Wish there were healthier team snacks on the sidelines of youth sports? I can help you make it happen!
Several years ago, I had a moment of clarity as I watched my son’s pee-wee soccer team gobble frosted cupcakes, cookies, and chips after a Saturday morning game: Why are kids given so much junk food on the sidelines of sports?
The next season, I worked with my son’s coach to establish a fruit-and-water-only snack policy for the team, which was a hit with parents and players. I did the same the next season. A friend dubbed what I was doing “Snacktivism”, and the name stuck.
So if you’re tired of cupcakes, cookies, chips, and gummy fruit snacks on the sidelines of sports, if you wish the kids had something healthier to enjoy together after the game, you can make healthy team snacks happen. You can be a Snacktivist too!
Sports Snack Handbook
Below are four free resources for you to use:
- A sample coach email: The best place to start is with the coach. Get the coach on board before the season begins, and you’ll have a much better chance of making change happen.
- A sample team email: Here’s a sample email to send to parents once you and the coach have decided on a team snack plan.
- FAQ to answer questions from coaches or parents: Here are answers to the biggest questions and pushback you’ll hear, from “But they’re burning so many calories!” to “But don’t kids need sports drinks?”
- A list of 20 fruit & veggie team snack ideas: This list will get you started with lots of suggestions.
Sample Coach Email
Hi Coach ____,
I wanted to introduce myself. I’m _____’s parent, and we’re all excited about the upcoming season!
I’m writing because I’d like to discuss the topic of team snacks with you. I’m wondering if you would be open to either eliminating the team snack entirely or creating a fresh-fruit-and-water snack policy for our team this season (remember the orange slices we ate on the sidelines when we were kids?). I’m concerned about the junk food I’ve been seeing on the sidelines of kids’ sports. One of the reasons we have our kids in sports is to encourage physical activity and good health, and these kinds of snacks derail that goal. I would love to hear your thoughts on this. And if you decide to go with fresh fruit, I’m also happy to organize a snack schedule for you.
Sample Team Email
The coach has asked me to organize the snack schedule this season, and we have a great idea: Remember the orange slices we all ate on the sidelines when we were kids? Let’s bring back them back! We want our kids to play sports so they move their bodies, burn off energy, and be strong–so let’s give them a snack that keeps them healthy.
Here’s what the coach and I are asking of you: Every child brings a water bottle, and parents take turns bringing fresh fruit for after the game. 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, no drinks) and less mess (no packages to pick up, no juice pouches in landfills). It 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 are mostly added sugar).
Some ideas: Orange slices, bananas, apples, peaches, pears, watermelon slices, grapes (cut into small bunches), berries or melon balls/chunks in paper cups.
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 you’re away from the field.
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, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The electrolytes lost during sweat can easily be replaced at their next meal.
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 do something great for their health!
Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns about this snack policy.
Team Snacks FAQ
Fresh fruit has a little bit of carbohydrates for energy and lots of water for hydration. And kids simply need more of it: 75% of 6-11 year olds don’t get enough fruit. And on any given day, 25% of toddlers and preschoolers don’t eat a single bite of it.
What if I don’t have time to wash and cut up fruit?
Grab a bunch of bananas. It takes the same amount of time to grab those as it does to grab a few boxes of gummy fruit snacks. They’re cheaper, too.
What about sports drinks? Don’t kids need those after exercising?
Actually, no. Sports drinks are designed for endurance athletes. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that most kids need only water to hydrate during and after sports. Those drinks just add a lot of extra calories (plus sugar and dyes). Kids can replenish any lost electrolytes at the next meal or snack.
But our kids are burning off a ton of calories on the soccer field, aren’t they?
Kids burn off far fewer calories in team sports than we think. According to a recent study from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, the average 8 year old burns only 150 calories in an hour of sports—but the typical after-game snack has 300- 500 calories.
Don’t kids deserve a treat every once in a while?
The problem is that kids get treats at every turn: School, daycare, preschool, parties. Treats are not the exception anymore; they’ve become the rule. Toddlers and preschoolers get 16 teaspoons of added sugar every day, and 6-11 year olds get 24 teaspoons. One in three children is overweight or obese today. (That’s triple the rate from when we were kids.)
My child won’t eat fruit. Why don’t’ you just bring some fruit for your kid?
The simple fact is that most kids are not going to choose fruit over a Fruit Roll-Up if given the chance. And don’t underestimate your child: You’d be surprised at the effect that positive peer pressure has on kids. They’re more likely to eat something new or different if they see their friends chowing down on it too. But if you’d prefer that your child have something else, give it to them in the car on the way home.
Why do we even need snacks?
We don’t. If all of the parents are in favor of eliminating snacks, let’s go for it. Less hassle for everyone.
20 Fruit & Veggie Team Snacks
- Bananas (budget friendly!)
- Clementines (easy for little hands to peel)
- Peaches or nectarines
- Orange slices (tried and true)
- Watermelon cut into wedges or sticks (here’s how)
- Fruit kebabs with grapes, melon, and strawberries
- Mango “hedgehogs”
FRUITS & VEGGIES TO GO:
- Paper cups of berries
- Individual bags of baby carrots (look for these in the store by the regular carrots)
- Baggies of sliced peppers and celery sticks
- Snack-size baggies of melon
- Small paper bags of grapes
- Paper cup or baggie of cherries
- Small boxes of raisins
- Prepackaged blueberries
- Cups of sugar snap peas (nice and sweet!)
- Cups of pineapple chunks