Outdoor sports are getting ready for the end of the year tournaments. The weather is warmer and the humidity is rising. Before you run out to Costco to buy the standard fare, you might ask yourself, "Are snacks really necessary after a game or a practice?"
Here are some tips to snack on:
- Keep Kids Hydrated - Children need to drink fluids when exercising especially if the weather is warm. Plain water is always best for hydration. If you buy bottled water or have your own plastic water bottle, be sure to avoid BPA plastics and those labeled 3, 6, or 7. The numbers are on the bottom of the bottles.
- When are Sports Drinks Necessary? - Sports drinks are high in calories and sugar and are not necessary. This is not to say they should never be used, especially if your child is exceedingly active, sweats excessively, or has a diet low in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The main function of sports drinks is to supply electrolytes. The problem with sports drinks is the amount of calories. A 12 oz. bottle of Gatorade has 310 calories practically a meal's worth. If you buy Gatorade, G-2 is a much better lower calorie version. If you are concerned about the calories, coloring agents, and preservatives, you can always go to R.E.I or other sporting good stores and purchase flavored electrolyte tablets and add them to your child's water bottle.
- Consider the Calorie Expenditure - You need to consider the calorie expenditure during your child's practice and games. If he or she is running long distances, doing intense short spurts, is a major sweater, and does not have a weight problem then sport drinks are probably fine even though not necessary. However, one bottle is usually enough to replenish lost electrolytes, and after that he or she should move on to water. If your child does have a weight problem or sits on the bench for most of the games, water would (with or without added electrolytes) be a better choice and forgo the unneeded calories. For instance, soccer, basketball, long distance running, and competitive tennis are more intense calorie burners than softball, fencing, or muscle conditioning.
- Nutrient Content of Packaged Snacks - Same consideration goes for packaged, refined starchy snacks. It is not only the calories in the snacks that matter but the quality of the nutrition in the snack. 100 calorie packs will control calories but your child is still ingesting refined flour, refined sugar, trans fats, and too much sodium. If dinner is right after practice then a piece of fruit is a good choice rather than a fruit roll up or granola bar. If you are not eating any time soon or your child did not have a snack before practice, than consider nutrient dense but calorie light snacks like a few whole wheat pretzels, trans fat free trail mix, or even 1/2 of natural peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole grain bread.
- Fruit, Veggies, Whole Grains, and Nuts -Fruits, veggies, whole grains, and nuts are loaded with minerals and electrolytes. Try to increase kid's intakes of these magnesium and potassium rich foods during the week, not just on practice or game days.
WARNING: The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has just found that one in five teens now has elevated cholesterol levels. Exercise helps keep cholesterol low. Maybe teaching our kids not to eat junk is as important as teaching them not to drink and drive. It may save lives down the road.
Watch the MOMS LIKE ME segment (sponsored by Washington FAMILY Magazine) tomorrow at noon on WUSA Channel 9 to hear more about kids, sports, and healthy snacks.