The following is a guest post by Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, a dietitian who blogs at Real Mom Nutrition. She also writes weekly for the Parents magazine blog, The Scoop on Food. She lives with her husband, two boys, and one dog in Ohio.
Have you ever been worried about being “that mom?” You know, the one who makes a fuss about things? I was. So I watched all season long as my son’s pee-wee soccer team was given cookies, cupcakes, and fruit punch every Saturday after games and sometimes even after practice. I was new to kids’ sports and didn’t know the ropes yet.
But as a mom and dietitian, I knew I didn’t like it. Why were team sports a reason to feed children sugary, hyper-processed foods? Why were little kids, who trotted around a soccer field for less than 40 minutes, being given bottles of neon colored Gatorade?
So I decided to speak up. The next season, I emailed our new coach, expressed my concerns about the rampant junk food, and asked if we could do fruit for our team snacks instead of the usual cookies and chips. I was thrilled to get an email back saying that he loved the idea and that he was happy someone finally said something about it. That season, our team happily gobbled up bananas, peaches, fruit kebabs, and apples after games.
Now, five years later, I’ve helped parents all over the country make healthy changes to team snacks as part of what I call Snacktivism. And I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to making changes on kids’ sports teams. Here’s my best advice so you can do the same.
5 Tips for Cleaning Up Sports Team Snacks
- Contact the coach BEFORE the first game.
If your coach is on board with your idea for healthier team snacks, he or she can convey the policy to the team and set the right tone from the start. Parents are much more likely to go along with a change to snacks if the request comes from the coach. Use my sample coach email to help you get started.
- Know the facts.
You may hear, “What’s the big deal? It’s just a cookie!” and “But the kids are sweating – they need sports drinks!” So be ready with the facts. I created this Sports Snack FAQ to give parents quick responses.
- Be kind.
Some parents will get angry and feel judged if you suggest swapping cupcakes for orange slices. After all, how and what we feed our kids can be really personal! So avoid gossiping about somebody’s unhealthy team snack and don’t send out a suggestion for healthy snacks after someone’s already brought chips or cookies.
- Set a great example.
Simply bringing fruit for team snacks may inspire other parents to do the same. I’ve heard many parents say, “That’s a great idea!” and “Wow, I never thought of that!” when I’ve brought watermelon wedges or cups of berries to the soccer field for team snacks. Get my free printable 20 Healthy Team Snacks that you can post on your fridge for ideas (or pass along to coaches and other team parents).
- Suggest scrapping team snacks.
Sometimes it’s easier to skip the team snack entirely and let everyone make their own choices for their kids, especially if parents can’t agree on appropriate team snacks or if there are children on the team with food allergies.
For more resources, including a sample team email and a short slideshow packed with photos and facts to share with coaches and parents, get my free Sports Snacktivism Handbook.
Please share your thoughts on snacks for sports teams below!