Are you fed up with junk food sports snacks on the sidelines–but afraid to rock the boat? Not sure how other parents will react? That was me, five years ago, watching a steady stream of Oreos, frosted cupcakes, and Kool-Aid appear on the sidelines every Saturday morning after pee-wee soccer games. I was appalled–and afraid of speaking up.
I’m so happy I did.
Since then, I’ve created a movement on this blog called Snacktivism, which strives to help parents change the snack culture in their own communities–on the sidelines and beyond. If you’d like to see junk food snacks gone from your child’s team (or camp or church or preschool!) I want to help YOU too. Though spring sports are several weeks away or more, it’s important to be prepared before the season even starts.
8 ways you can get rid of junk food sports snacks:
1. Contact your coach BEFORE the first practice. This is critical. If you’re serious about making a change on your child’s team, reach out to the coach before the first practice. Express your concerns politely and briefly (use my coach’s letter template as a guide). If the coach is on board with your plan, he or she can set the tone and the guidelines right away
2. Chat with parents. Do other parents feel the same way you do? Don’t gossip or talk smack about someone’s cupcakes. But asking other parents, “What would you think about doing only fruit this season?” or “What would you think about getting rid of the snack this season?” will help you find like-minded folks to support your cause.
3. Be the change you want to see. When your turn comes around to be snack mom, bring bananas, apples, orange slices, or wedges of watermelon. Chips, cookies, and sports drinks have become the default in so many communities that parents are often (pleasantly!) surprised when someone brings plain ol’ fruit. I’ve heard, “Wow, that’s a great idea, I hadn’t thought of that!” many times when I’ve brought fruit. If you bring fruit and it goes over well, other parents may be inspired to do the same. For ideas, get my list of 20 Healthy Team Snacks.
4. Be kind. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way (read When Soccer Snacks Get Personal). Emotions run high when you start talking to people about the food they give to their kids. Though you may be frustrated by donuts or cupcakes on the sidelines, try not to bring emotion into it. And never send out a suggestion for healthy snacks once others have already brought chips and cookies.
5. Address food allergies. Are there kids with food allergies on your child’s team? If so, typical packaged or even homemade goodies may not be something the whole team can enjoy. On the other hand, fresh fruit like apples or bananas don’t pose that same risk–and it’s important that a team snack be inclusive for everyone.
6. Be prepared for pushback. If you suggest changing or nixing junk food snacks, you’ll hear “What’s the big deal? It’s just a cupcake!” and “But the kids are sweating–they need the electrolytes in sports drinks”. So be ready with the facts. Use my Sports Snacktivism FAQ for some quick responses.
7. Appeal to people’s practical sides. I can’t think of a parent who wouldn’t enjoy something taken OFF their to-do list. Keep “healthy” and “unhealthy” out of the discussion entirely and suggest that the parents all simply agree to skip snacks entirely to avoid the added hassle and expense (read The End of Soccer Snacks?).
8. Share my slideshow. I created a slideshow called Soccer Mom On A Mission with photos I took of snacks on the sidelines in my community. It’s short (90 seconds), set to music, and is packed with info and ideas to energize and mobilize parents and coaches.
Good luck this season! I hope you’ll keep me posted. Get free resources in my Sports Snacktivism Handbook. And come join the community on my Real Mom Nutrition Facebook page and share your successes and challenges there too.