Sunday, September 23, 2012

Snack Ideas for Your Child Athele

My son just started playing organized sports this year. He finished one season of t-ball and he just started soccer this fall.  Maybe it's just an occupational hazard but I can't help but marvel at some of the snacks my son has been served since starting these sports.  In my brief experience with children's sports, I've noticed that many of us parents are sending the wrong message to our kids.  What does it say when we reward performance with doughnuts and Rice Krispy Treats?  Are we missing the connection between playing well and eating well?  Are we stressing team work and good sportsmanship but serving our teammates food that does more harm than good?

It can be daunting to feed a whole team of kids, but here are a few tips that might make things a little easier for you.

1) Serve whole fruit instead of "fruit" snacks like roll ups.   Fruit roll ups from General Mills are "made with real fruit" but when you look at the ingredients (see image below), you find some interesting things.  First, the main ingredient in the strawberry fruit roll up is pears, not strawberries.  The next three ingredients are sugar (in the form of corn syrup, dried corn syrup and sugar) and the fourth ingredient is partially-hydrogenated cotton seed oil or commonly called trans fat.  Last I heard, trans-fat and corn syrup didn't help improve any sports performance that I'm aware of.  Instead of these "fruit" snacks try some fresh grapes, oranges, apple slices, or melon.
Photo Courtesy of General

2)  Include a whole grain starch in your snack choice.  Try making small sandwiches made on 100% whole wheat bread or whole grain crackers.  I found that most kids enjoy the Kids Clif Z Bars which come in a few different flavors.
Photo Courtesy of

3) Try to provide a simple protein in your snack.  String cheese or peanut butter could be a great addition to your whole grain crackers or bread.

4) Read the ingredients list when you buy processed foods and try to avoid products that have high fructose corn syrup.

5) Leave the cupcakes and doughnuts at home.  The common thought is, "My son/daughter is burning so many calories that it doesn't matter what they eat."  Well that is just wrong.  Yes, they are burning calories but don't we also want our kids to be healthy?  If you want something sweet, try making some whole wheat banana bread or whole gain muffins.

6) Be sure to remember to bring fluids, ideally water.  Unless you child is exercising for more than an hour, you probably don't need a sports drink but it might be appropriate if it is a hot day.  Kids are more likely to suffer from dehydration so be sure to encourage your little athlete to drink plenty of water before, during and after the game.

By making just a few simple changes our children will see how food can help then score the winning goal, hit that home run and sink the game winning shot.  Healthy food is just as important as sportsmanship and teamwork.  It all lays the foundation for habits that will help them succeed not just on the field but in all aspects of life as well.

I'd love to hear what great sports snacks you've come up with for your son's or daughter's team?