|Photo by Dan Buczynski / CC BY-NC-ND|
Yes, it's getting hot outside. Yes, little and big athletes get hungry and thirsty on the fields. Where do they turn to?
The concession stand.
One of the biggest problems in youth sports, as I see it, is the concession stand.
Loaded with high fat, sugary food and beverages, it is often the knee-jerk response by unprepared parents to a whining, hot, hungry athlete.
While it's okay to provide a hungry and thirsty child with water, an occasional sports drink or food, it's not okay to allow him to load up on soda, French fries, candy, cookies or hot dogs. If you do, you can pretty much forget any benefit of exercising.
A recent study published in Childhood Obesity highlighted the negative effects of poorly planned concession stands. Researchers from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center looked at America's beloved sport – baseball – and the eating habits of players aged 8 to 11 years. They found that youth baseball players drank sugary beverages 53% of the time and ate high calorie foods 72% of the time.
Ninety percent of what these kids ate came from the concession stand. This is a real problem in youth sports and something that threatens to counteract any good playing sports can do for a child.
Prepare yourselves, parents! Here are a few ways to curb the concession stand:
Just say no. If you've fed your child before a game, and have a healthy snack or meal planned at home for afterward, you can simply say "not today."
Set concession guidelines. If weeding out the concession stand is not in the cards, at least eyeball the food and drink offerings and tell your player which food and drinks are acceptable to order. Giving young athletes guidance in this area helps them make healthy choices when parents aren't around.
Limit the funds. Don't send athletes to the concession stand with a 20-dollar bill. The temptation to overbuy will be too great. Give enough money to buy one single-serve item.
Allow one fun food. If concessions are in the plan, set a limit of one fun food item (chips, fried food, candy, soda, cookies or other desserts) and let your athlete know that's the limit for the day. Most active athletes can have one to two fun foods each day, on average.
Pack your own. In my opinion, this is the best solution for cutting out the negative influence of concession stands. Bring a cooler full of healthy snacks like fresh fruit, crunchy veggies, low fat dip, yogurt sticks, low fat cheese, whole grain crackers and water, for example.
Lighten up the offerings. Parents and coaches can have a powerful voice in what is offered at the concession stand. Let your operators know what you want to see for food offerings and what you don't want to see. For instance: single-serving snacks, 100% fruit juices, caffeine-free beverages, fewer options of candy, all beef hotdogs or fresh fruit packs.
The reality is this: concession stands can derail your young athlete's healthy eating habits and his weight. You can prevent this from happening with a little bit of vigilance and constructive ideas for improvement.
Does the concession stand bug you?
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