Soccer Mom Soapbox

Soccer Mom Soapbox -- Real Mom Nutrition

As a dietitian, I try very hard to a) be helpful when asked and b) not be bossy and preachy and in everyone’s business when it comes to food (my husband may disagree with this).

I really don’t want to be That Mom. You know her: The one who rails against toxic diapers in landfills while you’re changing your baby’s Pampers.

Which is why I’ve kept quiet about soccer snacks. Until now.

Let me tell you about soccer. The Capri Sun flows like water at soccer. There are Pringles. And Ritz Bits. And Oreos. And cupcakes. Sometimes Oreos and cupcakes. It is a six-year-old’s paradise at soccer.

Last week it was my turn to bring the soccer snacks. I spent $12 on apples, washed them, loaded them into a cooler, and dragged them to the game. Frankly, I felt a little self-righteous: I would show everyone that tired, hungry, post-game kids would happily eat a crispy apple. Without saying a word–without being That Mom–I would prove my point.

After the game ended (in a stunning 6-0 victory) the kids swarmed around the cooler, grabbing at the shiny apples.

Until word got out that someone’s dad, who thought it was his turn to bring the snacks, had individual bags of Doritos. And not only did they take off running, they also threw their apples back into the cooler.

I know what some parents say: “It’s just some chips, let the kids have their fun.” But it’s not just chips at soccer. We’re feeding this kind of junk to our kids everywhere–at preschool, at school events, at parties. And at Saturday morning soccer games, which amount to a total of (maybe) 15 minutes of vigorous physical activity, and where all they require is a lot of water and a good lunch at home afterward.

Look: I know the parents bringing the Kool-Aid and the Nutter Butters care just as much about their kids as I do. Which is why we all need to stop and consider what our children need, not what they want. My first grader would prefer to never brush his teeth ever again, and my toddler would like to play outside in his pajamas when it’s 40 degrees. But I know better. That’s my job as a parent.

So, what did I do with all of those leftover apples? I made a double batch of crockpot applesauce, which Henry and Sam devoured in less than 24 hours.

Oh, and t-ball season starts next week. Guess who’s going to be That Mom?

I wrote this post as a participant in the Eat, Play, Love blog carnival hosted by Meals Matter and Dairy Council of California to share ideas on positive and fun ways to teach children healthy eating habits. Join the carnival and read other Eat, Play, Love blogs from dietitians and moms offering the best advice on raising healthy eaters. And if you don’t get enough today, for more positive, realistic and actionable advice from registered dietitian moms, register for the free, live webinar Eat, Play, Love: Raising Healthy Eaters on Wednesday, May 18.

The Best-Kept Secret for Raising Healthy Eaters, Maryann Jacobsen, MS, RD
Feeding is Love, Jill Castle, MS, RD, LDN
5 Quick Ways to Prepare Veggies with Maximum Flavor, Dayle Hayes, MS, RD
The Art of Dinnertime, Elana Natker, MS, RD
Children Don’t Need a Short Order Cook, Christy Slaughter
Cut to the Point – My Foodie Rules, Glenda Gourley
Eat, Play, Love – A Challenge for Families, Alysa Bajenaru, RD
Eat, Play, Love ~ Raising Healthy Eaters, Kia Robertson
Get Kids Cooking, Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RD, CDN
Kid-Friendly Kitchen Gear Gets Them Cooking, Katie Sullivan Morford, MS, RD
Kids that Can Cook Make Better Food Choices, Glenda Gourley
Making Mealtime Fun, Nicole Guierin, RD
My No Junk Food Journey – Want to Come Along? , Kristine Lockwood
My Recipe for Raising Healthy Eaters: Eat Like the French, Bridget Swinney MS, RD, LD
Playing with Dough and the Edible Gift of Thyme, Robin Plotkin, RD, LD
Picky Eaters  Will Eat Vegetables, Theresa Grisanti, MA
Raising a Healthy Eater, Danielle Omar, MS, RD
Putting the Ease in Healthy Family Eating, Connie Evers, MS, RD, LD
Raising Healthy Eaters Blog Carnival & Chat Roundup, Ann Dunaway Teh, MS, RD, LD
Soccer Mom Soapbox, Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD
Teenagers Can Be Trying But Don’t Give UpDiane Welland MS, RD
What My Kids Taught Me About Eating Mindfully, Michelle May, MD

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    • says

      Thanks for reading, Rachel. I have learned from this soccer season that I just have to speak up–and that a lot of parents will probably be with me. I don’t like being “that mom” but there’s no choice when it gets this bad.

  1. kelly says

    I can attribute nearly all of my excess weight to my assigning “special event” exemption status to far too many normal, everyday happenings.

    Being “that mom” is a very good thing.

    • says

      Thanks Kelly. “Special event” exemption status is a perfect way to describe what’s going on. Everything is suddenly a celebration.

  2. says

    Great post! I feel the same exact way and get so sick of hearing “it’s just….”! Those moments add up over the course of a year and create a culture of junk food everywhere. I’m proud of you for being That Mom. 😉

  3. Laura Kraus says

    Amen, Sister. Mia came home proudly from practice this week and told me that she skipped the Capri Sun in honor of the Health Challenge. Then she lectured me about my diet coke. Touche’.

  4. says

    Nice post, and I can completely relate! My daughter just finished her softball season and my son is still playing baseball. I guess I take the middle ground when I bring snacks. My daughter is a Girl Scout, so we have quite a few boxes of cookies laying around our house. My snack compromise is to bring water, string cheese, fresh fruit and a couple of cookies each. Seems to go over pretty well 🙂

    • says

      That does sound like a nice compromise. When parents give kids the chance to eat healthy foods, they do enjoy them. Thanks for reading my blog!

  5. says

    It sounds like the parents on the soccer team need to sit down and discuss the snacks. Did you say anything to the father who brought the chips? The fact that the kids all grabbed at the apples should show the other parents and the coach that kids enjoy nutritious foods when that is what is offered. Lucky for your sons that they got all that applesauce to themselves!

    • says

      Thanks for reading, Jessica. I am a non-confrontational person (outside of my blog, that is), so I’ve struggled with the best thing to say/do. I’ve learned a lot this soccer season though, and plan to go forward with a different approach and speak up. And yes, I’m lucky my kids will eat a lot of fruit (my son was one of the few who kept his apple!).

  6. says

    I love this Sally. I haven’t had to deal with this yet but my daughter starts soccer in the fall. I’m sure I’ll be “that mom” too. I’m pretty lax about food and snacks at parties but after a game, that’s a different story. When did this bringing snacks thing start anyway? I used to plaly softball and we were resonsible for our own food and snacks!

    • says

      I agree, Maryann. I’m relaxed at parties too (I certainly wouldn’t expect people to serve apples instead of cupcakes at a birthday parties)–but we are treating EVERYTHING like a party/celebration these days. Thanks for reading my blog!

  7. says

    I went through the same thing when my boys were in elementary school. The amount of junk food on the playing field was out of control. I started to feel as though the junk food exposure was as much of a hazard to my children’s health as second-hand smoke.
    My concern and frustration led to a Letter to the Editor which my husband and I wrote and submitted to our local paper. Called, Bring Back the Oranges … Please, it started quite a buzz of conversation around town. Turns out there were many, many other parents who felt the way we did. In other words, there are plenty of Those Moms and Those Dads out there!
    Ultimately, the soccer program adopted a Fruit and Water Only snack policy. You can read my sample letter to the editor and the snack policy here:
    The policy went into place back in 2007 — well before our nation’s attentionturned to the issue of kids and nutrition. Your blog post reminds me to check in with the club to make sure everyone is still following the policy! My husband’s team certainly does .. and the kids absolutely LOVE the fruit at halftime.
    Good luck, and feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.

    • says

      This is WONDERFUL, Liz!! What a success story. Thank you for sharing this. It’s giving me good ideas for the upcoming t-ball season. You’re right that there are many of THOSE parents who agree but don’t want to speak up. And yes, kids DO love fruit. We just have to give them a chance to love it. Thanks again for reading!

  8. says

    Well said, Sally. You held your tongue longer than I could…had to vent on that topic last year. What ever happened to oranges only?
    Sporting games can sabotage and undermine the hard work that parents put into feeding their kids well or they can perpetuate an unhealthy situation.
    Hmmm…the challenge is how to be THAT MOM and lead, letting others catch on…

    • says

      Thanks for reading, Jill. I was wondering what happened to oranges (it’s what we had after sports growing up too). With the prices of oranges these days, that would actually be a pretty expensive snack. That’s pretty sad!

  9. says

    Great post! I’ve definitely been there… What I found that definitely works is to enlist the help of the coach. In youth football, our coach insisted that the only snacks the boys needed were quartered orange wedges. The parents took turns bringing orange wedges each week. I’m pretty sure he also told them that’s what the pros eat at halftime! They totally bought into it and parents who tried bringing other snacks were shut down. Cake and treats were reserved for the once-a-year banquet!

    • says

      Love this, Connie. I think this is a great approach–and I love how you told them it’s how the “pros” do it. That’s a great point–we don’t see pro football players eating cupcakes on the sidelines after a game! 🙂

  10. says

    I know I’m way late commenting on this post, but considering that I live this moment every single week at soccer games, I felt I had to comment. The problem is that there aren’t enough of us “that” moms to go around – moms who use common sense and care about health, and that don’t believe that every children’s event needs to include cotton candy and soda. Every week at the end of our soccer game when snack is being doled out, my daughter comes running over to me and asks what she can have (knowing that she can’t just eat anything given to her). There is that damn Capri Sun again! And plastic-wrapped cheesy crackers, and oh yeah, something gummy and food-dyey and lacking in even basic nutrition…and I am forced to tell her politely to put those things away in the bag and we’ll discuss it later so that I don’t hurt anyone’s feelings by seeing us toss out their “food.” (food? can you really call it that?!) It’s our turn this week and you can bet our example will be healthy muffins and low sugar organic apple cider – and if anyone brings Doritos, I’m gonna go all Psycho Soccer Mom on them! Thanks for the great posts – all of them – really enjoying the read!!

  11. says

    Oh man, my 4 year old is just starting up soccer. Now I know what NOT to look forward to. Though honestly, I feel like Capri Sun and other junk food flows like water at kids birthday parties too. And parents wonder why the kids are hyper and having tantrums.

  12. says

    Wow, I can relate to these snack posts on every level, and it’s very validating for me. However, my story is slightly different. I had to find the right balance and decide ahead of time how I would handle it.
    My 12 year old daughter played club volleyball this past season (10 tournaments over the course of 4 mos. that would last from 8am -5pm on a Saturday.) Before the first tournament, to my surprise and excitement, all 9 moms agreed that we would bring food to each tournament and allow the girls to eat “tailgate style” instead of having to depend on concession stands. (cue the choir. I was planning on bringing our own food anyway. Now my daughter wouldn’t be the odd man out.) We all agreed to bring a variety of foods they could eat throughout the day and one person would provide the lunch (usually ham & cheese sandwiches.)
    At every tourney, there was plenty of fruit, & water, but also chips, cookies, muffins, cheese crackers, CANDY, donuts, bagels, gatorade, etc. I decided that I would try to always bring something healthy and not hound my daughter about what she ate, not that I wouldn’t encourage her to eat at least SOME fruit. My offerings usually went over very well, in fact, usually just as well as all the junk. I was pleasantly surprised. And the parents never balked about any of the food choices, good or bad, but they DID show how impressed they were with my offerings (and effort) and some even asked for recipes. (Yeah!) And as much as I wanted to, I did not stand around preaching about the harmful effects of all that sugary, artificial junk that I refuse to buy.
    I do believe it’s about moderation and balance, and it’s also very helpful when the other parents are on board. Obviously, most of these girls were used to eating somewhat healthy at home, (which is of course, where fooducation really starts,) and didn’t flinch when their parents would say “eat fruit first,” as they reached for the powdered donuts.
    Sadly, I feel like that whole situation was the exception, not the norm. :/

  13. says

    GREAT ARTICLE! I was JUUUST talking about this on my radio show yesterday. Way to go! I challenged the parents to BE THE PARENT – they’ll always want junk food…it’s up to parents to give them what they NEED, not just what they WANT. Thanks for sharing!!!!!!!

  14. Jen says

    I just stumbled across your site and am thrilled with what you write! My story: It was my turn to provide snacks for my daughter’s Brownie meeting yesterday. I brought bananas, clementines, and almonds. When I went to pick her up, every bit of them were gone, and two of the girls went on and on about how much they love almonds. And the drink? The water fountain in the same room where they meet.

    • says

      Jen–that’s great to hear! I truly believe children enjoy fruit and other healthy foods and can view those as “treats” just as much as cookies and cupcakes. Thanks for that success story!

  15. Steph says

    So for all the parents who want me to bring a healthy snack for soccer games… How bout I still bring Capri suns and Oreos for all us sugarbeasts and i will throw frozen bags of peas and water at everyone else . I do what I want. I might even bring quarter pounders and route 44s with extra syrup. Ok cause I am the real soccer mom. My kids only eat kale and agave. Together. Blended. In a smoothie. With chia pet seeds and protien whey powder. If your kid is diabetic it’s not cause of school food or soccer snacks. You are the problem. Worry about your own damn home and decline the snack that’s going to turn you into a crazy kid onto sugar crack. Hey guys while we’re all at it lets start stop sugar program like the drug programs. This is getting so serious. Wowie!! I just wasted my whole brain on this article. Sincerely Mother of 4 who’s healthy, runs marathons, kids eat chocolate milk at school, and oh yeah they eat soccer snack. They are all healthy weights and even excel most kids at sports and have very healthy eating habits not because I control what others do but because of me.

  16. Apple-Nazi! says

    Sounds like someone LIKES their soapbox. Relax! It IS just chips… They are just kids!! Let them BE kids…

    See you at the next game!! I’m bringing Popsicles & twizzlers… 🙂


  1. […] Sally’s a trailblazer when it comes to improving kids’ snack habits. Not only does she feed her own children nutritionally appropriate snacks, she takes it a step further by proactively working to change the food environment her kids face on a day-to-day basis, like at day camp or as members of sports teams. […]

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