Every year, fields across our township start to bustle with activity. The soccer balls, nets, baseballs and bats come out of storage. New cleats are purchased and lines are painted on the grass. I remember when my children were very small and had their first introduction to team sports. That first year of soccer was more about picking dandelions and travelling in a herd up and down the field. The idea of offence and defense was not even factored into the game. Parents lined the field and we cheered for both teams. It was exciting to see the ‘shy’ child come out of their shell and go after the ball. We all gasped when crashes would happen and felt a sense of relief when we saw everyone was okay. I love that feeling of community – when we all want what is best for each other.
As a nutritionist and mom, I happen to have a few thoughts about re-fueling during and after the game. With younger children, snack duty is often divided among the parents. With older children, post sport hydration and snacking is often left up to each family.
Let’s look at the issue of re-hydration first. Most often, water is the best source of re-hydration. When physical activity has been intense for a period of 60 minutes or more is when your child’s body may need a little more replenishing.
Sports drinks are filled with artificial colours, flavours & sweeteners or refined sugar. Some bottles top out at nearly 9 teaspoons of sugar! The World Health Organization recommends no more that 3-4 teaspoons of sugar daily for a child up to the age of 8. For children 9 and above, we use the adult recommendation which is no more than 6 to 9 teaspoons of sugar daily. With one 591 ml bottle of a commercially prepared sports drink, you are either maxing out or exceeding the daily recommendation. Think it is better to skip the sugar and rely on artificial sweeteners? Think again, the use of these substitutes have been implicated in weight gain, migraines and nausea. Another common question I get is regarding chocolate milk. Here is the scoop, 1 cup of chocolate milk has 4.25 teaspoons of refined sugar in it! Again, the younger child has exceeded the recommended amount with just one glass.
So what is one to do? Let’s just keep it simple & offer water. If you feel that your child requires a sports drink I suggest making your own by diluting 1 part 100% fruit juice with 2 parts water and adding a dash of sea salt. Some athletes use coconut water as well. Instead of chocolate milk, offer a plain glass of milk which has the same amount of protein as chocolate but without all the refined sugar. Add in a banana and you’ve got a great snack that is both a source of protein and carbohydrate.
The issue of refueling can get a little complex when training for intense sport is involved. If your child is in this category, it is wise to seek professional counsel to make sure you are on the right track. The recommendations below are for recreational sports.
Here are some of my favourite post sport snacks. Remember to take into account any allergy restrictions on your team. Let’s be kind to one another and not fill the children up on refined sugars, artificial flavours & colours. After all, most children are heading to bed shortly after getting home. Look for whole food options whenever possible.
- banana & melon kabobs
- strawberries & plain yogurt for dipping
- orange slices
- carrot sticks & hummus
- cucumber slices & cheese
- frozen grapes
Better at Home Ideas:
- smoothies – frozen mango, banana, chia seeds, handful of spinach & water
- apple slices & almond butter
- natural peanut butter on whole grain toast with banana
Keeping these tips in mind will make for healthier snacking whether you are the one on the field or in the cheering section!