Kids need fuel to power through high-energy activities like after-school sports. And while it might be tempting to send your kids off to school with a candy bar to keep them going from soccer practice until dinner, homemade energy bars for kids are a far better option.

Here's why: When you make your own energy snacks for your kids, you can control exactly what you put in them. You can make sure they're packed full of healthy fats and protein, as well as providing the carbohydrates young athletes need for energy and recovery.

That's why these energy bars are packed with nature's fuel—carbs—to keep growing athletes going strong from classroom to sports field.

Tip for Making Homemade Energy Snacks For After-School Sports

  • Portability is key! All of these snacks can be packed frozen to hold up better while bouncing around in a backpack all day. Plus, frozen energy snacks can pull double duty as edible cold packs to keep lunches fresh. By the time school's out, they'll be ready to eat. (For more icebox-to-lunchbox ideas, check out this piece on thaw-and-eat school lunches.)
  • If you're planning to freeze energy snacks, package them into single-serving portions so they'll be ready for action straight from the freezer.
  • Carbs are king when it comes to providing an energy boost. According to research published by The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, carbs are "the only fuel that can be used for power moves—a slam dunk, a sprint to the goal line, or an overhead smash all need carbohydrates." Look for carb-fueled recipes that balance out sugars with healthy fats and protein from sources like almonds, walnuts, and flax seed.

Despite the name, these bars aren't just for breakfast. Instead of the high-fructose corn syrup that you'll often find in store-bought bars, these wholesome oat/fruit/nut bars use figs, honey, and peanut butter as the "glue" to hold everything together. They also work great when made with blackberries, raspberries, or other seasonal berries. If it's basketball season and the berries aren't fresh, you can pull from your stock of flash-frozen berries (you may want to thaw particularly juicy frozen berries in a colander to reduce excess moisture.) Recipe creator qwerty06 sums it up best: "Healthy, natural, and delicious."

The recipe title doesn't mention it, but these energy bars are actually no-bake energy balls, and they're as easy to prep as they are to eat. Just mix up the ingredients, pop them in the fridge to firm, and pre-pack in threes before freezing. Why three? Because three is a magic number, and three energy balls rounds out to about 30 grams of carbs and 7.5 or grams of protein—which hits pretty close to the ideal 3:1 carb-to-protein rule of thumb for exercise fuel.

Recipe originator JANETSTATHAM says, "I keep mine in the freezer then pull a couple out when I need a pick-me-up. You can substitute almond butter for peanut butter, if desired."

Photo by tere froelich

Compared to store-bought energy bars, recipe originator Chef John thinks these bars "taste better, are nutritionally superior, and probably cheaper to make at home." Packed with healthy fats and protein (plus antioxidants from cocoa powder), these bars will keep your kids revved up and ready for action on the field.

Any teenage athlete will tell you that protein builds strong muscles, so your aspiring sports stars will love the fact that these bars include two sources of protein—natural peanut butter and vanilla protein powder.

If you have a strong preference for crunchier bars, the recipe creator, Amy Gray-Hughes), includes an option: "To make bars crunchy, cut into bars, arrange on a baking sheet, and bake for an additional 15 minutes."

Photo by Linda T

Instant oats, coconut, peanut butter, flax seeds, chocolate chips, and honey get rolled up together in these easy-to-make energy balls. Rock_lobster recommends wetting your hands before rolling them, " cause it's so sticky!" She goes on to say, "My daughter and I enjoyed making these together, and other than using 1/4 c. ground flax and 1/4 c. chia seeds instead of the full half cup of flax seeds, kept everything the same."

Easy Energy Balls
Photo by KGora

Ok, carrot chips aren't energy bars. But we included this energy-food alternative for those youth athletes who may find sweet-tasting energy foods overwhelming, or that sugary bars cause stomach trouble. So why not mix it up with a savory energy snack every once in a while? These carrot chips are baked, not fried, and provide a moderate carb boost without being sugary.

Allrecipes user Hannah Ramelot adds a great tip for getting them extra crispy: "Lay them out in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with paper towels, lightly salt the slices (I used a mandolin and sliced them diagonally), wait about 20-30 minutes, then place another layer of paper towels on top of the slices to soak up the moisture. Leave the paper towels on for about 10-15 minutes, then continue as directed with the recipe. This technique is helpful with all veggie chips, as vegetables contain high amounts of moisture."

Photo by lutzflcat