Every parent knows that packing the cooler for a day at the pool is an art form. Along with ice packs, you have to squeeze in snacks that satisfy the refined tastes and dietary regulations of your little ones. For me that means my son’s fruit leather can never be touching his sister’s. And in with the day’s snacks, must go a day’s worth of beverages. On top of that, you have to be sure what you’re packing will give your kids the fuel they’ll need to prevent cramps and fatigue that could put them in danger when they’re in the water.
I truly love going to the pool with my kids. We all share a love of the water and that’s something I want to continue to nurture in them. But packing up the cooler can get old. That’s why over the years I’ve devised a system to make it as easy as possible while also providing my kids with the energy and hydration they need to stay safe while we’re there. Here are a few of my tried and true tips:
First, keep them hydrated! I recently read this great all-inclusive guide on recreational swim safety. It points out that kids who swim regularly get dehydrated more often than kids participating in other sports. My kids each arrive at the pool with their own personal nalgenes full of ice water, and then, I always devote a section of the cooler to bottled water.
Choose foods that can “stay-in-the-bag.” Sure, you have your cooler, but the chances your kids will put everything they pull out back where it belongs aren’t great. For a couple of years now, I’ve used USASwimming.org’s suggestions for “stay-in-the-bag” snacks as a reference. Basically, these are snacks young swimmers can keep in their swim bags all the time, but they also work great as summertime poolside fare. These foods, such as nuts, dried fruit, beef jerky (go for a no additives, no preservatives option), fig newtons, etc., are nutritious and don’t require refrigeration.
Make it easy on yourself. Another criteria I always use for poolside snacking is, will it be easy? When my son was 5 and my daughter was 3, my husband and I were new to our neighborhood. Our lovely neighbors invited us over to their pool. I wanted to make a great first impression so I whipped together an elaborate snack. Long story short—it was messy, sticky, and didn’t hold up well in the heat. From that day forward, “easy” has been my guiding force for pool snacks. Here are some great healthy options from Recipe.com.
Help them refuel post-swim. Of course, one great thing about taking your kids to the pool is how wonderfully exhausted they are afterwards. But they’re exhausted for a reason—they’ve used up a lot of energy swimming and splashing around. So, it’s important to help them refuel. On our post-swim days, as KidsHealth.org recommends, I always make dinner a lean meat, such as a chicken breast, with a healthy carb and vegetables.
Taking the time to figure out healthy and easy snack options cut my pre-pool prep time in half. Now, I can grab what I need in a jiffy and the kids and I can be on our way. Even better, I know that by keeping an eye on how much water they’re drinking and helping them replenish with these healthy snacks that they’ll have the energy they need to stay safe in the water.
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Patricia Sarmiento is a health and fitness blogger, who makes living an active life a goal for herself and her family. A former high school and college athlete, she channels her experience in health and fitness into writing about health, wellness, and other health-related topics. She and her family live in Maryland.