A Little More on Junk Food Soccer Snacks

by Bettina Elias Siegel on March 5, 2012

soccer snackLast week I shared a Chicago Tribune article discussing a recent study which found that kids who participate in team sports may be eating more junk food than their less active peers.

One reason cited in the study is the junk food snacks provided at games and practices by the players’ parents, something that didn’t surprise me after my daughter’s first soccer game a few weeks ago, when she was given Lay’s sour cream and onion chips as an after-game treat.

Well, I shared a modified version of my Lunch Tray post over on the Huffington Post and I’ve been interested to see that many HuffPo commenters just don’t think junk food snacks at games are a problem at all.  Here’s a sampling of comments:

Good eating habits are formed and maintained in the HOME. A weekly after game snack is NOT going to harm your child. . . .  [I]f the author didn’t like her kid’s snack then she should have told her daughter not to take it and bring their own snack. Problem solved.

Here’s one arguing that kids simply won’t eat fruit if you bring it:

I have coached soccer for a few years now at various age groups. The fact is that if you bring water and sliced apples for a post game snack, the majority of kids will not eat it.

While I understand the need for healthy school lunches and anything that kids will eat on a daily basis, it is perfectly fine to give them a delicious snack at the end of an hour of exercise. If this is an issue, it is because the parents are giving them crap to eat all week long and expect other parents to give their kids healthy food at a soccer game. There are few times that an unhealthy snack is ok, and once a week after intense exercise is perfectly fine. Let the kids have fun for one day a week and eat 3 cookies one day a week, they will be fine.

And here’s a commenter who is clearly frustrated with me for even bringing this issue up:

Some people look for something negative in the most positive situations. Give it a rest already.

I supposed I shouldn’t be surprised by these reactions.  As Sally Kuzemchak of Real Mom Nutrition wrote in her own post on soccer snacks, she encountered a big backlash from parents when she tried to improve the quality of the food offered to kids.

But you’ll be pleased to know that despite my fear of being “that mom,” (and especially my fear of rocking the boat when we’re so new to team sports) I did go ahead and send my post to our soccer coach.  He was seemed receptive to the idea of encouraging parents to bring better choices, and he promised to discuss this matter with the league officials.

So maybe my daughter and I will be drummed off the team, pelted with bags of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos as we make a hasty retreat, or maybe my email will result in some truly positive changes.  Either way, I’ll keep you posted here.

 

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy March 5, 2012 at 10:19 am

Bettina,
The good news is that kids “age out” of snacks after sports. My kids are in high school and junior high and parents may bring beverages, but no snacks (thank goodness). My problems with sports beverages will have to wait until another post…

What bothered me the most about unhealthy snacks after sports was the psychological cause-and-effect we were instilling in our kids by rewarding minimal physical activity (and really, an hour of playing soccer when you’re 6 years old is not that extreme) with junk food. We want our kids to be physically active and we know that one way to encourage that is to help them identify how good they feel after they have exercised. Linking that good feeling to junk food always seemed counter productive to me.

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Christine March 5, 2012 at 10:31 am

Who came up with the team snack idea and why is it necessary? Most venues have a concession stand. If a parent wants their kid to eat a bunch of junk after the game, they should feel free to buy them a soft drink and bag of garbage. The rest of us can bring snacks from home or let our kids drink from the water fountain. Yep, we drank from fountains when we were kids and we’re still alive to tell about it. There are also many kids who have food allergies and cannot partake in team snack so their parents have to provide their own snacks every game AND a snack for the team when it is their turn. And…for that coach who insists that kids won’t eat fruit and water…not true. When we provide team snacks, we only bring bottled water and fruit. All these years, I’ve only had one kid turn down water and maybe two turn down an apple or a banana. I’ve even had one kid run over to his parents after the game excitedly jumping up and down saying “I got a banana and an apple, how cool”…as if the poor child had never seen a piece of fruit before.

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Liz - Meal Makeover Mom March 5, 2012 at 10:45 am

Back when my son was just starting out his soccer career (I use the word, career, because now’s he’s a junior in high school and plays for the varsity soccer team … and wants to play soccer in college), parents brought oranges for the kids to nibble on at halftime. There was no after-game “snack” served. As the years went by, I noticed a huge amount of junk food suddenly appearing on the playing fields after the games. To add insult to injury (Doritos, donuts, rice krispy treats, Capri Sun artificially-colored sugar water), my son would run off to little league baseball where more junk food was served. It made no sense to me. Why should an hour of fitness be followed by salty, sugary, chemical-laden fake foods? My son would often pick at his lunch because he simply was not hungry. And really … How can any parent tell their elementary-age child, “you can’t eat the donuts that Mikey’s mom brought today!”
To see if other parents were as upset by all the junk food as I was, I wrote a letter to the editor of our town newspaper titled, “Bring Back the Oranges, Please.” It received positive feedback. Eventually, I was able to lobby the soccer board to initiate a new Fruit & Water Only snack policy. Problem solved (w/ soccer … but not baseball). Now, after games, the kids nibble on a variety of fruit: apples, oranges, grapes, watermelon, fruit cup. They LOVE it. None of the kids complained when the change took place and none complain today, and the parents were happy. Best of all, the junk food went away. Fruit and water only is pretty clear and it makes parents lives easier too.
Here is a link to my article and the town’s snack guidelines (2007): http://mealmakeovermoms.com/press-media/press-releases/team-snack-guideline-sample-letter-to-the-editor-april-2007/

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Justin Gagnon March 5, 2012 at 10:48 am

I love the coach who says “I understand the need for healthy school lunches”, but uses the argument that “kids won’t eat it” if you bring fresh fruit. Gotcha, coach. So you can cheat and just give them whatever they want just so they’ll eat it because it serves your purpose. But the school lunch people are held to a higher standard, and they can figure out how to get them to eat better every day even though you can’t do it even for one snack. And the whole “oh, they just exercised intensely so it’s a perfectly OK time to pump them full of crap” argument is horrendous. How many adults do you konw that pound a bag of Lay’s after a workout? The fact that they’ve just exercised is all the more reason why they should be fueling their bodies responsibly.

That said, I actually have less of a problem with kids eating “treats”, and more of a problem with the type of treats they’re eating. It’s not like moms are baking cookies from scratch and serving them warm to the soccer team. We’re talking perservative-laden bags of Chips A-Hoy with so much garbage in them that you can put them on a shelf for two years and it won’t change the product at all.

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Jackie March 5, 2012 at 10:53 am

I guarantee you a majority of children are getting more than just three cookies weekly after a soccer game. Never mind that there are sugars, dyes and other crap hidden in many of the “healthy” foods these same team parents are feeding their kids at home, negating the “this is a treat” statement. This argument, and the backlash that always seems to be directed toward the parents who wish to be healthier, is ridiculous! I agree with the fact we don’t need snacks at all- give your own kid their own snack!

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Chris March 5, 2012 at 10:57 am

I watch the active but chubby child in my daughters’ gymnastics class get handed a Pepsi immediately after class and then they talk about what ff “restaurant” they are going to get lunch at.. negate all of the child’s calorie burn and then some!! Poor kid- her parents are not helping her! We bring a healthy snack with us as the options at the gym are mostly unhealthy and then we do not have to have an argument over what to have. Organic hummus singles from Costco and either baby carrots or baby bell peppers (depending on the grrl ;) and Cuties are a favorite- as are BabyBell cheeses. Water is fine for rehydrating.

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Miette March 5, 2012 at 11:59 am

I think the best approach is to lead by example. My children know not to drink dye-laden drinks and to only take water at sports activities. Also, my children know that most snacks are “junk” and they shouldn’t eat them. Sometimes they do, but most of the time they don’t. In our house, if treats are home-made, they are ok. It is a policy that works for us and does allow for the occasional treat.
Most of the time, we don’t serve snacks after soccer and that is ok with me.

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Korey March 5, 2012 at 3:36 pm

This seems like an issue similar to the cupcake debate. People dismiss it with “One little treat never hurt anyone,” but they don’t see the bigger picture. Dozens of “one little treat” CAN do harm…not only to our children’s immediate physical health, but to their openness to and appetite for healthier foods. Not to mention that we are setting children up for lifelong health problems by instilling poor eating habits from an early age.

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Amy T. March 8, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Hey, good for you! Anything we, as parents, can do to encourage our kids to eat healthier and develop good eating habits is good. So what if they “kick” her off the team for having a mother who cares enough to speak up. Maybe that’s not the kind of team you want to be on anyway if that’s how they act. Change has to start somewhere and with someone. Keep fighting the good fight!

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