THAT Mom: The Sequel

by Sally on June 8, 2011

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the parade of crappy food at my son’s soccer games–and I vowed to push for a change the next opportunity I got.

So when t-ball started a few weeks ago, I immediately wrote to the coach and asked if we could establish a healthier snack policy. His response: “I support this 100%”.

Here is the email I sent to team parents:

Hi everyone,

I was asked to head up the snack schedule for our t-ball season. And I’m making a radical suggestion: Remember the orange slices we all ate on the sidelines when we were kids playing sports? Let’s bring back that tradition!

I’m proposing this because as a registered dietitian and a mom, I’m concerned about the snacks being offered at kids’ sports games around the city. And from my conversations with other parents on the soccer and t-ball sidelines over the last year or two, I know many of you probably are as well.

We want our kids to play sports so they move their bodies, burn off their energy, and be healthy–and all of this is canceled out by handing them Oreos and a Capri Sun after a game. The truth is, our kids spend a lot of time in sports waiting on the sidelines or standing in the outfield. Yes, they’re learning about the sport and picking up skills, but they aren’t sweating and moving enough to justify a big snack of junk food.

Here’s what the coach and I are asking of you: Everyone bring their own water bottles, and parents take turns bringing fruit. This fruit-only snack policy benefits everyone because there’s less cost (when it’s your turn to bring snacks, you are only in charge of bringing fruit, and you can easily buy fruit for the whole team plus siblings for around $5) and less mess (no packages to pick up, no juice pouches in landfills). And because we won’t be feeding them junk, that also means they’ll be hungry for lunch or dinner afterward.

Feel free to bring any fresh fruit you’d like (please wash it so it’s ready to grab and eat). You can also bring small boxes of raisins, but please do not bring fruit roll-ups or fruit snacks, since those don’t contain any real fruit and are mostly added sugar.

Some ideas: Orange slices, bananas, apples, peaches, pears, watermelon slices, grapes (cut into small bunches the kids can grab), berries or melon balls/cubes (put them in paper cups so kids can pour them into their mouths with no fork necessary), small boxes of raisins.

If you don’t think your child will eat fruit or feel he needs something more after the game, please bring your own snack and give it to your child when he’s away from the field. Please don’t bring extras to share with other players.

Remember to bring a full bottle of water to each game for your child. Please do not bring flavored water pouches or juice boxes for players. The best thing for kids to drink before, during, and after sports is regular water. (The American Academy of Pediatrics recently warned that most kids don’t even need sports drinks. The electrolytes lost during sweat can easily be replaced at their next meal.)

Will the kids grumble about the lack of Doritos? They might at first. But frankly, my kids grumble about brushing their teeth and going to bed! But I know these things are important for their health. This is too.

With this snack policy, our team can set an example for the whole league. We all care about our kids and want the best for them, so let’s start here.

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns about this snack policy.

Thank you!

Then I held my breath. Would parents rally behind the Ritz Bits and take me to task for being uptight?

Exactly the opposite. I got emails back saying, “LOVE IT!”, “Wow, this is wonderful!”, ” Thanks for saying something!” and best of all, “It’s about time someone took a stand on this!”

After the first game of the season, the Bad News Bears Orioles ate every last piece of watermelon I brought. No one asked, “Where are the chips?” Nobody complained.

Until we got to the parking lot where the ice cream truck was stationed. Then it hit the fan. But that’s another post entirely.

For more on mobilizing your community, here’s a great resource from the Meal Makeover Moms.

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Rachel (Hounds in the Kitchen) June 8, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Way to go sending that well written letter! I’m so glad that you received positive responses too.

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Sally June 9, 2011 at 8:10 am

Thanks Rachel. So far so good. We’ll see how the rest of the season goes.

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J.C. June 8, 2011 at 11:00 pm

I hope you have good support from all of the parents. Good for you for standing up for the kids! :-)

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Sally June 9, 2011 at 8:11 am

Me too! So far everyone is supportive. And I am so grateful to the coach, who is in total agreement. I think that is probably the key.

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Kendra Hovey June 9, 2011 at 8:09 am

Last T-ball game is this week. But, I am so ready to do this next year. Thank you.

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Wende June 9, 2011 at 8:50 am

Sally, I’ve never replied to a blog before, but this deserves it! GREAT job communicating with the other parents, way to go! These snacks should be the norm, not the exception.

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Jennifer Lane June 9, 2011 at 11:28 am

That’s so awesome, Sally! What a well-written letter–I’m not surprised the parents are on board. Way to make a change one step at a time. Michelle Obama would be proud. :-)

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Jennifer Schantz June 9, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Love it!!!!! You are so kick ass! Please send this in to the Dispatch Editorial section and/or parenting magazines!! It is so important considering the childhood obesity epidemic!

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Wendy June 9, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Great post, Sally! Thanks for including your letter to give others a positive example of how to nicely take action. I never understood why parents thought chips and sweets were appropriate to give kids playing sports – it is crazy that fruit is not the norm. Of course, I’d much rather see fresh fruit on the sidelines from a food allergy standpoint, too.

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Janelle June 11, 2011 at 9:40 am

Awesome Sally! You’re the Jamie Oliver of Columbus!

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Anne McMullen June 12, 2011 at 10:06 am

Sally, great post! My husband and I were thinking back to our sports days as kids, and the ONLY thing that was brought for snack was orange slices. Thanks for bringing back the perspective of when we were kids!

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Dina Rose June 15, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Parents underestimate kids all the time when it comes to food and eating. I’m so glad this worked out for you. Not only will the kids eat a healthier snack, but they’ll be more likely to eat their veggies at dinner if they’re used to snacking on fruit. The more kids are used to the taste, texture, appearance and eating experience of fresh foods the more likely they are to eat them. Congratulations on taking a stand and finding success.

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Steph July 22, 2011 at 9:28 pm

This is awesome! We are just entering the world of t-ball and, soon, soccer. Our first snack initiation was Little Debbie snack cakes and Capri Sun. YUCK!!! I am definitely bringing fruit when it is our turn for snacks!

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Alysa (InspiredRD) October 21, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Our T-Ball games start tomorrow. I am the first one on the snack schedule. What a great idea to send out this letter. I might have to do the same……Thanks for the inspiration!

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Sally October 21, 2011 at 6:42 pm

Thanks Alysa! Let me know how it goes!

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Meredith October 21, 2011 at 1:25 pm

VERY WELL SAID! When my kids get to the age when they start playing sports, I would love to take the same initiative you did (as a fellow mom and registered dietitian)! Great job.

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Sally October 21, 2011 at 6:44 pm

Thank you!! My experience has been that most moms agree with this, but few want to speak out about it. I think as RDs, we have a duty to help improve the health of our communities when we can. (Also, I love the name of your blog!)

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Angel October 21, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Excellent! It got more complicated for me this year because my daughter is now playing High School volleyball and the parents take turns bringing meals to the girls for away games. Most parents opt for picking up sub sandwiches, chips, and candy, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do the same thing. I went out on a limb and made homemade burritos, packed orange slices, yogurt, and homemade cookies. Guess what?? The girls loved it!

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Sally October 21, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Thanks Angel! I love your meal, and I’m sure the girls really appreciated some homemade food. I think sometimes parents don’t give kids a chance to like healthier food and so they fall back on the junk (like chips and candy and fast food). Maybe the other team parents will follow your lead. Thanks for reading my blog!

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Monica November 21, 2011 at 3:05 pm

You are my HERO! My kids are still too young for sports teams (2 1/2 and 6 months) but if you don’t mind I’m going to save your letter for later. When they do start in sports your diplomatic approach will probably go a long way. KUDOS!

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Sally November 21, 2011 at 8:46 pm

Thanks Monica! Trust me, those days will be here before you know it. :)

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Kathy Slocum March 7, 2012 at 6:00 pm

I sooo agree. For basketball this year my daughter has been getting Krispy Kremes and Sunny D’s. Ick! I brought popcorn and cheese sticks. They all ate them! Cheese sticks are a good choice too, a little protein after a game never hurts either.

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Alison April 26, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Just a question- Do you hand out the fruit at half time, at the end of the game, or both?

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Sally April 27, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Allison–we just give out the fruit at the end of the game.

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Jennifer May 19, 2012 at 4:09 pm

I love the idea for the most part except for a few things. First off I’m one of those people who actually reads the backs of the labels of everything before I buy it. Well not everything always, but 90% of the time. My son is in his first year of T-ball, and in the past when I’ve had to bring in snacks for his school my got thing is a fruit tray. I don’t have to worry about who’s lactose intolerant or who has Celiac (sorry if I spelled that wrong) all the kids love it, and usually ask for seconds. Okay so my son is the only son who doesn’t bring in cup cakes for his birthday; no biggy. Also telling them to bring only water is great. But with his t-ball team, no one stays after the game to eat their snack. They pass out the snack on the field and get in the car, so I knew they were looking for something quick and portable. The other parents have brought Graham crackers, and pretzel sticks, and HiC to drink. I hate HiC. But at least is wasn’t Oreos or Brownies, Hostess, or Little Debbie. Yes I would prefer something healthier, but I didn’t have the for thought, and if everyone isn’t going to stay and eat The fruit tray doesn’t really work. I ended up bringing Gold Fish, and Capri Suns. Now here is where I disagree. Would I have preferred to bring a fruit tray, yes, but I didn’t want to make the other parents feel like there kids couldn’t have a snack because they wanted to rush home for one reason or another. On the other hand. My kids love Gold Fish. I buy only the whole grain gold fish, gold fish are baked not fried, the have less sodium than potato chips, less fat then other snack food, and no grease. Was it a perfect snack, no; but was it the perfect solution for me, yes. As far as the Capri Suns go this is something I’ve been arguing with my sons school about as well. I’m not against the Capri Sun I’m for it. Why well lots of reasons. I believe in only having one glass of milk a day. Milk while providing calcium, dairy, and other things, is also more filling than other drinks. If you drink to much milk you loose your appetite for food, eat less, and don’t get the nutrients from the other food that are important too. Kids can get calcium from other places too, it doesn’t just come from milk, or orange juice for that matter. Yes water is great and wonderful, and my kids drink plenty of that too, but the occasional juice is fine too, at least in my opinion. Now Capri Sun has less sugar than most fruit juice, even the 100% fruit juices. It has less sugar than chocolate milk, and it only has a few more grams of sugar than regular whole milk (I don’t know 2%, because I only buy whole). It can be a healthier alternative to other juices, and even to chocolate milk. So in saying water only for the sports is wonderful, but saying no Capri Sun or HiC, or things of that nature and then one mom brings orange juice, even if it’s 100% it’s not actually any healthier than the Capri Sun. Now this is one I’m having trouble with at my sons school. He goes to a private school, and they are only allowed to drink water or milk at the school, and he gets his daily glass of milk with his lunch, the problem is that they’re giving him Chocolate milk, and it just frustrates me. Don’t tell me I can’t send my kid with fruit juice, and then give him chocolate milk. Last guess what some fruit snacks are made with real fruit, are all of them No, but some of them are. The only ones that come into my house are. Can we rely on all parents to check labels No, but I have an issue when someone over generalizes, and says things like Fruit snacks can’t be healthy they’re not even made with real fruit, or Capri Suns can’t be healthy. Yes they can be when compared to other options, and when you read the labels and buy the ones with real fruit. Should we still encourage others to bring real fruits, and bottled water to share as snacks, yes, but we also need to keep in mind that not all junk food out there is as bed as Cookies and Soda, there are a lot of in betweens, and those should still be options for the parents to bring.

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Ann Burk May 26, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Sally,
I wanted to let you know that I was That mom (and dietitian) 20 years ago when my son was playing soccer. Myself and another mom were upset at the unnecessary sweets and chips that were becoming routine. She was use to orange slices following sporting events while living in Canada. As you mentioned in your article, the concern over time is the association or trigger that develops with sports = sweet treat. Both my son and daughter are grown and I am happy to report that they are mindful of what they eat.

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Sarah L June 27, 2012 at 3:14 pm

For Jennifer,

It sounds like you found a compromise that works for your team. That’s great. Sometimes it takes baby steps to move groups away from rampant junk consumption. If you did want to bring fruit, it could be a great grab-and-go snack – put it in a Dixie cup or on a skewer and send the kids home with a napkin.

“…not all junk food out there is as bed as Cookies and Soda, there are a lot of in betweens, and those should still be options for the parents to bring.”

I think the point of the Sally’s letter was to encourage HEALTHY snacks. The not-so-bad foods might make a great treat – my kids love natural fruit snacks and home-baked cookies – but an after-sport snack is not supposed to be a treat. The point is to nourish a worked body. Personally, I applaud Sally for asking parents to bring healthy snacks. The in-between stuff is still an option. (Note that parents can bring their own snack for their child if they feel that it is necessary.) It’s just not an option on this particular sports field.

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Diane July 26, 2012 at 9:33 am

I actually tried something similar to this…I created the email letter. Problem was, the coach was my own husband and he didn’t send it. He had his assistant coach bring “snack” after the first softball game. A big box of Cheetos, Doritos, and the like. I tried to keep my mouth shut. He then announced that he needed someone for the next game, and try to make it a healthy snack. Well, not one person ever brought a “healthy” snack. You’d think with summer here and fresh fruit in abundance, someone would’ve thought to buy a $8 watermelon and slice it up, call it a day. I actually felt like the parents were all mocking me because they know how I feel about this subject. The girls on the team are (mostly) the same girls that were on the basketball team (2 of them) that my husband coached in the Winter. Same girls (and parents) from last year’s softball team and basketball teams from the year before. And my kids will ALWAYS choose Doritos over fruit. They get fruit at home all the time. Doritos, never.

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Sally July 27, 2012 at 5:53 am

Hi Diane. Sorry to hear about what happened. That’s really too bad. :( I feel like these policies/requests need to be spelled out at the beginning of the team’s season or it’s very hard to implement. Because once someone brings something like chips or cookies, it’s hard for parents to switch over to fruit. I’m sorry to hear the parents were mocking your intentions–that is really unfortunate, but I know that happens (I’m sure I’ve gotten mocked behind my back many, many times over this!). Try again at the beginning of the next sports season and make sure the coach is on board and that the policy comes down from her/him as well. And that it’s clear what “healthy snack” means. Good luck and please keep me posted (and keep up the good fight!).

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Jenn Rossi May 10, 2013 at 5:25 pm

Love this. I did something similar last year when I was team mom for my oldest son’s soccer team. He has ASD so I am so careful about what goes into his body, but his diet isn’t radical, it’s just sensible. I received an overwhelmingly positive response. Hopefully, this will become a trend among kids sports. Of course not everyone adhered to my suggestions, but most did. Hey, I’ll take what I can get. I have noticed this year in baseball I seem to be getting similar requests from other team moms. I love it!

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Kelly October 22, 2013 at 7:54 am

As I am entering the world of soccer snacks, I am appalled at the junk parents provide! I will ALWAYS be “that” mom because my children’s health is more important than how any parent or child views me!

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