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The Best Swim Snacks for Young Swimmers

Eating the rainbow, getting your five a day or filling up your plate…we have all heard the healthy eating mantras. However, for young athletes and energetic swimming tots, nutrition is key, and it’s important for caregivers to focus on healthy snacks for kids.

Importance of Healthy Choices

Proper fueling and instilling healthy habits is especially beneficial to begin with young athletes. According to Ronald L. Gibbs, Jr., Assistant Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Michigan State University, “Given that healthy nutrition behaviors are important to promote growth and development during adolescence, and that nutrition can play a role in improving performance and promoting recovery in sport participation, attention should be given to this area.” 

Best Snacks for Swimmers

  • Start by making sure kiddos have access to plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.  
  • Have apples, bananas, carrot and celery sticks readily available for hungry snackers. 
  • Swap white bread and rice for their whole grain counterparts. 
  • Start your mornings with a bowl of oatmeal.  
  • Limit the intake of sugary drinks and fill up on water or low-fat milk.  
  • Lean meats, beans, fish and nuts are great sources of protein. 
  • Enjoy sweets like candy, cakes and other treats on special occasions only — like a celebratory lollipop after swim lessons ?.
  • Lead by example. Show your tots that eating right can be yummy and easy. 

As tots grow and progress, these healthy eating habits may just be the edge they need to win their race, ace that test or even capture Olympic glory, like Kristy Kowal.

Eat Like an Olympic Swimmer—An Interview with Silver Medalist Kristy Kowal

Recently, Aqua-Tots Swim Schools (ATSS) sat down with 4th grade teacher and Olympic swimmer, Kristy Kowal, to learn more about how she fuels her body for success, in the pool and in the classroom.

ATSS: What do you typically eat before a swim? What are your best pre swim snacks?  

KK:  I have found it’s very important to fuel my body before I swim. During competitions, I would make sure to eat a meal about three hours before my race. Before swim practice, I would eat bagels, toast with peanut butter, a smoothie, bananas, cheese, hard boiled eggs or oatmeal. However, I learned the hard way not to eat a big meal right before getting in for a swim! 

ATSS: What are some of your go-to foods for after you swim? 

KK: I make sure to eat within 30 minutes of swimming (or competing) to refuel my muscles. My usual snacks after I swim are chocolate milk, a protein drink, almonds, peanut butter or my favorite food—cheese! 

ATSS: Traveling to the Olympics must have been an exciting adventure. Do you remember a favorite thing you ate at the Olympic Games in Sydney? 

KK: It’s hard to pick just one! The Olympic dining hall was MASSIVE (think Costco size) with foods from all over the world. During competition, I made sure to stick with foods that I was familiar with because you don’t want to change your diet up at a swim meet, but after the meet was over, there was free McDonald’s in the dining hall ?. 

ATSS:  Do you have a favorite snack for in-between meals?  

KK: I love granola, all types of fruit, cheese and crackers. 

ATSS: Eating healthy is important for all our tots and swimmers, but healthful choices are often not their favorite. Do you have any least favorite healthy foods?  

KK: Honestly, I grew up eating all sorts of healthy foods. My mom is an amazing cook, and she made broccoli, asparagus and even brussels sprouts taste delicious. 

ATSS: Is there any food you can’t live without? 


ATSS: These days, you coach competitive swimmers and athletes, and you’re also a teacher. What do you recommend your students eat when they need a brain boost? 

KK: I encourage my students to eat healthy, hearty snacks and to stay away from too much sugar. Sugar might give you a short energy burst, but after that burst, you’ll have a sudden energy drop. Snacks I recommend packing for school and good snacks for swimmers are hard boiled eggs, fruits (especially blueberries), string cheese, veggies (I like mine with hummus), peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, yogurt and smoothies.

Fuel Like a Champion

Need more evidence that healthy eating can give your champ the edge? Check out what other Olympic swimmers chow down on: 

Katie Ledecky has chocolate milk, bagel and cream cheese, eggs or yogurt and fruit after practice. 

Michael Phelps starts the day with a large bowl of oatmeal or a big ham and cheese omelet. Dinner usually consists of whole grains, veggies and lean meats. 

Canadian swimmer, Kylie Masse, fuels up with Greek yogurt & berries, honey and granola or a smoothie. 

Parents, stock those fridges and fruit baskets. It’s time to help fuel your young champs and watch them grow. With proper nutrition, they will be ready and energized to chase their dreams, go on adventures and stay focused on their everyday activities—like school and swim lessons!