Home Healthy Living Healthy Snacks Post-game sugary snacks do more harm than good to kids

Post-game sugary snacks do more harm than good to kids

Post-game sugary snacks do more harm than good to kids

Jamie S. Bodenlos, Guest Essayist
Published 3:20 p.m. ET Oct. 5, 2018

Approximately 1 in 5 school age children are obese.

One of the main reasons parents get their children involved in sports, such as soccer, is to encourage physical activity which is critical to weight management and health. However, signing a child up for a sport is not enough, we must also teach them healthy eating habits especially what food they consume after the game.

As a parent and clinical health psychologist, I am concerned about what is given to our children after sports events like soccer games. For example, just last week my 5-year-old was given a fruit drink box, gummy bears and Cheez-It crackers after his soccer game.

The fruit drink had 16 grams of sugar and a serving of gummy bears has 20 to 21 grams of sugar. That is over 35 grams of sugar given to children after a relatively brief stint of soccer. This exceeds the American Heart Association’s recommendations that children get no more than 25 grams of added sugar a day.

Sugar is of particular concern given its addictive properties. Recent studies have equated the consumption of sugar with using addictive drugs like cocaine. The consumption of sugar leaves individuals craving more and it can set up an addictive pattern of behavior which can be hard to break. This can lead to weight gain, obesity, and cardiovascular risk factors such as diabetes.

Furthermore, we take away the intrinsic motivation for sports when we give such powerful incentives like sugary snacks to our children after a game. If we want our children to love exercise and sports, we need them to develop the intrinsic motivation to perform. This will help maintain the behavior in the long-term.

Many parents may argue that fresh produce can be costly and processed snacks may be easier and cheaper to purchase for games. Given the burden on parents, maybe we need to do away with post-game snacks altogether. Most of us feed our kids before we take them to games so are they truly hungry? This would decrease the financial burden on parents and avoid sugary snacks after a game.

We can then turn our focus on enhancing intrinsic motivation for physical activity so that we are establishing life-long healthy habits. We need the leaders of sports organizations to recognize how these snacks contribute to childhood obesity and take strong stands on banning sugar laden snacks from games.

Let’s break this culture of post-sport snacks. Everyone wins and our children can focus on enjoying the game.

Jamie S. Bodenlos is a licensed clinical psychologist and Associate Professor at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY.

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