The fall recreational soccer leagues are now behind us. And with them, the nutritional pitfalls of post-soccer snacks.
If you’re a parent with a kid who plays some kind of sport, chances are you know what I’m talking about. For some reason, snacks have become such a ubiquitous part of recreational sports that questioning their necessity is met with the same disdain as, say, suggesting that our children play their next game with their hands tied behind their backs.
Not that I’ve ever suggested such a thing – kids playing with their hands tied behind their backs, I mean. But I have, on several occasions, tried to gently convince whomever will listen that the post-game goodie grabs do more harm than good.
For instance, this year, in an e-mail to every parent and coach on our soccer contact list, I gently pointed out that the games, which last a total of 60 minutes, usually occur just before or just after the evening meal, so snacks at either end are either appetite-spoiling or redundant. (And I wondered to myself if some kids’ insulin levels are so volatile that they can’t last an hour or so without consuming calories.) But accepting that many recipients of my e-mail would resist bucking tradition by eliminating the snacks entirely, I offered some middle ground: Let’s at least make them healthy. (Who could disagree with that?) And so there would be no misunderstanding about what I meant by “healthy,” I provided some examples: apples, oranges, grapes, carrots, or maybe some yogurt or string cheese. I also reminded them that since all the kids come to the games with plenty of drinking water, an additional (sickeningly sweet, brilliantly colored, preternaturally fizzy) beverage is not necessary.
I hit the send button. And waited for a reply. A “thank you.” An “I’m with you on this.” A “right on.” But, no. Nothing. Not one response.
Figuring, optimistically, that the silence meant implicit agreement, I approached the end of the first game with hope. Until I saw the snack being passed around: it was “Froot” Roll-Ups (I refuse to use the proper spelling of the word “fruit” because these did not resemble anything that grows on a shrub or tree -- they looked, instead, like 12-inch sections of a towing strap) and cartons of Sunny D (a drink that contains more high-fructose corn syrup than juice). I was puzzled, not knowing if the parent(s) responsible for these items (A) actually thought they were healthy or (B) didn’t really give a hoot. Didn’t they read my e-mail? It was hard not to take it personally.
Game two was about the same: the snack was Quaker Chocolate Chip Granola Bars (containing partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oils, corn syrup, corn syrup solids and three kinds of preservatives) and cartons of white grape juice. (Hello? Just because it has the same brand name as oatmeal doesn't make it healthy; and just because it's juice from an actual fruit doesn't mean anyone should be gulping it down six ounces at a time.)
But it was game three that sent me over the edge. Or, more specifically, the blue Gatorade served after the game. There was something about that color – a cross between acetylene and antifreeze – so close to my children’s lips that turned me into a raging shrew. I grabbed the bottles out of their hands and turned them upside down, pouring their entire contents into the grass, half expecting it to shrivel and turn brown as a result. My kids were horrified (rightly so) and told me what a cruel and awful mother I was. In retrospect, I’m sure we created a scene that other families are still using as an example of how not to behave in public.
After that, my kids were afraid to accept any other post-soccer snacks. If they were hungry, they knew to wait until we got home.
And so it went until the next to the last game of the season, when it was my turn to bring the snacks.
I tried, one last time, to make my point.
I packed a sack full of organic apples, picked just a few days before from our neighbor’s backyard orchard. (You can’t get fresher or more local that that!) I also brought single-serving Honest Kids organic “Berry Berry Good Lemonade,” (sold in BPA-free pouches), and organic chocolate-chip Cliff Bars at $1.29 a pop.
When the game was over, I proudly opened the bag of treats and began handing them out.
The only kids who took apples were my own. Seven kids took lemonade pouches. Five took Cliff bars. The rest, apparently, either didn't want to spoil their appetites for dinner, or had already eaten before they came to soccer. Yes. I'm sure that was it. Or so I told myself.
I don’t know what kind of snack was served at the last game; luckily, it was raining too hard to stick around and find out.
For more about sports-related snacking, read Harlan Coben's New York Times op-ed, "Will Play for Food."
This post was proudly submitted to Food Renegade's Fight Back Friday.