As a retired professional athlete, sports have played a very important role in my life. And it continues to play a big role in my family.
My kids are involved in hockey, tennis and cheerleading. Our evenings and weekends are full of youth sporting events. Like most of you.
Along with all the sports events, life can get pretty hectic with work, school, lunches, supper, house chores...the list goes on!
Sometimes I really do feel like this. :-)
All kidding aside, I know we are all busy, but we need to stop letting the busyness be an excuse for feeding our kids crap while they participate in sports.
I recently researched some of the common snack foods being served at children’s sporting events.
Let me tell you – I was shocked.
Folks, we’re seriously dealing with a snacking epidemic.
Common Snacks at Youth Sporting Events and Why They Suck
Here are just a few of the common snacks served at youth sporting events and why I think they suck!
“Fruit juice”, Soda and Gatorade
Most fruit juices are not made with 100% fruit juice. High fructose corn syrup is the #1 ingredient. These drinks are also filled with harmful dyes, additives and preservatives.
Coaching hockey the last few years, I have seen my fair share of Gatorade in the dressing rooms and on the bench.
I get it, Sidney Crosby drinks Gatorade, that means our kids can drink it. You might want to think again.
Before you buy that next bottle, make sure you do your research.
- Cause weight gain.
- To much vitamin A can lead to vitamin toxicity.
- High blood pressure. One bottle of Gatorade contains 800mg of sodium, which is 33% of your normal daily recommended intake.
- Gatorodade uses dyes in their formulas to give their drink that blue, red, yellow or orange color. Dye’s have been shown to be harmful in multiple ways.
Check out the research yourself here, here and here. (Yikes)
Do you really want your child drinking this?
Muffins, Granola Bars and Doughnuts
Yes, I know Tim Horton's does so much for youth sports and I am very grateful for their kind contributions to minor hockey, soccer and other sports.
However, if a child is playing sports 2-4 times per week, I really don't think it is a good idea to be eating a muffin, doughnuts and/or timbits before/after every game or practice.
SO MUCH SUGAR!
Did you know that muffins actually contain more sugar than cupcakes? We’re not doing our kids any favors with these foods. They mess with blood sugar levels making our kids tired and cranky, contributing to obesity and Type 2 Diabetes.
The same goes for granola bars. Most of those are candy bars in disguise.
I get it, they taste good!!
Yes, our family does eat french fries once in awhile as a treat, but not often.
Do we feel deprived? No.
When we do eat potatoes at home, we usually roast them and most of the times mix them in with sweet potatoes so we are getting more fiber and vitamins.
I know it is difficult when you are on the road traveling to tournaments/competitions, especially when every kids menu has fries on it, but if you can, try and stay away from the fries as much as possible.
They are full of processed fats, and regularly eating these common snacks can lead to early-onset hypertension and heart disease.
Here is a great article on why your kids should never eat fries.
Freezies and Candy
This one blows my mind!
Why do we celebrate success in sport with Freezies, Skittles and Suckers?
Call my a grumpy old man, but I would not be giving these out as a reward for doing something well.
Like the muffins and doughnuts, if your child is active in their sports 2-4 times per week, imagine the sugar that is piling up when they have these snacks every time?
I know these snacks are popular with kids because the bright colors make them super fun! The problem is that these foods contain a ton of sugar, and those bright colors do not come from nature.
I won't lie, but my 8 year old daughter suckered me into buying some JUMBO Freezies one day. I am already working on a new recipe so she will never ask for those again (see below). She better like them, because either way I am not buying those JUMBO Freezies again.
5 Healthy Snacks for Optimal Athletic Performance
Our kids should be served healthy snacks whenever possible. The following snacks reduce the risk of disease and contain nutrients that promote health and optimal performance.
My game day recommendations include:
1. Fresh Fruits
Perfect for satisfying a sweet tooth. Oranges, bananas, berries, kiwis, watermelon, the list goes on and on.
A recovery meal or snack after an event can help to replenish their energy stores and repair any muscle and tissue damage. Post-game foods should be rich in carbohydrates and moderate in protein, similar to a pre-game meal or snack.
Fruit works just prior to the event and after.
2. Mixed Veggies
Carrots, celery, cucumbers and broccoli. These veggies provide the crunch we crave.
For example, cucumbers help you stay hydrated. They are 95.2 percent water, which means that a 5-ounce serving contains 4.8 ounces or 150 ml water. That’s already about 26 percent of your daily water intake through food.
One of the most important things to remember when playing sports is staying hydrated. Eat a few cucumbers before and during your activity and you should be good to go.
My daughter who suckered me into buying the JUMBO Freezies loves cucumber and she probably eats 1 full cucumber a day.
Does that cancel the Freezie out? :-)
Make sure you buy organic cucumbers, because they are on the Dirty Dozen.
3. Greek Yogurt
I personally don't eat a ton of dairy, however, I would prefer the kids eat some yogurt over a bag of Skittles for their half time snack.
Greek yogurt contains almost double the protein as normal yogurt but about half as much raw sugar as regular yogurt. Provided your child isn’t lactose-intolerant, this should provide them with an energy boost that’s easy on the stomach.
The healthy bacteria also gives kids a healthy immune system so they can play all season long.
Of course, I’m a huge advocate of the green smoothie, but any smoothie with fresh fruit in it is better than fake fruit juice.
Smoothies are the perfect pre-game snack. I would recommend drinking your smoothie 2 hours before you hit the stage, court, field or ice.
If you are feeling real crazy you can combine all your fruits, veggies and greek yogurt into your smoothie. This way you are getting everything all at once.
Here is a fave with my kids, named after Canada's number 1 tennis player.
The Milos: Pre-Game Smoothie Recipe Named After Milos Raonic (We love Milos)
1/2 Cup of Pineapple
1/2 Cup of Mango
1/2 Cup of Greek Yogurt
1 Tablespoon of Honey
1 Tablespoon of Chia Seeds
1 Cup of Water
5. Homemade Freezies
Oh, we have not tried these yet, but they look so good!!!
Triple berry freezies, the kids will love these!
To all the busy moms and dads reading this – I know you care for your children so much, but we have to take some action.
Let’s do what we can to bring healthy foods to sporting events.
We don’t have to get extreme. All we have to do is keep adding healthy food and eventually we’ll crowd out all of the bad stuff.
Are you with me? Let's get a "Double Thumbs Up" for healthy snacks from our kids.
Are really healthy snacks provided for your kids at their youth sporting events? What healthy food do you think children should snack on for optimal athletic performance?
I’d love to hear from you.