For many young athletes, it's the highlight of the game. Whether served at halftime, after the game or both, snacks always play an important role in youth sports -- or at least a popular role.
When I was younger, my snack consisted of a couple of orange slices and a green Gatorade. Back then, there was only one brand of sports drink and one flavor of it. But the bottom line is both the snack and drink were relatively healthy. So far, five weeks into my 4-year-old son's soccer season, the unhealthiest snack I saw a parent hand out was a six-pack of Oreos and a soda, followed by a big Tootsie Roll. I kid you not.
The original halftime snack, which was intended to provide a quick, nutritious energy boost, has disappeared. Instead, it has been replaced by the elaborate post-game spread. It has become a competition among parents to see what snack can put the biggest smiles on kids' faces.
I asked a mother, whose 8-year-old daughter plays travel soccer and 6-year-old son participates in the local recreation soccer league, what her least favorite part of youth sports is so far this season. Her answer: the snacks.
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"I don't understand why we are giving these young kids cookies and soda, usually right before lunch or dinner," she proclaimed. "Or any snack for that matter. They don't need it. They all carry their own water bottles and all the families I know either have just eaten a meal or will right after the game."
Hydration is important before, during and after a game. Drinking soda is not. Likewise, a player should never play in a game on an empty stomach, but neither should it be filled with Oreos.
It's hard for a parent to tell a child he or she can't participate in the post-game ritual. I used to cringe whenever my oldest son would come running over to me after the game showing off his sugar-filled bag of something and asking me to pop open his soda, which I did.
Since banning snacks will never happen, leagues and/or teams should consider publishing a list of acceptable snacks. In addition to improving the nutritional value of what's offered, the list would eliminate the health-conscious parents from becoming unpopular when it's their turn to provide the snack.
I'm the first to admit I love an Oreo chased by a soda. But since the players never share anyway, we might as well provide a healthy snack.