What Happened to Healthy Sport Snacks?

When I was a kid, soccer snack was a bunch of oranges cut into quarters and a cooler full of water at half-time. Softball snack was equally as interesting and I don’t remember ever getting a snack after basketball. A sports snack was simple and basic, even though I remember hearing my mom complain about having to cut up all of those oranges right before a game. If oranges were hard, what would my mom think of the elaborate snacks offered now after my daughter’s games? The standard seems to be a drink and three “things.” It’s not a meal, but the snack probably equals the total recommended daily caloric consumption for kids, and all of it doused in high fructose corn syrup. There’s juice, cookies, chips and more. There seems to be an understanding that doughnuts are unacceptable, but really, doughnuts may be better than what’s being offered.

We’ve always tried to let this go, but we’ve recently been forced to confront the matter. Like a small number of other parents, we bring some healthy options during our snack week, but whenever a snack like water, fruit and some crackers or organic yogurt is offered, the kids usually look, but then walk away empty handed and disappointed. My daughter’s softball league allows teams to either bring their own snacks or buy into a plan where for $2 a game, the girls are given tickets to redeem for specific items at the snack shack. Our team last year opted to avoid the snack shack plan, which I didn’t really have an opinion about until I had to work the snack shack one Saturday morning. The girls were given choices between juice, Gogurt, chips, Teddy Grahams, fruit flavored snacks (basically a gummy) and two pieces of fun sized candy bars. It felt dirty handing this stuff out to little girls at 10 a.m. Nor was the irony lost that on one hand we were encouraging athletics and exercise, but then on the other, we were giving them bags of sugar. What is wrong with this picture?

We got an email at the start of the past softball season informing us that our team would be participating in the snack shack plan and immediately I felt queasy. My childhood friends and I weren’t disappointed when given sliced oranges and water as a team snack because that was the only option. Now kids expect more and while kids – at least my daughter – can put pressure on parents to bring a “good” (meaning yummy) snack, the fault lies with the adults. The town next to ours has a healthy snack policy for soccer, restricting what constitutes an acceptable team snack. It takes parents coming together to agree that maybe store bought Rice Krispy Treats with a side of Doritos (a snack my daughter received last year) is not okay to hand out as the kids run off the field. I don’t mind the parents who bring a box of doughnuts to a game once a season because, to me, an occasional treat is different than an anticipated weekly occurrence.

I decided to fight against participating in the snack shack program, even though I knew it would be much easier to go along with it despite my concerns. If not one of the snack shack items would be allowed in my daughter’s school lunch by her teacher, then it’s probably not a good snack in general. We were the only family on our team to opt out of the snack shack program and each week my daughter whined and complained as her teammates scurried off to the snack shack while I offered her water, apple slices and a Z Bar. It was one thing to protest our participation with the team or the league, but the bigger battle was be with my daughter. Parenting is about making the tough decisions…at least that’s what I told myself as I walked off the field with my daughter complaining about how I had ruined her day by denying her mini Oreos.

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