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Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD Headshot

Soccer Mom Soapbox

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As a dietitian, I try very hard to be helpful when asked and not be bossy and preachy and in everyone's business when it comes to food (my husband may disagree with this).

I really didn't want to be That Mom. You know her: The one who rails against toxic diapers in landfills while you're changing your baby's Pampers. Which is why I kept quiet about soccer snacks for a long time.

Let me tell you about soccer. The Capri Sun flows like water after soccer games. Parents bring Pringles. And Ritz Bits. And Oreos. And cupcakes. Sometimes Oreos and cupcakes. It is a 6-year-old's paradise.

A lot of parents say: "It's just a couple of cookies, let the kids have their fun." But it's not just a couple of cookies at soccer. We're feeding this kind of junk to our kids everywhere -- at daycare, at school events, at Sunday School and at summer camp. Saturday morning soccer games amount to a total of (maybe) 15 minutes of vigorous physical activity; all our kids require is a lot of water and a good lunch at home afterward.

Our children -- the ones washing down cupcakes with blue #2 fruit punch at 9 a.m. every Saturday -- belong to the first generation in modern history not expected to live as long as their parents because of their weight and their health. Because of the way we're feeding them. Because our society has invented millions of artificial reasons to celebrate with "special" foods. Because we've programmed them to expect dessert every time they gather in a group or break into a slow jog.

Yes, parents have the right to make unhealthy food choices for their own kids. But why are we so bent on protecting their rights to make bad food choices for everyone else's kids, too? When my son started t-ball, I decided to take action. I immediately wrote to the coach and asked if we could establish a healthier snack policy. His response: "I support this 100%". With his blessing, I emailed the team parents and proposed a fruit-and-water-only snack policy. Parents were asked to take turns bringing fresh fruit for after-game snacks, and kids would bring their own water to drink. No juice boxes, no gummy fruit snacks -- and if parents wanted to bring chips or cookies, they were asked to keep it off the field. Then I held my breath. Would parents rally behind the Ritz Bits and take me to task for being uptight?

Exactly the opposite. I got emails back saying, "LOVE IT!", "This is wonderful!", "Thanks for saying something!" and "It's about time someone took a stand on this." After the first game of the season, the team ate every last piece of watermelon I brought. No one asked, "Where are the chips?" Nobody complained.

If you're mad about the state of sports snacks too, talk to your child's coach before the first practice. I've found that having the coach's support makes all the difference in the world.
For more snack facts and ideas on mobilizing your community, view out my video about soccer snacks here. Find a sample team email here.