Snacks, kids and sports – what’s the focus?

Feeding children snacks following their sporting event often takes away the focus from the sport itself and often includes unhealthy options that can lead to poor dietary habits.

You sign your child up for a team sport in an effort to get them physically active. The first thing on the coach’s agenda is a snack schedule. As the eager, involved, excited parent, you anxiously sign your name. Pinterest images of sport themed cupcakes, served with “juice” containers that are served in a novelty package come rushing through your mind.

OK, maybe this is a bit exaggerated, but have you ever thought of how much time is spent on practicing with your child versus making sure you have the ingredients for the favored “monster cookies.” Having healthy snacks on hand regularly will help to buffer this part of planning. For instance, stock up on fruit (strawberries, bananas, apples, and dried fruit), vegetables (carrot and celery sticks, broccoli, pea pods) and nuts and seeds regularly, so that taking a healthy snack becomes second nature. Make planning those special treats, like monster cookies, decorated cupcakes and Rice Krispy treats something that your team does at the end of the season, or for something such as a birthday celebration. Be consistent with your message. To be healthy, it is important to be both physically active and have a diet full of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Check out Choose My Plate to get great ideas on healthy recipes, eating on a budget, physical activity, access to an online food tracker tool and more. Michigan State University Extension also offers great nutrition classes in your community.

Lastly, the focus on the team sport should be: on the sport. For a special event, such as the end of the season, this is a time when a splurge on a treat may be appropriate, but not after every game. The obesity epidemic is prevalent in Michigan. Current statistics from Child Trends shows that 32.6 percent of kids ages 10-17 are overweight or obese. “Treats” are not meant to be an everyday occurrence, but unfortunately, “treats” are often the mainstay of many children’s diets. In trying to curb the obesity epidemic, limiting sugary drinks and “treats” can prevent the consumption of unnecessary calories and help kid’s health stay in-check. What might seem like a few extra pounds every year can snowball into an alarming accumulation of weight and place the child at risk for diabetes, early onset heart disease, asthma, premature onset of puberty and of course, social bullying that often accompanies obesity.

You may find yourself nodding in agreement, but don’t know how to handle team snacks. Contact the director of the program and ask to implement a policy that only water is provided at games/practices, and if team snacks are a must, provide a list of acceptable snacks that can be shared with the group. Another option is to pull the coach aside before the first practice to discuss this. If these efforts have failed, as an individual you have the choice to bow out of team snacks. However, you probably will be surprised at the positive response you will get at this proposal.

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