Inside: Would you like to see healthy snacks on the sidelines of your kids’ sports? I can help you make it happen!
Many 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 many sugary foods on the sidelines of sports?
The next season, I worked with my son’s coach to establish a fruit-and-water snack plan for the team, which was a hit with parents and players. I did the same the next season. And the next.
If you’d like to do the same for your child’s team, here’s my best advice–plus some free resources for you.
My Best Advice
As a registered dietitian and mom, I’ve helped bring this healthy snack plan to many of my kids’ teams over the years. Along the way, I’ve had a lot of success and watched a lot of kids gobble up orange slices and bananas. But I also hit some bumps and made some mistakes too. So here’s my hard-earned advice for you:
1. Contact your coach BEFORE the first practice.
This is crucial. 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, they 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 Fruit & Veggie Team Snacks.
4. Be kind.
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. Never send out a suggestion for healthy snacks once others have already brought chips and cookies. If a parent brings donuts or cookies even after you’ve made a plan for fruit, stay cool. Believe me, it’s not worth getting upset about.
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 hassle.
Free Resources For Healthy Team Snacks
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 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 talk about 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 plan for our team this season (remember the orange slices we ate on the sidelines when we were kids?). 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.
Thanks for all you do!
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 snack plan 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).
Some ideas: Orange slices, bananas, apples, peaches, pears, watermelon slices, grapes (cut into small bunches), berries or melon balls/chunks in paper cups.
With this snack plan, 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.
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.
My child won’t eat fruit. Why don’t’ you just bring some fruit for your kid?
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, that’s okay too. 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
WHOLE FRUIT IDEAS
- Bananas (budget friendly!)
- Clementines (easy for little hands to peel)
- Peaches or nectarines
CUT FRUIT IDEAS
- Orange slices (tried and true)
- Watermelon cut into wedges or sticks (here’s how to cut watermelon into sticks)
- Fruit kebabs with grapes, melon, and strawberries
- Kiwi halves: Give spoon to scoop out the flesh
FRUITS & VEGGIES TO GO
- Paper cups of berries
- Paper cups of cherries
- Paper cups of carrot and celery sticks
- Pre-packaged bags of baby carrots
- Paper cups of pineapple chunks
- Packaged fruit cups (+ spoon)
- Paper cups of melon balls
- Small baggies of grapes
- Mini boxes of raisins
- Packaged applesauce cups (+ spoon) or pouches