Like many of you, I just signed my son up for spring recreational league soccer. After bouncing around between Taekwondo, swimming, YMCA basketball, and soccer, we settled on soccer as our sport to focus on for right now. We love the team aspect of it, I love that the season is short and the coaches in this league are honestly amazing.
I also love that I played soccer so I can actually practice with him while being moderately competent ;)
But oh, man, the soccer snacks… they’re kind of out of control. Can we make healthy soccer snacks? Or maybe even do away with soccer snacks altogether?
Let’s tone down the soccer snacks
In this age of Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram it’s easy to get sucked into thinking that every mom has endless amounts of creativity, energy, and every kid deserves a neon-colored whipped sugar on a regular basis.
Childhood is fun! I want to be the cool mom!
But this age also is full of food allergies, hyperactivity, sensitivities, and parents feeling conflicted between health and fun. So can we tone it down a bit?
I know- they’re your kids. You enjoy doing this kind of stuff. Your kids love it.
… And some kids may only be playing soccer because they like the snacks
Fun food the way you express your creativity. And know what? At your child’s birthday party, at your holiday cookie decorating party, and on your Facebook page I’m really excited to see all that creativity- I think you’re amazing.
I enjoy doing more elaborate and creative food with my kids too- and if I have a fun food that I’m wanting to serve to friends, I clear it with their parents first if it’s full of sugar or other less-than-ideal ingredients. If they don’t give the okay, I do the project when it’s just us.
Soccer Snacks do not need to be a big deal.
Actually, I know this isn’t a big deal because our local soccer team does a GREAT job only providing healthy snacks- many of which are on the list below. The focus is on being outside, sportsmanship, getting energy out, and enjoying our teammates while we learn a fun sport.
However, I am lucky to live in a very crunchy neighborhood. I see from the sidelines what other teams bring as snacks, and I also see some of the other parents cringing inside with a plastered on smile and a ‘oh wow! Look at those cupcakes!’ at the game that ends right before lunchtime.
Yes, I do need to teach my own children our health values
And I’m teaching them that there are some things that are sold in grocery stores that cause cancer, are addictive, and are contributing to the rise in childhood-onset type II diabetes, obesity, and lifelong chronic health problems for everyone.
I’m even teaching them that different families have different priorities, and it’s important not to act like we are doing anything better than anyone else.
This gets a little confusing for everyone involved when children are handed bright sugary treats right and left, especially at something that is supposed to be a healthy activity.
Those who want to limit it to a special occasion because their children’s health are affected by it struggle with junk food being so much a part of the weekend soccer culture.
And it’s hard to keep my kids from feeling bad when I have carrot sticks and I’m not letting them eat the cupcake that you just handed them. But my kids just can’t handle it.
Healthy Soccer snacks or No Soccer Snacks will be okay
Presumably, we are going to be in the car for 20 minutes tops before we’re home and getting our small athlete lunch.
The problem with sports drinks/gels/bars with little soccer players
Through effective marketing, we may be conditioned to think that any amount of exertion needs immediate ‘replenishment’ through gels, sports drinks, and energy bars.
Kids play. They play hard, it’s part of childhood. Unless they have an outside health condition, they most likely will be okay with plain water, and filling up on needed nutrients at their next meal. They certainly will be okay without the food dye.
We don’t want our kids to be afraid of exertion. We want them to enjoy play- sweaty, dirty, hard play – without their next thought being about food.
Or we want to treat our children as mature adults. Dad gets a Gatorade after his 20-mile Saturday morning bike ride, so we want to show our 8-year-old that he is ‘just like dad’. This is a choice that you will make for your family, and whatever you do I support.
I just ask that you please don’t force me to have to be the bad guy every weekend over it.
Let’s bring the focus back to sportsmanship, friends, and making a habit of enjoying the soccer game
Healthy soccer snack Ideas
That are also allergy friendly soccer snack ideas
- Orange Wedges (the classic!)
- Watermelon Wedges (seedless… because we all know what happens when we give little kids watermelon seeds to spit ;) )
- Grapes, berries, or apple slices.
- String Cheese (I know, not super allergy friendly, but it’s easier to convince a dairy-allergic child to trade string cheese than a cupcake piled high with sprinkles and frosting)
- Homemade popcorn (See notes with #4)
- Sunflower Seeds
- Snap Peas, carrot sticks, or cucumber slices
- 100% Fruit Leather
- Applesauce Squeezies
- Bottled Water or 100% Fruit Juice
If you are creatively inspired and want to make fancy healthy soccer snacks:
- Ants on a log (Sunbutter is pretty allergy friendly)
- Layered Fruit Cups
- Fruit Kebabs (in team colors?)
- Personalized Bananas
- Fresh Fruit Snack Packs (attach a wet wipe if you really want to score points with the other moms!)
- Hummus and Veggies
- Clementine Pumpkins (great for those fall games)
- Fruit Smoothies (keep in a cooler)
Know what’s cooler than providing junky food at soccer games?
Watching kids go nuts over cucumbers, clementines, and apples. You’re doing a good job, mama. Your kids haven’t seen nearly the amount of commercials for processed food that you have, and they don’t have the decades of baggage surrounding processed food that you have.
Kids will be kids, and I think you’ll be surprised how often ‘Oh I LOVE snap peas!’ comes out of their mouth as they show off a bit by shoving a handful in their mouth.
I’m not judging you
Zero percent judgement here. I really am passionate about helping the people who want to change their eating habits, but if that’s not something you are called to do at the moment, there is not any judgement from me. If you feel judgement, that is coming from somewhere OTHER than me. I promise, I am not. I am just doing things differently from you. And that’s okay.
On a similar topic, I’m not doing this for attention. Or to be different. Or because I’m bored. My children can’t handle junk food. It would be easier for me to go with the flow and let them eat it, but for whatever reason they can’t and I get tired of being the bad guy.
It’s not 1988 any more
We know better now. We know that candy and junk food isn’t just empty calories that get burned off when kids run around. We know that sugar is addicting, that the pattern of eating junk food daily sets our children up for lifelong habits that will be harder for them to break.
We can focus on so many things other than food
I’m not asking for anything that costs anything more than you are already spending.
To be honest, doing away with snacks completely would simplify things so much… but I don’t think most people are going to go with that. I can be realistic ;)
Our children will be okay after running around for 45 minutes without immediate sources of sugar.
I’m not asking for you to feed my children – that’s my job.
I’m just asking for people involved in the activities designed for healthy fun habits to PLEASE stop handing children junk food.
How about we just enjoy the game?