When my first son was five years old, I was a brand new soccer mom. I didn’t know the ropes. I didn’t know what to expect. And I had no idea that Saturday morning games meant cookies, donuts, chips, and fruit punch. I figured kids munched on orange slices at halftime, as we had as young soccer players.
*This is a guest post by Real Mom Nutrition’s Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD
I was dismayed by the amount of junk that showed up each week and by the fact that we were rewarding kids for doing physical activity with food. What kind of habits were we teaching our kids by handing them donuts and punch after a game? Wasn’t the point of sports (besides having fun) to do something good for our bodies? And if we were serious about fueling our kids for sports, shouldn’t we give them the kind of nutrients they need instead of added sugar, synthetic food dyes, and artificial junk?
Some of you may have been blindsided by team snacks too. Some of you may have stood on the field like I did five years ago, totally frustrated by the junk—but feeling powerless to stop it. I’ve made it a mission to give parents that voice and the resources they need to make a change on their child’s team, and even in their community as a whole.
If you want to change team snacks for the better, here’s what you can do:
Talk to the coach. Take your concerns to the coach BEFORE the start of the season. This is crucial, because there’s no better way to alienate yourself than sending an email out about healthy team snacks after someone’s already brought cupcakes. If you can get the coach’s support for healthier snacks, parents are much more likely to be on board too. Here’s an email template you can customize and send.
Bring healthy stuff. If the season has already started or if your coach isn’t on board, bring a healthy team snack when it’s your turn. In some communities, chips, gummy fruit snacks, and donuts are so ingrained that people don’t think about alternatives. I’m surprised by how many parents say “Wow, I never thought of that!” when I’ve brought cups of berries or slices of watermelon to the field. Parents and coaches may also be surprised by how much the kids like these healthier options. I think fresh fruit (and veggies) is ideal because it’s hydrating and offers some carbohydrates and sweetness, and many children don’t get enough fresh fruit (here are 20 ideas for healthy team snacks).
If the players need something more substantial, here are some ideas:
*String cheese and whole grain crackers (I like Triscuits)
*Baggies of homemade trail mix with whole grain cereal pieces, dried fruit, nuts and seeds (if no nut or peanut allergies on the team)
*Chilled drink boxes of white milk or chocolate milk
*Cups or tubes of yogurt
*Lower-sugar granola bars (I like Larabar)
*Bananas and bags of popcorn (either home-popped or made with just kernels, oils, and salt)
Consider eliminating the team snack. What parent wouldn’t like something taken off their to-do lists? Nixing the team snack altogether means parents don’t have to worry about getting snacks-and everyone can decide for themselves what kind of post-game snack is best for their child (or whether a snack is even needed).
For more ideas, check out the free resources available on my blog, including a letter to team parents, a snack list, and facts and stats to help you make your case to coaches and league directors.
You’ll find even more resources for improving snacks in youth sports, as well as in school and preschool, at camp, and at home in my e-book The Snacktivist’s Handbook: How to Change the Junk Food Snack Culture at School, in Sports, and at Camp—and Raise Healthier Snackers at Home.
Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, author, educator, and mom of two who blogs at Real Mom Nutrition. She is the author of The Snacktivist’s Handbook: How to Change the Junk Food Snack Culture at School, in Sports, and at Camp—and Raise Healthier Snackers at Home. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. She also collaborated with Cooking Light on Dinnertime Survival Guide, a cookbook for busy families. In her spare time, she loads and unloads the dishwasher. Then loads it again.