The term “snacks” in this article, for all intents and purposes, is synonymous with junk food.
“We have our first game next week. But don’t worry, we’ll have snacks, so you’ll be okay”. – My Kid’s Coach.
This statement, from my child’s soccer coach, had me perplexed on so many levels. Why are we implying that kids should be worried about their first soccer game? Why are we taking away the joy of the game and focusing on snacks? Where are the intrinsic rewards? Why are we even having snacks in the first place?
Before I write another word and you start labeling me as “one of those,” I feel the need to profess that I do indeed feed my children “junk” food. I do so far more often than my uber-healthy friends and far less often than others. We believe in moderation — we generally eat clean, but we don’t stop our kids from grabbing what they want at parties, they keep all of their Halloween candy, and we do celebrations big and often.
So why am I hating on sports snacks so hard?
When it comes to combining these “snacks” and sports, something just doesn’t sit right. (Could it be the lack of nutrition when trying to do something healthy? The purposeful depletion of energy? The instilling of bad habits? The prioritizing of snacks over the sport?)
I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you didn’t sign your kid up for sports for the snacks.
Well, guess what? When they become the most important part in the kids’ eyes, that’s exactly what it becomes. We live in a culture of snack-obsessed kids, and by constantly feeding into it, we’re detracting from the true rewards. Just last week, my oldest son was comparing his past two very different baseball seasons (trust me, another story for another day). Despite the fact that this season is far inferior on so many levels, he likes it better because of, you guessed it, snacks. My four-year-old literally runs over to me two seconds into practice wanting to know if it’s snack time yet.
Yes, they even hand out snacks during practice, a bi-weekly practice in which players are surely eating dinner either before or after their 45 minutes of activity.
I have three kids in two sports each this season. So between practices and games we’re talking at least five times per week in which they are having these extra “snacks.” In their last game they had chips at halftime, another bag of chips, a popsicle, and a drink afterwards. I could quantify the added sugar and fat grams for you and prove that the amount of exercise they’re doing is not even coming close to negating the junk they are consuming. I could quote statistic after statistic about rising childhood obesity rates and the negative effects junk food has on a child’s brain, but really, all it takes is a quick glance at the bags and bottles strewn all over my mini-van to gag open one’s eyes.
Growing up we had oranges at halftime for a reason. To hydrate, nourish and energize. You know what doesn’t serve those purposes? Doritos. Oreos. Whatever that generic “juice” drink that costs 10 cents at Walmart is.
Yes, I could very well just tell my children they cannot have these snacks, and I do when it gets excessive. My oldest understands why having a soda at 8pm on a school night isn’t the greatest idea. But quite frankly, I don’t think any of us appreciate having to be the “bad guy” when we can collectively agree that we enrolled our kids in sports for exercise, fun, health, socialization, or any number of the good things that come from sports.
So we have a few options:
1. Decide as a team to do nothing. Parents send their kids with their own drinks, and feed them before they come and after they leave. We all save money that way. We don’t have to worry about food allergies and it is one less thing on everyone’s plate.
2. Keep it simple. Just oranges and water.
3. Be the change. If your team wants to do snacks, then set a positive influence.
Here are some good options (some as easy as that bag of chips, others a bit more “extra”) that will give your athlete the fuel he/she needs to power up and restore:
- Fruit (sliced oranges, strawberries, blueberries, apples, grapes, peaches, watermelon, etc.)
- Cheese sticks and fruit cups (with or without a sports drawing on them)
- Energy bites
- Freeze-dried fruit crisps
- Electrolyte popsicles
- Variations of ants on a log
- Sliced peppers, sugar snap peas, baby carrots, etc.
- Bananas with or without inspirational messages on them
- Applesauce pouches
- Fruit kebabs (with our without a cute sport ball topper)
- Trail mix (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, dried fruit, nuts, craisins, etc.)
- Rainbow fruit cups
- Butterfly snack bags
- Frozen yogurt tubes
If you’re really concerned about losing your “cool parent” status, then make these robots.