Kids Don’t Need Snacks in Recreational Sports!

By blog team member, Kiran.To learn more about Kiran, check out our team page or her blog!

Kids don't need snacks in recreational sports! from 100 Days of #RealFood
Staff Contributor Kiran Dodeja Smith

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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 doesn’t happen overnight. But as parents, I feel that it’s our job to give our kids the knowledge of what healthy actually means—both 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. We’re 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-It’s and a Capri Sun, I was baffled. Um, really? But what was I going to do, be the mean mom who wouldn’t 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 don’t 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?

I’ll admit that I don’t 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 Clark’s 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 they’d 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 that’s a strong word. Brainwashing?) my daughter into thinking she’d 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 Pete’s sake, what’s wrong with just some water to drink afterwards??!

Kids don't need snacks in recreatinal sports! from 100 Days of #RealFood

I had two non-takers; I’m 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 I’m not talking soccer.

What Can We Do About It?

I realize that I’m not going to change every sports association out there. Though I’m really, really hopeful (hint, hint) that some of you will read this and take action, I’m sure that snacks of some sort will continue.

So I’ve included a list of better choices in case you have to sign up for snack duty for your child’s sports. And note that I realize many organizations probably won’t let you make your own goodies to bring, though how great would that be??

Healthy Sports Team Snack Ideas

  • 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)
  • Bananas
  • Squeezable applesauces
  • Unsweetened applesauce cups
  • Dried dates (in baggies*)
  • Strawberries (whole with tops cut off, in baggies*)
  • Oranges
  • Bags of popcorn made using The Popcorn Trick
  • Small bag of almonds (Trader Joe’s sells these) – not suitable for those with nut allergies
  • Raisins

For more ideas check out our list of 85 snack ideas for kids and adults!
*A great alternative to regular plastic bags are these bio-degradable monster bags.

I’m not the only one who is fired up about this. Sally from Real Mom Nutrition has a great post that includes all the tools you need to be proactive about being a “snactivist” when it comes to sport snacks. School Bites has another great post on the topic.

Please share your thoughts. Have you encountered this? And if so, how did you handle it?

March 7, 2014 update:

I am ecstatic to share that I took some of the commenters’ advice. A few of you had suggested not just talking about it, but doing something about it. So I reached out to our local soccer association who was 100% on board with it.

They had me put together a letter to go out to all parents regarding the topic, along with suggested snacks (above), though it’s up to the coach to decide whether or not they want to implement a snack rotation. I was sure to suggest oranges and waters for during the game. They also are including this information on their website.

To be exact, below was their response:

“Thank you for your passion and efforts. Think this is a big issue and will support you in this.”

You can read the entire correspondence with the team here if you’d like.

Thank you for encouraging me to reach out to them – and now it’s your turn to also do so. Together we can make a difference!!

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468 thoughts on “Kids Don’t Need Snacks in Recreational Sports!”

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  1. I am so annoyed that while googling “healthy soccer snacks”, this extremely uppity post was the first one that came up. Truly, there are some VERY controlling parents on this thread. As if our kids aren’t stressed enough, you are acting like it’s a terrible thing that your child would dare to receive a snack you don’t approve of. You can’t control everything. It’s parents like you that take all of the fun out of school anymore. No longer are the days where kids can bring in Birthday snacks to share with the class (at least in our district) nor can they dress up for Halloween. Your control could backfire on you in the future. Especially when your child leaves home and wants to eat ALL the snacks you withheld from them while growing up.

    1. All the years of my parents giving me sugary junk food gave me a serious food addiction problem that I’m still fighting at 30 years old. I have several health problems now bc of the foundation that was set for me even though I hardly eat any junk food now. It’s a real problem and bad parenting to feed your kids garbage food. Read the labels, do your poor kids a favor and look up what bioengineered, GMOs and dyes can do to the body over long periods of time. Good parents take care of their kids on all levels.

  2. My four year old was once given a can of Pepsi and funyons for snack…. and I wish I was making that up! When it’s my turn to bring snack, it’s orange slices and water!!!

  3. I’ve been coaching my own kids soccer teams for about 8 years. I’ve always cringed at the “snacks” people bring. I fully agree with fruit and water. If kids MUST have snacks afterwards they should be healthy. To those who think we’re overthinking it, sugary processed “snacks” are in no way natural, nor are they some kind of historic entitlement. I have always encouraged my parents to bring healthy snacks. No meat or nuts for dietary restrictions, which you could expand to include Gluten. It’s tough though, and to make it tougher, I’ve tried very hard to steer kids/parents away from disposable packaging. Bananas, oranges, apples, watermelon, are all fun and come without packaging. I always encourage reusable water bottles as well. Thanks for your article.

    1. Hi Todd,
      Thanks for sharing this. We love hearing from other parents and coaches who also want to see this change. Keep up the good work! – Nicole

  4. Thank you for this article and for all the supportive comments. Of course it feels good to give kids the things they like, but for every person saying their sugary snack is just one time, there are 10 people a week wanting their snack to be the one time for my child. And there is one parent, me, needing to either be Bad Mom and say no 10 times or allow 10 exceptions to a rule I value. Are we bringing snack to games to keep our kids healthy (replenish their energy)? Or are we bringing it to make ourselves feel good as they exclaim with joy over their frosted cookies with sprinkles?

  5. Just thought I’d post my own point of view all this issue. If my kid is going to eat A snack after game, It has to be pre packaged (store bought) Or I have to know that person has good Hand hygiene. Working at a nursing home, I know that so many people don’t wash their hands. Like hand washing should be done 5+ times a day no matter what minimum. And even thats a little scary. My kid will not be Eating anything someone made at home or taking anything in a glad baggie. But it’s not because I don’t want them to eat healthy food. My mom Found some pre packaged. Individually packaged Apple slices at H EB. Those work great.

  6. Thank you for this! This really bugged me when my kids played soccer. Why do kids need any snack at all, never mind two for a game that lasts 60-90 minutes?

  7. I agree. No need for snacks. When other parents give the gaterade, cheetos, doritos, etc…. and I see my son eating it, I cringe….I’d rather give my own child a snack that is a reflection of my values when it comes to nutrition.

    I’m already the weirdo mom because I have opted out of digital learning in a district where the kids are plopped in front of the iPad (first grade) to teach them math and reading. It’s called “personalized,” because presumably they can pick what fun app they’ll use and work at their own pace. One kid was googling “Naked Ladys butts,” in First Grade, on the “filtered school server, and getting results and oogling naked ladys butts during class.. Junk Food, Junk School, Junk Teaching…

  9. Your list of bad snack ideas shows up as the first Google result for “snacks for soccer.” Kind of the opposite of what you’re hoping to accomplish here.

  10. No other sport has organized team snacks and sign-ups. It further relegates soccer to a wussy soft sport. Hello? Can we not manage to bring our own snack if we so choose after a measley 45 minute game? Are our kids going to starve at a 1:00 game right after lunch? We as parents already have too much crap on our plates. Why the hell are we doing this to each other? The ridiculous time some parents put into it with special bags and whatnot. STOP IT! JUST STOP IT! Bring your own damn snack for your own damn kid if you feel they’re going to wither away! Just stop with the insane organized team snacks!

  11. You’re taking this way too seriously. It’s just a snack. Your kids are not going to develop bad habits from eating a few chips and drinking a sports drink once a week. Lighten up!

    1. I agree with Susie! What is even more concerning is your use of words like “poisoning” and “brainwashing” to describe kids eating an “unhealthy” snack once a week. It is from this mindset that eating disorders, i.e. orthorexia, are born. Limiting junk food is obviously a good thing, but to say a child can never have a snack with their sports team is absurd.

    2. Actually is 4x a week for our family with 2 players bc we have practices and games and these over zealous moms keep making sign up lists and it drives me crazy. There’s a concession stand if they want all that crap! My kids don’t need chips and candy 4x a week!

  12. I think snacks are ridiculous…especially when my daughter turned into a tween and then teenager and the coach and other parents still expected me to bring snacks for the whole team. I’m sorry, but if your kid is old enough to go to the kitchen and cook themselves a full meal then they are old enough to remember to bring themselves a snack. I refused to participate in the shack sign up and the other moms learned to stop asking me. Especially because teens do what they want and wouldn’t even eat what was brought and it would go to waste. My daughter always brings her own food without having to be told. Not to mention the fact our kids all go to private school and not one of her teammates was underprivileged. I’m happy to bring food for all in those situations.

  13. I am so happy to know that I am not alone in my feelings! This is my first year in a soccer league, and have been surprised by the juice, and truly junk food brought for after soccer snacks. I really don’t see the need for this, or like you said, any snack at all. I am happy to know there are other moms with the same viewpoints!

    I too will be bringing water, and a fruit/vegetable or popcorn!

  14. I agree COMPLETELY on the junk snacks! My daughter is obese due to medical issues. She should not be offered these things after she is pushing to participate in the first place. I’m fine with bday party treats as it’s a special occasion but snacks after sports is just ridiculous. They are leaving, their parents can feed them! I came across this post because I’m in a different situation and wanted various healthy snack ideas. My kids have lunch at school at 1:00 then straight to rigorous practice until 5:00. The kids need a healthy snack BEFORE. And kids with allergies need to be considered. I’d rather just suck it up and do it myself instead of them getting crap or some children having to be excluded.

  15. Group snack is another time my severe allergy child may be left out again. Last season there were three allergic children on the team. One had a severe milk allergy and many snacks such as yogurt were dangerous for him to be around. In addition, there are children with celiac, gluten intolerance, and many other health issues that restrict diet. Parents can feed their own children.

    1. Also, even orange slices are not safe for children with severe allergies or celiac. Trace amounts from shared knifes, lack of hand washing, etc are enough for a life threatening reaction when dealing with severe allegies.

  16. Jasmine Rodriguez

    I LOVE this! I couldn’t agree more with you, but I’d like to make a suggestion…

    So I am dating this awesome guy, who has two fun and energetic boys who play for a local football team. Not only is he a parent of the team, but also a part of the team’s board.

    Anyways, it was his turn to bring snacks, and he looked to me for advice knowing how big I am on organic food and often encouraging healthy choices wherever the opportunity arises. I offered some fruit and sandwich Ka-bobs I found on pinterest. The kids loved them!

    Relating back to your first paragraph, when you mentioned how it isn’t an easy process teaching and encouraging children about healthy intake choices…I found it is a great idea to not only give them healthy food, but make it fun for them as well. For example, simply cutting the fruits into fun shapes or making it fun and easy to eat by sticking them on ka-bobs, makes it easier for the kids to enjoy and ask for more!

    1. First I want to say THANK YOU for bringing attention to this crazy “Snack obsession.” When my son was a few months old his pediatrician (who is a father of five) said, “Children don’t need snacks. They can wait to eat at mealtimes.”
      I am an old mom. I had my one and only child at age 46. When I was a kid there was no such thing as “SNACKS,’ That was called “EATING BETWEEN MEALS” and it was generally recognized as a bad habit-by everyone.
      That was late sixties early seventies when junk food was creeping into the mainstream. My mother is 86. She was healthy her whole life, no asthma, no obesity, She used to say: “I loved Lima Beans, I loved all vegetables I ate whatever my mother put on my plate.” One day I asked her, “Mom, how were you such a healthy eater growing up? How did you love vegetables most kids don’t?”
      She answered,” Oh, it was because my mother had a very strict rule: No eating between meals. I was hungry.”
      Common Sense is gone. We have an obesity epidemic that just happens to be at the same time we have a snack epidemic.
      Some of my son’s sports snacks have been:
      Rice krispies marshmallow treats (prepackaged-not homemade)
      Sun Chips
      I hate it. It angers me. These are served right before lunch or dinner. Wake up American mothers. Time to grow up and not go along with the crowd and keep thinking everything has to be entertaining, even food.

  17. Reminds me of that episode of Everyone loves Raymond! If you haven’t saw it you should! The coach has a list of APPROVED snacks! Lmao!

  18. Thanks for this article. I was googling around to see what I can bring (as it’s my turn to be snack mom) and I found this. I shared it to my page @PiccoloChef and gave you a shout out. To be honest, every time we get a snack bag from some sport, we keep it in the ‘homeless box’ I keep in my car. Whenever we get off the freeway, we just hand the snacks over to the local homeless guys.

    1. Super Soccer Team Mom

      Great idea! That way the food someone worked to pay for won’t go to waste and it helps someone who does not have the luxury of being so picky and stuck up in their food choices. I like it.

  19. Great info! I have been feeling the same way about snacks during soccer. I am an outpatient dietitian and have worked in pediatrics setting. I have worked with weight management and eating disorders.
    My daughter is 4 years old and just started playing soccer. This week is our turn to bring snacks and I am a firm believer that they don’t need snacks during half time. Most of them have only played for 6 minutes total at the time. Tomorrow is our turn to bring snacks and my husband told me other kids aren’t going to want your healthy snacks! so far we have had cookies and juice! ughh!

  20. I did it. Just sent this letter:

    Dear Parents,

    I was charged with organizing refreshments for the team after games. Admittedly, I was completely fine that for two games straight they had their water bottles and after 1.5 hours of play, went home and survived. Without a “snack”.

    So, here is my thought: if you want to bring a refreshment after a game, consider the standard orange slices, apple sauce squirts, apples or raisins… Something wholesome.

    Please REPLY ALL when choosing a week or to opt out. Please do not feel obligated. I will be happy to keep the list and send out a reminder.

    I hope my idea is not too bold. I apologize if I have insulted anyone.

    Beth (Chase’s mom)

    Almost instantly, I received a reply for next week. That $#/t better not be Cheetos.

  21. People need to lighten up – it’s a snack for crying out loud. If you really feel it will hurt your child’s nutrition then don’t give it to them. Honestly this is the problem with parents these days – they think way too much about these small things. Let your kid be a kid – moderation!!

    1. Totally agree! I’m guessing these people don’t have jobs. Honestly, people get a life. It’s okay for your kid to have a bag of cheetos once a week. What are they afraid they are going to like them or what?!?

    2. The problem is that for our family it’s not in moderation bc we have practices and games 4x a week…baseball. we almost never eat junk until baseball season comes and my kids tummies hurt a lot during that time bc of the garbage or they are mad at me all season when I say no. These snacks and the average American diet are slowly killing us. I know personally bc I’m insulin resistant bc of all my garbage snacking/eating as a kid, teen and then young adult. It was too late for me when I finally understood. I don’t want my kids in the same boat someday bc it truly sucks to not be able to eat more than 20 carbs a day and that’s where I’m at now bc I just didn’t know any better! People get angry bc they dont want to see the truth.

  22. This article seems pretty judgmental to me. It’s great that you want to teach your child healthy eating habits, but I’m fairly confident that no one is trying to brainwash your child into poor eating habits by providing pretzels as snacks. And for some people it is a financial burden to provide snacks for 10 to 15 kids. There’s no reason to shame these folks.

    1. I know this is an older post, but I’m coming across this situation as my 1st born is growing up and we’re thinking of what extra-curricular to have our child start trying. I understand wanting to get your child into good, healthy eating habits which was the point of this article. I’m not against that at all. How we all go about feeding our kids – it’s getting harder and harder and I’m not about to judge how you go about it.
      I just wanted to add a ridiculous, over the top problem that I wouldn’t know how to address. I WISH snack time was as simple as Cheetos and a juice box. Where I live, snack time is taken to another level with chili, hot dogs, grilled steaks and even prime rib! And it’s not just for the kids, but provided for all the parents and coaches as well. I absolutely hate this because I feel for some parents, who cannot afford this financial burden are shamed (thanks for bringing up this point, Bob). Plus, it’s time consuming and not just for the “snack” providers who have to come up with a menu. Don’t we all have chores to finish, homework to do, family/friends to visit, and fun to have other than being completely consumed in one thing? There’s an unbelievable amount of pressure for everyone who goes after the ones that bring prime rib and an unbearable amount of shaming of those who don’t top the last menu. I do understand that for some, this is the event of the week and those families look forward to sharing their cooking/baking/grilling talents and also spending the day with others, especially when it seems like a big family bbq with a bit of soccer on the side. I get it. But why do we pressure others to do the same or put pressure on ourselves to keep up with the Joneses?

  23. Hi Kiran,
    Thank you so much for the post! You articulated my thoughts almost perfectly. I stumbled upon this as I am trying to find healthy snack ideas. I’m on snack duty tomorrow…..Thankfully, our snacks aren’t as unhealthy as the ones your daughter received (gasp!) but still my husband and I are not for this mini MEAL during the game. We spoke to our son about it, and he either doesn’t eat what is provided or we take it home for later.
    I hope more parents will chose HEALTHIER options for their children and others.

  24. I think this is a wonderful article. My daughter is playing on the rec league this summer for the first time. She is 5 and I found out today that one parent volunteered to bring the snack and that the coach wanted to organize us to do the same. They only play for 30 minutes and I honestly just don’t want that extra chore hanging over my head. I also know her games are at 5:30 or 6pm so I want her to eat supper and if she snacks she won’t be hungry for what we make her at home. This gives me a good explanation for why we are bowing out of the whole snack thing. I just won’t let her eat anything that she doesn’t bring herself and say why we are not participating. My son has been playing on a league and thankfully no one has every said anything about snack bringing. They just bring water. Yep that’s it and he plays hard for the hour.

  25. Ok Seriously, someone is trying to be kind and offer your kid a snack and you are upset about it. How about just not giving your kid the snack. You still get to parent the way you want and aren’t trying to force your way on others. The last time I checked, a Cheese It never killed anyone. It is not that big of a deal and you are being rude and inconsiderate in making it one. You try and make it like they are forcing something on you and your child and don’t see at all how you are trying to force your way on them. Wow! Way to ostracize your child from others. Your that judgey mom now that people will tend to avoid and therefore the kids will do the same. Appreciate the thought behind the gift and don’t over analyze the gift. You end up being the jerk!

    1. For caring about teaching kids healthy habits that they can apply to the rest of their lives, she’s a jerk?! Maybe I think people who offer my kid crappy sugary snacks at 8 pm after a t-ball game are the inconsiderate ones?? Because now I have to be the bad guy in my daughter’s eyes and tell her that she cannot eat gummies and drink a Capri sun at her bedtime. Adults should be able to figure out that the earlier you start teaching healthy habits, the easier it is to get kids to comply. Sure. One cheez-it never killed anyone but the bad habits that are being introduced and reinforced week after week, year after year sure will :(. think about the reward pattern that is being established. Really try to think without getting defensive. Mamy kids have enough of an uphill battle to fight against childhood obesity. They need us to work FOR them, not AGAINST them :)

      1. Totally agree. Last time I checked cheez its cause cancer.. More people need to be educated on the importance of nutrition before thinking they are being nice feeding kids harmful chemicals. Look at the ingredients and look up 5 things you cannot pronounce and say again how rude and ignorant the parents are that are intelligent enough to know better.. Asthma, inflammation, headaches, illnesses are caused by foods we eat. Food is fuel and medicine. It’s amazing what whole foods can do for us!

    2. Actually one Cheez-it would kill my child. He’s only four and already assumes he can’t eat any packaged processed foods offered to him and is very patient about it but he feels left out a lot of times. It sure would be nice if the norm was to hand out treats of whole foods like carrot sticks and bananas. I get to start worrying about this when he turns five and starts school and is old enough to play on sports teams. I get to worry about the adults who don’t care to think about how their choices affect others hand out snacks that then get on shared equipment, while maybe it won’t kill him, does make him break out in hives or make his eczema flare up so badly that his skin bleeds and peels off.

      Also, life threatening food allergies aside, one processed snack once in a while won’t hurt most children but it usually isn’t just one when it every adult and every activity throughout the week hands out a treat. I don’t have a problem saying no. I’ve taught my kids to politely say no thank you. What gets me is the wasted money and resources

    3. Hi Kris,
      I think everyone is entitled to an opinion however, do you think there might be a more professional way to make those opinions known? Why are you calling people names? Why would you encourage your child to not associate with another person on the team because you don’t agree with someone else’s parenting style? I am actually baffled as to why parents sign their kids up for sports which is a healthy activity and then counteract that great effort with poor nutrition. You cannot out-exercise poor nutrition.

    4. I know this is an older comment, but I have to say something. My dd is just finishing Kinder. Prior to kinder she ate very well. Never turned down a fruit or veggie and often picked a fruit or veggie over packaged food for snack by herself. In her class parents rotated on a snack schedule. Much like above the snacks offered were much the same. As a matter of fact her teacher made a comment that she had never thought about apples or bananas for snack and those were good ideas (even though they specifically asked for healthy snacks). Now I can only get her to eat carrots! Where she was eating 5 to 6 servings of a variety veggies a day she’s down to carrots! Maybe your occasional Oreo won’t hurt, but these companies have the best scientists working for them to make sure you crave and want more of their foods. My son just received the following for his after sport snack; 2 mini slim Jim’s, 3 fruit rollups, an oatmeal cream pie, swiss cake rolls, and Cheetos. That family was beyond generous, but that snack bag was over 1200 calories. We are a very unhealthy nation that ranks very low among developed countries. We are a village and the village is failing our children. Plus, giving treats is fun. If other ppl are constantly treating my children I don’t get that chance. I could go on, but the bottom line is unhealthy treats have changed my dd’s taste buds.

  26. Heather La Conte

    THANK YOU! I love these ideas. I am a huge advocate for healthy living and lifestyles. I think this is a great way to get parents and guardians to want to promote it as well. I completely understand the struggle when other parents and influences are just trying to feed your children and their children sugar and processed foods. It’s irritating and frustrating. Thank you again – for all that you do. Promoting nutrition education goes a long way and even these little once a week games matter. I provided the list to my team since I’m coach and assisting coordinating these snack days – we’ll see how it pans out.