This post was originally published on April 11, 2016
…and a bag of chips for standing for an hour and waiting for a ball to get to her! All of the sporting activities and activities in general that kids are participating in nowadays include a snack after the game/event. After eating a hearty breakfast and then heading off to baseball practice and standing for about an hour, now it’s time to have a sports drink and bag of chips? Besides the rewards that come with youth sports today, I’m afraid to say that most of the foods and drinks that parents are choosing to hand out to children are poor choices. Let’s take a look at why a sports drink and a bag of processed food is not a good choice for a child to consume.
Sports drinks are made for high intensity athletes, who are performing for longer than one hour, but typically for many hours. When performing at high levels for longer durations, athletes can suffer from dehydration due to sweat, and/or muscle fatigue due to depletion of carbohydrate reserves (1). Most children are not reaching this level of performance so this is not a concern.
Sports drinks contain sugar, and different electrolytes, sodium being the most common, to replenish lost electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals in the blood that have an electric charge (2). Some of the most common electrolytes are sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, calcium and bicarbonate. These allow the cells to generate energy and they must be in balance to maintain homeostasis in order for our bodies to work properly. Sodium stimulates the uptake of sugar and water in the small intestine and helps to maintain the volume of the extracellular fluid and has been the most extensively researched in athletes (1).
I would like to think my kids are athletes but they are not the type of athletes that qualify as needing a sports drink. I do not mind the occasional bag of processed food but this is after every game, every activity, every birthday party, every school party… so it is not occasional anymore. Not only do my kids come to expect SOMETHING after every event, all of these events are providing snacks that I would rather avoid.
Raise your hand if you were given cut up oranges and water after youth sports. When did that go out of style? My kids now receive Hi-C, Gatorade, Powerade, Capri Sun, and juice boxes along with a bag of Sun Chips, Doritos, Cheetos, a Rice Krispy Treat or some other processed snack containing either dyes, too much sugar or salt, for standing around for an hour. Processed foods contain chemicals that can alter the brain function in children. Some of the additives in processed foods have been linked to ADHD, leaky gut, thyroid issues, sleep disturbances and even cancer (3). Some of these chemicals while generally recognized as safe (GRAS), have not even been studied long term. Most parents are trying to reduce the consumption of processed foods, and by eating better, our kids can perform and focus better as well. Isn’t this what we want for our kids?
HOW TO AFFECT CHANGE
I am not a popular mom and I am ok with it. In the first year that my son participated in t-ball, I volunteered to be the team mom and one of my jobs was to set up the snack schedule. While I do not think that they need snacks, I was a first-timer. I asked parents to bring a healthy snack and gave ideas such as those that follow. In recent years, I have pitched the idea of skipping snacks completely, and many parents were on board and have the same feelings. Most of these games are between meals or occur before lunch or dinner is served and tend to ruin the next meal. We still had some parents bringing snacks regardless, feeling that the kids needed to be rewarded for their efforts.
TALK TO THE COACH
I love this note to the coach from Real Mom Nutrition
Hi Coach ____,
I wanted to introduce myself. I’m _____’s mom, and we’re all excited about the upcoming season!
I’m writing because I’d like to discuss the topic of team snacks with you. I’m concerned about the junk food I’ve been seeing on the sidelines of kids’ sports, and I’m wondering if you would be open to a fruit-and-water snack policy for our team this season (remember the orange slices we ate on the sidelines when we were kids?). Children don’t need Oreos, cupcakes, Doritos, and sugary punch on Saturday mornings–or in the evening, especially if families are having dinner after the game. One of the reasons we have our kids in sports is to encourage physical activity and good health, and these kinds of snacks derail that goal. I’ve discussed this with other parents on the sidelines, and it seems like many of them would love to see an end to the junk food too.
If you’d like, I can draft an email to parents on the team about the fruit-and-water snack policy. I’m also happy to organize the snack schedule for you. Please let me know your thoughts.
HEALTHY SNACK IDEAS
Below are some ideas for healthy snacks for our kids after sporting events.
- Cut up oranges
- Organic carrot sticks (in baggies*)
- Organic apple slices (in baggies*)
- Mini apples
- Lara Bars
- Squeezable applesauces
- Bags of organic popcorn or pretzels