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You don’t need to look further than your local soccer field or hockey arena to see that there is something drastically wrong with the way kids eat today. When it comes to food, the expectations set for kids are very different from those many adults set for themselves.
If you’re like most adults who exercise, after a workout you’ll grab a healthy shake, piece of fruit and or handful of nuts – or wait for mealtime. After treating one’s body to a vigorous workout (and attempting to shed a few calories) the last thing most people want to do is to immediately fill up with sugar and empty calories. However, when it comes to our kids, we’ve decided that post-workout is the perfect time to “reward” them for their efforts with “sport snacks.”
While we hope that sport snacks started off with healthier intentions – kids take turns bringing pieces of fruit after a game – after sports snack time has evolved into one massive post-game sugar rush. Parents take turns bringing a drink and snack for the team to share after a game. It’s not unusual for the refreshments to include Kool-Aid Jammers or sugar-laden “sports” drink – I’ve even seen one parent bring Red Bull for an entire team of four- to six-year-olds after a hockey game. (No joke!) If you’re lucky, it might be fruit juice, but did you know that eight ounces of fruit juice contains 24 grams of sugar! Whatever happened to good old-fashioned water?
When it comes to snacks, they’re often packaged, processed sugar-laden treats, donuts, cookies or cupcakes. On some teams, parents even compete to bring the best snack. I’ve seen loot bags come out after an early morning game and a parent once brought a full-sized chocolate bunny as a snack after an early morning game just because it was close to Easter. We’re creating a Pavlov’s dog response with exercise and junk food.
Sugar As a Reward
It’s not just exercise that we reward with sugar. Back when we grew up, there was the occasional birthday party with cake, Halloween treats or summer ice cream cones. Now sugar is almost an added food group. Processed foods are dished out in kid’s lunchboxes (because it’s “the only thing my kid will eat”) and at play dates. Birthday parties, which seem to happen every week, have not only cake, but also loot bags filled with candy and often other party treats. Then there’s school. Many kids bring birthday treats to school on the actual day of their celebration, and there are class parties, fairs and cookie day fundraisers. Our children’s love affair with sugar is strong, and we seem ready to supply their desire with an almost never-ending supply.