Remember the orange slices we ate on the sidelines during half-time when we were kids? Let's bring them back.
We are only three weeks into the soccer season and my kids have been given doughnuts, Twinkies, Gatorade, and chewy candies as snacks. Why can't we offer these young athletes fresh fruit and water to replenish energy and maintain proper hydration?
My daughters' coach brought the team doughnuts as a "reward" for showing up to practice last Saturday. Since when did we decide that playing a sport should be rewarded with a sugary, salty, fatty snack? These athletes have voluntarily signed up to play these sports that they love. Don't get me wrong - our soccer coach is an amazing coach that has graciously volunteered her valuable time. She is positive, energetic, organized, and knows the game of soccer and our team kicks butt. My problem is not with my daughters' coach; however, I am sick and tired of watching the parade of processed food march onto the field during practices and games. Our coach did tell us not to bring any snacks containing peanuts, apple juice, or red dye. I hope the little girl that is allergic to these ingredients didn't eat the Twinkie this morning; yes, it has red dye in it. After this past game, I have instructed my girls to politely decline the 'snack' foods that are offered to them after the game unless it is fruit. I have explained to them that Twinkies are Frankenfood that leads them far away from optimal health.
When we reward kids with junk food they make a 'reward association.' This can be a life-long bad habit. My kids are at a birthday party as I write this letter. I assume that they will eat cake and ice cream and I am O.K. with this. A birthday party is a special celebration of someone's birth. A soccer game is not a special celebration. Soccer is fun: kids move their bodies and burn off energy while learning leadership skills, teamwork, and intrinsic as well as extrinsic motivation.
Some of you might think this is my problem. That I should teach my kids not to eat the Twinkie - I have. It is the adult's responsibility to offer them quality food, especially when the parents aren't around (such as during half time) to help their kids make the best possible choices. I realize that some people will agree with me and others will not. This is strictly MY opinion; however, I know that I am not alone on this journey. There are many other frustrated parents that would like to see this junk food problem solved. I challenge like-minded parents to speak up and ask their coaches and associations to enforce a no-junk food snack policy and request real food snacks for your children's teams. Together we can make a difference; we can make this positive change for our kids' health and the health of our nation.