Spring is finally here!  Well, not really in if you live in my part of the world. I digress….what Spring brings to mind besides flowers and everything green, is the beginning of outdoor sports and activities for our little ones.

My son does a really cute buddy soccer program for special needs kids. It’s not a full-fledged game, but they do drills and kick goals. Most important, they have tons of fun and are getting some energy out after a long (but late) snowy winter. At the end of each game a snack is handed out which is very nicely coordinated by a parent volunteer.

My son working on his dribble

My son working on his dribble.

I’ve been biting my tongue about these snacks since the Fall season, as I can’t remember a “healthy” snack ever being provided. Rice Crispy treats (and not the homemade kind, not that even matters), potato or other chips (granted, I’ve seen pretzels), cookie packs and Capri Suns (can’t we at least aim for 100% fruit juice?). I know these are easy snacks and all, but c’mon! Perhaps it is just my son’s little soccer league where many of the kids on the team are dealing with sensory issues and picky eating can be more extreme. I could see parents just taking the path of least resistance with these kids by offering something they think everyone will eat. So, I queried my friends whose kids are in general sports programs, but it is more of the same.

I don’t mean to turn my nose up at other parents. Perhaps it’s the dietitian in me. Maybe most don’t know that these snacks really aren’t the best to replace energy lost during practice or games, or keep up their stamina to continue playing. Should I say something to the coach, ask an email be sent?  I don’t want to be that parent. It reminds me of the well-written article from US News & World Report, “Why is Everyone Always Giving My Kids Junk Food?” As the author states, this might be the new normal – the perpetual giving of junk food – but I think we all should take a page out of his book and just “point out how crazy this new normal has become.”

Let me go back to why healthy snacks are so important for sports and what constitutes a healthy snack. Obviously kids burn lots of energy in general, but more during activity like any other human. And, they need food to recharge the energy lost during sports to continue with their day. Not just any food though (aka, NOT junk food which are just empty calories), but food with a mix of protein and carbohydrates and little added sugar. Fruits and/or veggies, lowfat dairy and whole grains foods. Some great examples include:

  • Whole grain mini bagels with individual cream cheese tubs
  • Homemade trail mix (or store bought) – only if there are no peanut or tree nut allergies on the team
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables for little fingers – baby carrot or apple slice packs (both available in bulk at Costco), Clementines, watermelon slices, grapes and bananas
  • Mini yogurt cups
  • Cheese sticks or squares and whole grain crackers
  • Popcorn

With all this said, I’ve decided to say something by example. Darn it, I’m going to volunteer to bring snacks this time around (there are only 8 games – spots fill up quick). I’m hoping they see that kids will like and eat the healthier options I bring, which will in turn perhaps start a discussion about making healthier options the norm. Have you ever felt the need to speak up about snacks during your children’s games?  I’d love to hear what others have said and done!

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