This is a guest blog post by Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD
I really didn’t want to be That Mom. You know who I mean. But the soccer snacks drove me over the edge.
Let me tell you about soccer. The Capri Sun flows like water at soccer. There are Pringles. And Ritz Bits. And Oreos. And cupcakes. Sometimes Oreos and cupcakes.
After two years of watching this parade of processed food march onto the field every Saturday morning, I finally spoke up and became That Mom.
And that’s when things got interesting.
I started by contacting my son’s coach before the season started and expressing my concerns. With his blessing, I emailed the team parents and proposed a fruit-only snack policy. Parents were asked to take turns bringing fresh fruit for after-game snacks, and kids would bring their own water to drink. No juice boxes, no gummy fruit snacks—and if parents wanted to bring chips or cookies, they were asked to keep it off the field. (You can read my letter here.)
Though I braced myself for a revolt, the team parents were unanimously positive. The kids ate every last piece of watermelon I brought after the first game. No one asked, “Where are the cookies?” Nobody complained. In the following weeks, we had bananas, apples, fruit kebabs, and tubs of orange wedges. One mom told me her son was eating strawberries for the first time ever.
All was right in the world.
Or so I naively thought. When some friends of mine approached their own teams with the same snack idea, it was met with outright hostility. “If you want fruit for your kid, bring it yourself,” one was told. The kids deserve their treats, the team parents said. Two of my friends were all but ostracized from the other team moms for suggesting they do away with the Fritos and Kool-Aid.
When I approached the soccer league with my fruit-only policy idea, they said they weren’t in the business of telling coaches and parents what snacks they could and couldn’t bring. When soccer ended and t-ball season began, I approached the league’s board of directors. They hated my idea so much they didn’t even bother voting on it. Who was I to tell parents what was best for their kids, they wanted to know.
I was flummoxed. Was there some kind of confusion about whether oranges wedges and water were actually better for children than Doritos and Blue #2 Fruit Punch? When other parents brought this kind of crap to games every week, weren’t they deciding what was best for my child too? And didn’t leagues have all kinds of other policies and requirements, like shin guards and cleats for every player?
The problem is, it’s not just Doritos at soccer. Kids are getting this kind of junk everywhere they go: in preschool, classrooms, church, clubs. And our kids, the ones washing down cupcakes with day-glo fruit drink at 9am every Saturday, belong to the first generation in modern history not expected to live as long as their parents because of their eating habits.
Because of the way we’re feeding them.
Because our society has invented millions of artificial reasons to celebrate with “special” foods.
Because we’ve programmed them to expect dessert every time they gather in a group or break into a slow jog.
If you’re mad about the state of sports snacks too, talk to your child’s coach before the first practice. I’ve found that having the coach’s support makes all the difference in the world.
What I’ve also discovered: It’s not the children we need to work on—it’s the parents. While the kids seem to accept the absence of Cheez Puffs, the moms and dads take it as a personal affront.
At a recent soccer game one Saturday, I overheard a player talking with her mom. The girl, clutching her post-game snack of juice drink and crackers, had just run over to her mother on the sidelines. The mom looked at her snack and was incredulous. “What, no chips?”
Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, freelance writer, educator, and mom of two who blogs at Real Mom Nutrition. She writes frequently about health and nutrition for consumer magazines such as Parents, Fitness, and Family Circle.