturated fat support the building and repair of muscle mass
- Fluid and Electrolytes: Support an athlete’s hydration needs
Healthy Concession Stand Food Ideas
Perhaps one of the simplest ways to add healthy options to a concession stand is with fruit. Fruit contains carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals making it a nutritious addition to a concession stand.
Consider the following ideas for offering fruit at a concession stand:
- Whole, fresh fruit: Bananas, apples, oranges, grapes
- Fresh sliced fruit cups, apple slices
- Dried fruit: Box or raisins, dried cranberries, tropical fruit mix
- Applesauce squeeze pouches
- 100% frozen fruit juice bar
For the fresh sliced fruit cups, consider working with your local grocery store, the school food service department, or an area produce distributor to provide pre-made fruit cups to sell.
Carbohydrate-Rich Food Ideas for Concession Stands
In addition to fruit, consider the ideas below for healthy food items that can be sold at a concession stand to support the carbohydrate needs of athletes.
- Instant Oatmeal and Whole Grain Cereal: Instant oatmeal and cereal are great options for concession stands that open early for breakfast. Consider purchasing individual instant oatmeal cups so all you need to do is add hot water. Serve individual cups of whole grain cereal with a carton of low-fat milk for a quick and easy breakfast meal option.
- Bagels: Serve with an individual container of peanut butter and packet of jelly
- Snacks: Pretzels, pita chips, graham crackers, animal crackers, Goldfish®, ChexTM Mix, low-fat popcorn, soft pretzels
- Baked Chips: Serve with salsa and individual cups of guacamole
- Bars: Granola bars, fig bars, breakfast bars, sports bars
Protein Snack Options for Concession Stands
- Jerky: Individual packages of beef or turkey jerky
- Nuts – Individual packages of almonds, cashews, peanuts, or mixed nuts
- Seeds – Individual packages of pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds
- Nut Butter – Individual squeeze packs or containers for easy serving
- Trail Mix – Offer varieties that contain nuts, seeds, and dried fruit
- Hummus: Pair with a bag of pretzels, pita chips, baby carrots, mini peppers, or celery sticks
- Cheese: String cheese, reduced-fat cheese sticks, individual containers of cottage cheese
- Hard-Boiled Eggs: Consider pairing with a piece of fresh fruit
Allergen-Friendly Concession Stand Food Ideas
In addition to nut butter, consider offering individual packs of SunButter® to accommodate individuals who have nut allergies. Sunbutter® is made with sunflower seeds and is nut allergen free.
It is important to be diligent at concession stands to ensure food items are clearly labeled and identify potential food allergens. Also make sure that individuals at the concession stand are aware of what foods contain major allergens.
Healthy Concession Stand Food Ideas: Entrees
In addition to snacks, consider offering a variety of healthy entrée options at concession stands. Ideas for easy, nutritious meals that concession stands can sell include:
- Wrap or Deli Sandwich: Prepare on a whole grain wrap or bread, top with lean deli meat (turkey, ham, roast beef or chicken) and low-fat cheese.
- Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich: Provide whole grain bread, squeeze pack of nut butter, and packet of jelly. Another option is to provide Uncrustables® as a concession stand food item, which are definitely popular amongst athletes.
- Turkey Hot Dogs or Corndogs: In addition to traditional hot dogs and corndogs, consider offering a turkey version. Turkey hot dogs and corndogs contain less saturated fat and are thus a healthier choice. Offer the turkey hot dog on a whole wheat bun.
- Turkey Burgers and Veggie Burgers: If the concession stand offers hamburgers, consider offering a lean turkey burger and veggie burger option as well. Similar to the hotdogs, serve the burgers on a whole wheat bun.
- Pizza with Veggies and Lean Protein Toppings: Offer a veggie pizza, as well as a pizza with veggies and lean protein toppings (i.e., grilled chicken, ham). If possible, have the pizza made on whole wheat pizza crust.
- Protein Pack: Create a combination of hard-boiled eggs, string cheese, nuts, and fresh fruit.
Similar to the fresh fruit cups, consider working with a local grocery store, caterer, or the school’s foodservice department to provide the healthier entrée options.
Healthy Concession Stand Ideas: Drinks
At the concession stand, make sure to offer drinks that can support the hydration needs of both athletes and spectators.
- Bottled water
- Low-fat chocolate milk
- Low-fat milk
- 100% fruit or vegetable juice
- Sports drinks*
- Reduced and zero sugar sports drinks
- Sparkling water
*Consider purchasing single-serving packets of sports drink mix to sell at the concession stands. Customers can either pour the mix into their own reusable water bottle or purchase a bottle of water at the concession stand to use the mix with.
Why Chocolate Milk?
Chocolate milk is an easy drink to keep stocked at a concession stand to support an athlete’s recovery nutrition needs. During the recovery period, athletes need to replace carbohydrates, fluid, and electrolytes used during the exercise session. In addition, athletes should consume protein to build and repair muscles.
Chocolate milk is 90% water, which can help athletes rehydrate following activity. In addition, chocolate milk contains 13 essential nutrients, including 8 grams of complete protein per cup. Thus, chocolate milk is a good post-game drink choice for athletes and a great option to keep stocked at a concession stand.
Healthy Concession Stand Food Ideas
You are now set with ideas for healthy foods to serve at a concession stand. By providing a variety of options you can ensure there are items that appeal to spectators and support the sports nutrition needs of athletes.
For additional sports nutrition ideas, check out my blog: Planning Team Meals for Away Games.
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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 has experience working with athletes at the high school, collegiate, and professional levels. She 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.