If you have kids in baseball, softball, football, and other organized sports, you know about the concession stand. It may generate much-needed revenue for the sports league. It’s almost always stocked with junk food. As a parent, it’s hard to deny your player something from the concession stand, especially when the whole team gathers there after the game. But in this guest post, Jill Castle, fellow dietitian and author of the new book Eat Like a Champion: Performance Nutrition for Your Young Athlete, explains how concession stands may be doing young athletes more harm than good–and why the familiar refrain, “But they just burned a bunch of calories!” just doesn’t make sense.
by Jill Castle, MS, RDN
When my daughter was ten, I realized the concession stand at soccer games was my enemy, not my friend. One day after a full game, one in which she played most of it in a variety of positions, the parent who was in charge of snacks dropped the ball. She had forgotten her snack duty date, and as a result, was empty-handed when the game was over.
So she sent the team to the concession stand with a budget of $2 each to spend on whatever they wanted. As I watched many of my daughter’s teammates walk away with a candy bar and a bag of chips, I told my daughter we would skip snack that day.
“WHY???!!!!” she moaned.
“Because you just did something really good for your body, and the snacks at the concession stand will undo all the good you have done,” I replied. “Why don’t you take that money and save it, and we’ll get a good snack at home?”
She agreed to my suggestion and was surprisingly reasonable about it. It was then that I knew she could understand that food is fuel for sport, and I made this a casual topic of conversation whenever the moment presented itself.
Now, she regards the concession stand as a treat, not as a source of fuel for exercise. Yes, we have forgotten snacks too. It never feels right to have to resort to the concession stand, as we know her options will be limited, and she will have to make concessions for these treats.
|You might also like: Ideas For A Healthy Concession Stand (That Make Money!)|
Why is the concession stand a concern for young athletes?
From basketball to regattas, you’ll find concession stands at nearly every sporting venue. They rescue the forgotten snack, fill in for breakfast at early morning competitions, and even supply dinner at late night games. Unfortunately, the concession stand may do more harm than good for young athletes who rely on them.
In a recent study by researchers in North Carolina looking at what young baseball players ate at the baseball field, they found 90% of all food eaten at the ballpark came from the concession stand. They also found 73% of the available concession items to be unhealthy. Seventy-two percent of concession snacks were identified as high-calorie foods or sugary sweet beverages.
Let’s peek at a few common concession stand items:
|Food/Drink||Calories||Sugar (grams per serving)||Fat (grams per serving)|
|Soda, 12 ounces||140||40||0|
|Gatorade, 20 ounces||130||35||0|
|Hot Chocolate, 8 ounces||150||28||1.5|
|Soft pretzel, 1 medium||210||0||2|
|Popcorn, small bag||200||0||9|
|Cheese pizza, large slice||275||4||10|
|Skittles, small bag||250||47||2.5|
|Kit Kat, 1.5 ounce package||210||21||11|
|Nutri-grain bar, 1.3 ounce bar||120||11||3|
Do young athletes really burn that many calories?
The common belief is that if a child plays a sport, then he must burn a lot of calories, and may even have more leeway for unhealthy food. As the incidence of obesity is rising in young athletes, some researchers are beginning to look at how much time young athletes actually spend being active in their sport.
- One study looked at soccer, baseball and softball practices for kids aged 7 to 14 years and found that athletes were only participating in about 45 minutes of physical activity, accounting for only 46% of the time allotted for sport practice.
- Another study found that young athletes aged 6 to 12 years engaged in about 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity, leaving the rest of practice or competition (52% of the time) occupied by sedentary or light-intensity activity.
What all this means is that young athletes may not be as active as we think, nor are they burning enough calories through sports to justify junk food or treats from the concession stand.
So before you send your little athlete to the concession stand, ask yourself these questions: Where does this treat fit into the day? Does it add nutrition or take away from my child’s healthy diet and athletic efforts?
What’s YOUR stand on concessions?
Jill Castle, MS, RDN is a childhood nutrition expert and author of Eat Like a Champion: Performance Nutrition for Your Young Athlete who blogs at Just The Right Byte. She lives with her husband and four children in New Canaan, CT.