Somewhere between 1979 and 2013 things changed in kids’ sports. Being able to participate in team sports has always been a joy, a privilege and a right of passage for most children. Friendships were formed; lessons and life-skills were developed.
However, I have noticed a new, undesirable lesson that is being taught inadvertently to our kids. It happens week after week, from soccer season all the way through to baseball season.
SPORTS = JUNK FOOD
I know I am not alone in the disappointment, frustration and bewilderment I feel when the snack presented to the kids post-game is a sugar-filled piece of junk. I asked some parents to let me know precise examples of what has been given to their kids at the end of games. Here are just a few:
- Timbits and doughnuts
- Candy bags filled with Tootsie Rolls, sours, gummy bears
- Rice Crispy Squares
- Chips Ahoy Cookies
- Wagon Wheels
- Jumbo Freezies
- And the ubiquitous juice box
Is this really the message we want to send our kids? That they deserve a reward for participating in sports?
If any doubt remains about the evils of sugar consider the following.
The average sugar intake in children aged between 4- 8 years old is a whopping 21 teaspoons of sugar per day. The American Heart Association recommends that children of this age intake no more than 3 tsp per day (12-15 grams).
So how much is that?
- 1 single Chips Ahoy cookie = over 3 tsp of sugar
- 1 single Wagon Wheel cookie = over 4 tsp of sugar
- 1 medium cupcake = between 4-6 tsp of sugar
- 1 juice box = 4.5 – 5.5 tsp of sugar
Many children are becoming addicted to sugar and eating way beyond the recommended amount. This over-consumption can lead to weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes and even early signs of heart disease. In children? I hear you ask. Yes, in children.1,2
I can remember the days when kids would not come in for dinner because they were too busy playing, be that kicking the ball around, playing back- alley hockey or simply climbing trees with friends after school. Food was secondary to play. Now it seems that in order to play, there must be some sort of food or treat involved.
As parents we enroll our children in these team sports as we are aware of the benefits and may have wonderful memories of playing on a team ourselves in our youth.
Aside from the obvious physical benefits of sports, such as cardio fitness and development of physical skills the other benefits of sports include:
- Learning the three “Ps”… practice, patience, and persistence.
- Forming friendships and camaraderie
- Breeding resilience
- Building cooperation, teamwork and leadership skills
- Providing a sense of belonging
- Increasing self-esteem and self concept
- Helping overcome shyness
- Instilling respect towards peers, referees and sports officials
If you ask your child why they like soccer or basketball or softball, the usual answer is: “because it’s fun”.
They do not need the treats.
They have become accustomed to a sugary snack post-game and now it is expected. However, if we as parents, coaches, managers and league organizers, take a stand and introduce a Fruit Only Policy we can bring back the focus of the game to FUN and not FOOD.
- Cut into segments.
1. Kosova EC, Auinger P, Bremer A. The relationships between sugar-sweetened beverage intake and cardiometabolic markers in young children.J Acad Nutr Diet. 2013 Feb;113(2):219-27. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2012.10.020.
2. Obesity, Insulin Resistance, Diabetes, and Cardiovascular Risk in Children. An American Heart Association Scientific Statement From the Atherosclerosis, Hypertension, and Obesity in the Young Committee Julia Steinberger, MD; Stephen R. Daniels, MD, PhD http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/107/10/1448.longShare This: