Snacks and snacking go hand in hand with youth sports. Some people love them, and some want to leave them at home.
Here’s a sobering reality:
Research suggests that children who play sports eat more junk food than children who don’t play sports. In a country struggling with childhood health, snacks at sporting venues are more likely to increase calorie intake rather than contribute to health and exercise benefits.
When did society buy into the idea that kids need to eat while exercising or get a reward (dessert) for finishing?
Granted, if children are active for over an hour, a healthy, refueling snack and/or fluids to maintain energy, focus and hydration makes sense. Fresh fruit, a cheese stick and water is helpful and healthy—cookies, donuts and juice boxes are not.
If I were Queen of Sports Snacks, here’s what I would mandate for the recreational athlete:
Practices or games that last less than an hour: No snacks! Water to stay hydrated. What about sports drinks? Not needed, according to the latest research, which I’ll discuss in my next post.
Note to Parents: Make sure to offer a healthy meal or snack at home, depending on timing of games and practices.
Practices or games that last over an hour: A healthy snack, such as fruit and water.
Note: The goal is to stay hydrated with fluids and electrolytes, providing working muscles with nutritious energy. Nutrition needs reflect duration and intensity of activity.
Nutrition is meant to be a supportive addition to sports. It’s not supposed to sabotage a healthy diet or negate the benefits of physical activity.
Does your team or league need a snack policy overhaul? Tell us what’s going on in the comments below!
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the National Alliance for Youth Sports.
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