Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Snack Attack in the Snack Culture

Every spring, when Little League games begin, three little words strike terror into the hearts of health-conscious parents all over the country: post game snacks. When I hear the phrase, visions of neon colored sugar water and Costco valu-paks brimming with sodium and artificial colors fill my head.

I try to advocate balance as my son’s chief dietician. As my mom says, one bag of junk won’t ruin your body. As a result, I don’t forbid Thor from taking a bag of Doritos or a bottle of Gatorade but instead let him decide for himself. Fortunately, he usually politely declines knowing that healthier and tastier alternatives await at home (Greater Than coconut water and Tia tortilla chips are delicious natural alternatives to these chemically enhanced treats).

This year, however, is different. My husband, our team’s coach, and I paid for Purple Asparagus to sponsor the team. Forgoing the folksy tone, I’d adopted for past emails as snack mom, I drove straight to the heart of the matter. From my email:

“Some of you may have seen a recent article in the Trib suggesting that kids who play organized sports eat more junk food because of the treat culture pervasive in youth leagues. I’d like us not to be that team. To encourage that, I want to give a few guidelines.

  • The post game nosh is a snack, not a treat. If our team track record persists, they’ll be plenty of time for those (both of the kid and adult variety) towards the end of the season - the White Sox like a good party. But after a game, the kids need something to replenish their energy, not send them into sugar shock.
  • Please be conscious of allergy concerns. If any of your kids has a food allergy, please let me know. I know we all want our kids to be safe and will accommodate any food allergies.
  • Let’s try to avoid foods with artificial colors, high fructose corn syrup, and lots of loaded sugar and salt. I promise I won’t bring your kid kale chips if you don’t bring mine Cheetos.”

You know what? Thus far, we’ve had awesome snacks ranging from a banana and a bottle of water to homemade pumpkin whoopie pies.We’ve got a winning record not only on the field but also in the snack realm. Do I attribute this to my well-crafted email? I wouldn’t flatter myself. I think we lucked into a great group of parents. And, perhaps, sometimes folks just need a little encouragement to pass up the potato chips in favor of the apple chips.

Pink Lemonade
Serves 4

For three years running, we’ve served Pink Lemonade as the beverage portion of my snack rotation. Ordinarily, I use strawberries to create the hue, but this year I had a mushy blood orange to rid my fridge of. It turned the lemonade a salmon-y shade of pink.

1 blood orange
3 lemons, approximately
2 to 3 tablespoons of sugar syrup

Juice the blood orange into a 4-cup measuring cup. Add enough lemon juice to the blood orange juice to make 1/3 cup of juice. Fill water into the cup to measure 3 cups total of liquid. Stir in sugar syrup. If the lemonade is too tart to your taste, add more sugar syrup gradually.


  1. Love this! I always volunteer for the first snack so I can help "set the tone." It IS possible to feed them healthy snacks that they will enjoy!

  2. I once took mini water bottles and whole organic apples as soccer snack, around age 5 (young enough to still have their front teeth lol). There were kids who had _never_ had a fresh apple before. One kid took a bite and said "MOM! This is GOOD!" He also asked for a second apple. He got it.

    And it's not the Fritos that kill me. It's the CANDY. Bags full of straight-up candy and gumballs. I mean really.

  3. I love this post. This is a *huge* problem, and it has driven me crazy for years. Thankfully, for my 10 year old, we not longer bring snacks for after the games. However, on the flip side, he has recently joined a travel baseball team. We are at the field for anywhere from 3 to 10 hours on the weekend. *ALL* the boys drink Gatorade / Powerade and eat from the concession stand. I really do not want my son doing that, but he wants to fit in. It is really hard. Right now, I pack a cooler and we have been limiting him to just a couple junk items, but I would really like to ban it all together. It's the "fitting in" part that is so hard for him.

  4. THANK YOU! This post just motivated me to finally send that e-mail I've been meaning to send the the YMCA. I have four kids, ages 14, 12, 9, and 7, and this is something that has bothered me for years! It happens in virtually every league we've been in. I hope that by sending that email I can open a community discussion about the habits we are teaching our kids.

  5. Wendy, I struggle with that as well. So far, Thor's stood his ground, but I'm waiting for that moment when a kid makes fun of him because of how he eats. I have found that bringing natural alternatives to the crap seems to lessen his burden.

  6. Love it! Our boys are 1, 2, and 4 so we are just entering the world sports! I will be forwarding this to our soccer coach.

  7. I cringe every time my kid gets a snack after baseball. I have found better alternatives. Cute kid sized water bottles are the best, but Walmart also sells a case of gatorade that has no artificial colors or HFCS for $8 or so. So I got that and stretch island fruit leathers as the snack I brought. Unfortunately our game was rained out and we haven't made it up yet, so I don't yet know how this "different" snack will be received. I am hoping parents will marvel at gatorade that isn't lime green or bright red and follow suit once they know it exists.

    1. Can you tell me more about the walmart drink, is it actually gatorade or another brand? do you find it in same aisle?

    2. If Jennifer doesn't get back to you, I've seen this product http://www.gatorade.com/default.aspx#g-series-natural on the shelves. Knudsen, the juice company, also makes a sports drink that uses sea salt as the replenishing ingredient.

  8. I wonder when it changed? My kids aren't in organized sports yet, but when I was a kid I remember getting orange slices after almost every game. Occasionally someone brought apples instead.

  9. A follow-up to my above comment: The YMCA responded within the hour and said that they are committed to making healthy changes and will be discussing ways to implement this over the summer while there are no sports leagues going on. They will be in contact with me as they make decisions! Woo Hoo!

  10. Jeanette, What a terrific follow up. Thanks for sharing! That's such good news.

  11. Kristi Ann, I was never in organized sports as a kid (book worm that I was). My husband has the same recollection. That's what we bring to soccer games for 1/2 time.

  12. Jennifer, I was so happy to see the kids react to the first snack of the season (the banana and kid size water). They loved it. They were just so happy to be out there again after a year without baseball. I'll bet the reaction will be a positive one. Hopefully, you'll report back.

  13. When I've spoken up about snacks I've had quite a bit of support. In fact three of my boys teams in the past year opted not to have snack (1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade teams)and parents have learned to bring an appropriate snack for their own kid. Many parents are not wanting their kids to be given so much junk but don't want to rock the boat and just let it slide. When someone speaks up, they will come forward with support, in my opinion. My kids have allergies to common foods so I think it helped motivate me to suggest eliminating or opting for healthier options. Given the allergies, my kids are used to not eating what many of their peers eat. Coconut water is their big sports drink of choice and one I can feel great about ... just to pricey to buy for the whole team and the zillion siblings that come out for snack time!

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