5 Runner Fuel Alternatives You Can Steal From Children

Mango steals an animal crackerListen up, parents of Salty Running. Oh, we know you make your children’s snacks from scratch each day from fresh, all-organic, hand-selected fruits and vegetables. Of course you’d never countenance giving Junior any of those packaged, pre-processed packets or pouches. White sugar and refined flour? Will never cross her lips.

As for yours, dear runner, gels, bars, and beans are expensive and often only available at stores not along your regular path. Also, they’re basically expensive candy with a couple of electrolytes. Aha! Here’s what to do with those five kid items you absolutely, definitely don’t have somewhere in the back of your kitchen cabinet.

1. Squeeze pouches

They’re like a gel, only somewhat heavier and less calorie-dense. And cheaper. (Why yes, I will take 12 applesauce squeeze packets for $8.99, thanks.) When you need to keep the carbohydrate tank topped up during a long run, but you’ve run out of gels or simply want ingredients you can spell, these will do in a pinch.

Also, you can get pouches of everything these days. Applesauce. Strawberry applesauce. Carrot-and-applesauce. Bananas and blueberries (with applesauce). Oatmeal-and-spinach-and-banana-sauce. Applesauce … with chia seeds. Mm, chia seeds.

In the immortal words of Dr Seuss:

New goo. Blue goo.
Gooey. Gooey.
Blue goo. New goo.
Gluey. Gluey.

– Fox in Socks

2. Animal crackers

Classic white carbs like animal crackers are a great way to refuel immediately after a hard workout, to make sure your carbohydrate tank is topped up. It’s not just about calories in replacing calories out. What form do those calories come in and how rapidly can your muscles put them to use? That matters too, and plain, easily digestible carbohydrates and sugars, in about a 3:1 or 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio, are best. Animal crackers are easy to digest and provide a hit of glucose straight to your muscles. Eat a handful straight away after a run while hiding from your children behind the kitchen counter.

Pro tip: they also serve as entertainment while you play guess-the-critter. Does that look like a kangaroo to you? Oh no, it’s a rhinoceros. Darn amorphous blobs.

3. Fig Newtons

Like the amorphous animal crackers, a couple of these sticky-sweet-crumbly cookies make a good post-run snack. Figs are a surprisingly good source of nutrients like potassium, magnesium, and iron. A single serving of fig cookies typically packs about four percent of the day’s iron requirements.

4. Pedialyte ice pops

Ok, this isn’t really a snack. Pedialyte is one of those standbys parents have on hand in case the kids get sick, throw up, and can’t eat. It’s a useful tool for rehydration because its electrolytes, which move in and out of cells in a delicately balanced dance, help maintain the fluid balance in your body. I always have Pedialyte ice pops, or generic versions, in the freezer. And let me tell you, few things taste better after a sweaty summer workout than a Pedialyte ice pop. Brain freeze, here I come!

Pro tip: consume while sitting in ice bath for extra effect.

Mango eats an applesauce pouch5. Individually packaged PB&J

Many an ultrarunner has an Uncrustable tucked away in her sports bra. They’re handy and hermetically sealed, lowering the risk of a peanut butter explosion. What? You’ve never had peanut butter explode all over your hands? Clearly you’ve never lived. Or had kids. Their sticky little paws go *everywhere* – your shirt, their shirt, the sofa, the car seat … Anyway, I digress. I mean, keep your sandwich wrapped until you’re ready to eat it. Uncrustables, or just good old PB&J sandwiches, provide a good combination of carbohydrates, fat, and protein for a long, slow outing.

Happy snacking! What foods have you stolen from your kids recently? Or vice versa?

Tropical transplant to the chilly Northeast. Professional writer and researcher, cantankerous editor, mom to two! inquisitive children, asker of inconvenient questions.

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  1. I steal TJ’s snack bars (basically long fig newtons) and graham crackers all the time. For some reason the applesauce pouches seem gross to me (what does it say about me that I have no problem giving them to my kids though. Hmmm).

    1. Ha! I’m incapable of eating sandwich cookies without an accompanying glass of milk, which is not a good recipe for a happy digestive system on the run!

    1. How COULD I forget fruit snacks?! It’s true – those are delicious. And easier to chew than shot blocks that have been sitting in my pocket in 40-degree weather.