“Snack Smart” During Practices, Games

By Wanda Rutledge, Ph.D.

It’s time to tackle the next of our 2012 Resolutions, using youth sports organizations to combat childhood obesity by encouraging kids to snack smart.

It is generally accepted that youth sports are valuable for children because sports get their bodies moving and provide for optimal growth and brain development.

These positive attributes can, and are, often negated by the snacks provided during out of school time programs and after sports games and practices.

Just watch what happens on the sidelines of a game or practice and you’ll see what I mean. Oftentimes, players will be provided a snack that includes juice, soda, a sports drink, chips, pretzels or other pre-packaged goodies.

These snacks do not provide proper nutrition but rather a sugary offering that can lead to short-term and long-term problems, not the least of which is fatigue, irritability, moodiness, obesity, diabetes, and a lack of motivation.

Statistics show kids are just not getting enough fruits and vegetables in their diets. Experts recommend that children eat five or more servings of fruit and vegetables every day.

A serving is one cup of fruit or veggies.  Only 16% of children ages 6 to 11 meet these guidelines in a day, and only one in five high school children, while one third of children ages 4 to 19 eat fast food every day. For kids and teens, about a third of their vegetable consumption is fried potatoes (chips, French fries), and a little more than a third of the fruit consumption comes from fruit juice. 

What Can Your Organization Do?

  • Suggest a team or league snack policy for parents. Print and distribute the policy or e-mail it so everyone knows what to bring.
  • Seek out farm markets and local restaurants and make a deal with them for “bruised” or “ugly” fruit and veggies to supply the team or league (it might even be free)!
  • If children balk at substituting sugar and fats for more healthy fare, wait until they are hungry to provide fruit and veggie snacks. Break the habit of food as a punishment a reward.

Super Foods To Consider

Fruit: sliced apples, orange wedges, melon cubes, berries, grapes, peaches, pears and watermelon. If you need a dip, try yogurt.

Vegetables: baby carrots, red/yellow/orange pepper slices, celery sticks, cucumber slices, broccoli or cauliflower bites. If you need a dip try hummus or chunky salsa.

So, the next time there is an activity, match, game or practice, bring on the fruit and veggies. Throw in some paper towels and hand wipes. It’s cheaper and healthier.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Wanda L. Rutledge, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor, Business Administration at New Jersey City University (NJCU) in Jersey City, New Jersey with more than 30 years of experience as a senior national non-profit sports management executive. An entrepreneur, sports management and sports marketing consultant, she is the former Deputy Executive Director for USA Baseball and the current Special Events Director of the National Amateur Baseball Federation. She has been president of the National Council of Youth Sports (NCYS) since 1990. Her doctoral dissertation was a baseline study about leadership in amateur sports entitled, “Who is Leading Amateur Sports in America Today and How Well Do They Practice Exemplary Leadership.” Contact Wanda at wanda.rutledge53@gmail.com.