Institutionalized Snacking, Part 2: Forbes & New Study Agree on How Youth Sports Makes Kids Fat

by Lian on September 14, 2011

Cranky SportsMom rides again! Thanks to Chaos Crew member Annie G from Calistoga for sending along this link to a piece on about Youth Sports and the creeping obesity of Snacking by Bob Cook, fellow anti-snacking advocate and sports dad . Annie wanted me to know that there is a new study called the Healthy Youth Sports Study by researchers at the University of Minnesota that has connected the dots between youth sports and increased calorie consumption, thanks to snacks after the game and fast food before practice and after games due to family time crunch.

I wish I could say I’m surprised, but I’m not. As any parents with kids in sports knows ( or really any intense afterschool activity like theater or band) , regular mealtimes and control over nutrition appears to go out the window when the season cranks up. Holding the line on good, smart nutrition can be an unpopular position in a  groups of parents who, for some reason, equate good parenting with Doritos and juice boxes at 9am. But now we have some data to back up our Cranky Sportparents Stance on Snacks.

More on this week’s Chaos Chronicles podcast about this issue, as I feel like the my life this fall is dedicating to keeping my athlete sons hydrated and fed with the fewest amount of trip to drive-throughs as possible. Not an easy task when they are consuming about 4,000 calories a day. Thanks, Annie.

In an ironic twist, I’m off to a nutrition seminar geared towards moms called MomEnergy given by Ashley Koff. More on that this week, too.

For your enjoyment, the original Institutionalized Snacking Manifesto.

Mrs. Obama asked for my help the other day. Well, she didn’t personally reach out to me, but I got an e-mail from her initiative Let’s Move, so it was practically like a call from the White House. The First Lady has embarked on a mission to empower parents, schools, and communities to battle childhood obesity.  She is advocating a healthier, active lifestyle for parents and children, with smarter choices and more options for food in homes, school, and markets.  I am totally on board with Let’s Move.  We are talking about my children’s generation and, as a mom, I want not only my kids, but also their peers, to have the brightest futures possible.

I’m sure I don’t have to go into all the grim statistics on childhood obesity.  But here are a couple of whoppers: one in three American children are overweight or obese and ten percent of babies and toddler are dangerously heavy.  Predictions for their future health include diabetes, heart disease, and a lower life expectancy than our generation.

As Mrs. Obama acknowledges in her essay in Newsweek (March 22,2010), the solutions aren’t simple to such a complex issue, involving public policy decision makers, food companies, school districts, and parents. That’s where I come in because I’m a parent.  I’ve been taking a look at what is happening in my children’s world that might need changing.

And, I’m looking at you, Unhealthy and Ubiquitous Snacks.

Moms, you know what I’m talking about: the unending parade of holiday goodie bags or post-soccer carb fests or classroom birthday cupcakes that find their way into our kids mouths on a regular basis. We have become a nation of ritual snackers, digesting hundreds of empty calories as part of our routine whether we are hungry or not. Now, we are passing on this unhealthy tradition to our kids with what I call Institutionalized Snacks.

Go ahead, say it: I’m cranky and there is nothing wrong with the Occasional Cupcake.  You’re right, there is nothing wrong with the Occasional Cupcake, but our kids are exposed to cupcakes — or their caloric equivalent– several times a week!  Do young athletes really need a giant bottle of sports drink after spending 22 minutes in the outfield picking daisies? How about the candy kids get at school on Halloween?!   Why do all afterschool activities require bags of chips? It’s like we can’t make a move without food anymore. All the institutionalized snacking is affecting our kids’ weight, according to a recent study.  Snacks now account for one quarter of children’s total calories.

Where are the parents in all this? Right there stuffing the goodie bags!  We treat being the Snack Mom as a marker of our worth so the snacks get bigger and more elaborate.  What started as oranges- at- halftime twenty years ago has spun out of control in terms of portion size and calorie content.  Now it’s mandatory pizza after practice.

So let’s agree to stop with the Institutionalized Snacks.  Parents, coaches, team moms, room reps, youth athletic leagues, classroom teachers, we all need to agree on this one.  Let the kids play soccer then go home and have lunch. Celebrate classroom birthdays once a month, instead of weekly. Create holiday celebrations in school that don’t revolve around food.  Provide healthy choices for afterschool activities when kids are genuinely hungry. It’s a small but important step forward in the huge battle to raise healthy kids.

And I’m willing to do my part.  Are you?

Embracing my Chaos, Lian



pat in o.c. September 18, 2011 at 6:05 PM

Nothing to do w/food, snacks, obesity….

Friday Night Lights……..goes out w/a bang!
Kyle Chandler wins an Emmy!

I think the Satellite Sisters and Chaos Chronicles deserve
a big round of applause for keeping the show on the air in
many different forms and times! Congratulations!

CLSD OPEN September 16, 2011 at 2:58 PM

The dreaded “snack schedule”—I have been swimming upstream against this current since my kids started team sports at age 4. Generally I am the lone voice saying “why do they need a snack??” and rarely will anyone else chime in on this. In fact, I can’t think of a time when anyone ever did. Instead I’m looked at as a stick in the mud on this. Oh well! My son now plays club soccer—-yippee, no snack schedule!!! But my daughter still plays rec soccer, and yep, every season, no matter who the coach is, there is a snack schedule. Aside from the fact that the kids don’t need the snack nor any additional empty calories…why do we think we’re raising a generation of kids with sky-high expectations?? They are going to be rewarded with a snack after 60 to 90 minutes of activity?! Lian, I am—and ALWAYS will be—with you on this one!!!

Kate September 16, 2011 at 9:44 AM

I guess I’m lucky, our school serves lots of healthy options and snacks don’t really seem to be that much of an issue in my daughter’s classroom or after school program. There are lots of issues that the kids really are dealing with that make a cupcake seem like one grain of sand on a beach, but for the most part my daughter isn’t barraged with sugar every time she turns around. As for our little 2nd and 3rd grade soccer team – yes we have a parent snack rotation. The kids *want* to hang out after and decompress together and the parents bring orange slices or apples. I have no issue with that.

t3zoo September 15, 2011 at 7:14 PM

you go girl! I have long avoided the institutionalized snack. When approached a few years ago by a parent on my son’s baseball team (which my husband coached) about who would bring snack, I told her and the other parents, ” Yeah, we don’t do that.” They are out for an hour and a half, people! And they’re six blocks from home! Why do they need a snack?!

But I totally get the challenges we all face with getting a decent meal on the table at the end of a long day and also accommodating kids’ increasingly busy schedules. I do succumb more frequently than I would wish to takeout during busy sports seasons and I actually have a pretty decent work schedule. I’m not sure what the answer is…….personal chefs for all, maybe??

chris d. September 15, 2011 at 1:28 PM

I know as a grandmother I might be obsolete….but ….I had fruit in the car and a couple of PB and J sandwhiches on the ready. No beverages. sport mom turns only required fresh orange quarters… no beverages. Kids were satisfied and times were simpler. I didn’t buy snacks for home b/c luckily I don’t eat them. we did make lots of popcorn and daughters baked cookies ..easy… fast food then had no super sizing so if we did indulge it was so much smaller!!! My kids are now in their early 30′s, turned out more than fine..but don’t get me started on that…they really are!!! all eat healthfully…Lian you are sooooo right.

Lian September 15, 2011 at 8:36 AM

Great comments and lots to talk and think about here. Looks like people need REAL STRATEGIES for getting kids ( and you!) fed while on the run that doesn’t involve drive-throughs. I’m on it. Hoping to tap some nutritionists for this. Stay tuned.


Cyndi September 15, 2011 at 6:52 AM

Great post Lian! I agree that it’s not easy because convenience is key in our busy lives and sometimes we run on autopilot – old habits can be tricky to overcome. I am as guilty as anyone when I bring home questionable snacks or pull into the drive-thru for my son who is starving after practice. It’s easy, but I know better as we all do.

FYI there is a great book by a sports nutrionist, Nancy Clark – Sports Nutrition Guidebook that has a lot of good advice for athletes in training if you are looking for better snack alternatives.

Ann September 15, 2011 at 5:58 AM

My kids seem to think they need a snack every time they get in the car. It is less than 2 miles from school to home, they should be able to wait! Less than 5 minutes. The extended care program at the school feeds them empty calories because, empty calories are cheap and they come in handy single packages, so no prep for the caretakers, which would require a kitchen and food handling certificates.
We are a vegetarian family, and so don’t have any drive through options that my kids will eat. With the ramping up of soccer season or some of the other activities, sometimes I secretly wish they would just eat a darn burger or even a bean burrito, but they don’t like that stuff. But as a full time working outside the home mom, how the heck can I get them good food in a timely manner?
There were a lot of Jamba Juices consumed this summer in the car on the way to activities.

Nicole September 14, 2011 at 11:14 AM

I am with you. I am an overweight mom working so very hard to break the cycle of very unhealthy eating in my family. My grandmother was a bragging anorexic and my mother was an active bulimic.

What would help me is a discuss on solutions for those nights that are spent driving from activity to activity. I’d love some tangible tips esp. considering working moms who are some days gone from the home from 7a to 8p. Bus to work to childcare pick up straight to swimming then to religious ed. Rinse and repeat.

My two made a competitive swim team and so far no mention of snacks. Yay.

Lesley in MN September 14, 2011 at 9:40 AM

Hi Lian,
You have really touched on an important topic. A research interest of mine at the University of Minnesota regards teens who undergo bariatric surgery (e.g., gastric bypass) to treat their morbid obesity – and its possible negative effects on their health. If we could just prevent obesity in the first place (easier said than accomplished)…
We know that there are MANY factors that contribute to youth obesity, including diet and physical activity. Seemingly healthy or innocent snacking as a part of youth sports may or may not contribute to obesity, but definitely has the establish behaviors surrounding food and physical activity in impressionable young people.

I am fortunate to work with one of the Healthy Youth Sports Study researchers in the School of Kinesiology. Thank you for bringing this research to the attention of the Chaos Crew.

A long time listener (and reader) of the Chaos Chronicles and Satellite Sisters,


Kristin September 14, 2011 at 9:40 AM

I am on it! My kids have to go to before/after care three days a week and it simply kills me what they are given as afternoon snacks. Lunchtime, I can forbade them the school lunch, instead controlling what they eat in their lunchboxes (at least what I pack for them). They don’t want to be different, want to eat the crap like their peers. I simply won’t put up with it anymore. I work hard in a running program at their school, only to have kids not be able to make their miles because so many of them are getting heavier and all the more unhealthy!

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: