Kids don't need snacks in recreational sports
Written by Kiran Dodeja Smith of 100 Days of Real food
Eating real food is important to me and just as important for my family. I know firsthand that this is not always easy, and it doesnt happen overnight. But as parents, I feel that its our job to give our kids the knowledge of what healthy actually meansboth in and outside the house.
Our First Soccer Experience
Last fall, my 7 year old joined the local soccer league a very organized one at that. Were still in the stage of figuring out where our kids talents lie, and for this season, it was soccer. One practice a week and one game on weekends that I could handle. But the snack situation I could not.
The first game rolled around, and each girl was instructed to bring a water bottle. Super, I thought. They absolutely need hydration. The coach had brought a big bag of oranges, cut and ready to be consumed, which the kids ate during the 45 minute game. Awesome! I loved that they had a sweet, nourishing whole food snack and water to nosh on while taking a breather.
But then when they finished the game and were given a bag of Cheez-Its and a Capri Sun, I was baffled. Um, really? But what was I going to do, be the mean mom who wouldnt let my daughter take the snack? (I was not the mean mom this time.)
Shortly thereafter I received a sign-up sheet. Apparently this was going to be the norm. Each parent was to sign up to bring cut oranges for one of the games, and on that same day they were responsible for supplying the snack.
Snacks vs. Soccer
My first issue is this. When it comes to recreational sports for kids, they dont really need a snack afterwards. If they are fed a good, solid breakfast prior to the game and then they hydrate and eat oranges during, do they really need something else right afterwards?
Ill admit that I dont have a degree in sports nutrition, so I reached out to an expert on the subject. Nancy Clark is a registered dietitian and best-selling author who is known for her book, Nancy Clarks Sports Nutrition Guidebook. She concurred saying,
The determining factor is how hard the kids have played. If they have gone all out and done exhaustive exercise or if they will be playing again in 6-8 hours, they need to rapidly refuel. However if they just played a friendly game of soccer and are hungry afterwards, they can go have lunch. Kids bodies are very good at regulating; they know when they are hungry and know to eat when they are. If you put Cheetos in front of them, they will eat them just because but theyd probably be fine heading home to have lunch.
I also have an issue with kids getting unnecessary snacks because, once again, I feel that we are programming our kids to think that you always get something when you do something. In this case, the kids were more excited about the snacks than the actual game. Whatever happened to just being proud of playing and feeling good about what you just did? When did we lose this simplicity?
During our soccer season, these are some of the snacks my daughter received:
- Cheese-Its and Capri Sun
- Doritos and Gatorade
- Cheetos and a juice box
- Chex Mix and a juice box
- Potato chips and a Gatorade
- Pretzels (made from refined white flour) and a Powerade
I have to admit that I had angst for a few weeks before it was my turn. As the soccer team was poisoning (Okay, okay. Maybe thats a strong word. Brainwashing?) my daughter into thinking shed have these highly processed snacks, what could I bring that would satisfy on all levels? I opted for squeezable applesauce and whole wheat pretzels. And water. For Petes sake, whats wrong with just some water to drink afterwards??!
I had two non-takers; Im not going to lie. But most left feeling happy, especially my kids (I had brought extra for my three other children). And me. It was a win, and Im not talking soccer.
What Can We Do About It?
Whole Food Snacks
- Carrot sticks (in baggies*)
- Apple slices (in baggies*)
- Mini apples
- Whole-wheat pretzels
- Lara Bars
- Dried whole grain cereal (such as puffed brown rice or organic corn)
- Squeezable applesauces
- Unsweetened applesauce cups
- Dried dates (in baggies*)
- Strawberries (whole with tops cut off, in baggies*)
- Bags of popcorn made using The Popcorn Trick
- Small bag of almonds (Trader Joes sells these) not suitable for those with nut allergies
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