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Junior Sport: Snacks at Sport

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Kids need fuel, right? Right.

And kids need a lot of additional fuel when engaging in active play, right? Well, maybe not. At least not the sort of fuel that we tend to load them up with both during and after sport.

It’s common for parents, teachers and coaches—no matter the sport—to bring out the jelly snakes at half-time or reward kids at the end of a game with a food ‘treat’ and perhaps an energy drink to refuel.

After all, lollies and energy drinks seem to tick all of the boxes for active kids. Kids love it = Check. Easy = Check. Packed with energy = Check.

Good for the kids = Not so much.

As Kate Freeman, nutritionist extraordinaire, explains, “We tend to overestimate the energy that our kids need during and after sport. Yes, they are growing and yes, they were just active, but most children are consuming sufficient energy from their regular meals and snacks and don’t NEED the sugar from lollies to recover from their activity.

“For most children, this just contributes to an excess energy intake which is not good for our health long term.”

This is where the Healthier Choices Canberra initiative comes in. They’ve teamed up with seven sporting codes and more than 50 clubs in the ACT to encourage the provision of healthy food both during and after sport, as well as plenty of water throughout.

Basketball ACT has partnered with Healthier Choices Canberra to promote the program, particularly healthier food and drink choices, amongst their clubs.

As Davey J, the Communications and Media Officer at Basketball ACT, tells me,

“With huge junior participation numbers across our sport locally, Basketball ACT wanted to ensure that the Gunners and Nationals players of the future were getting the right information about nutrition and preparing healthy snacks, as well as supporting their physical needs and skills development.”

When I ask whether being a part of the Junior Sport initiative has changed the way Basketball ACT approaches nutrition, the answer is a resounding yes—with Davey J telling me that they have become a healthier and nutritionally-focused basketball family since partnering with Healthier Choices Canberra.

“Everyone, from our elite players, through our representative programs and into our juniors, has benefited from a better approach to what fuels them.  We have also seen this branch into our players’ homes, with parents and siblings changing their dietary approach along the way,” Davey J says.

One major basketball team that has gotten actively involved in the program is the University of Canberra Capitals (back-to-back winners of the WNBL and all round champions – just sayin’), who are using the #minichampions campaign to encourage their younger fans to refuel their bodies with healthy snacks—you can find this on their Facebook page.

So, if lollies aren’t the best choice for an in-game energy boost, what is?

“For half-time sport, you can’t go past fruit. It’s nutritious, with natural energy and is not too hard on their tummies as they head back into the final half of play,” Kate says.

Davey agrees.

“We recommend fruit for half-time and after sport. These days we ask kids to bring their own fruit snack—fruits lend themselves to being prepared prior to games—and a variety such as banana, watermelon, apples, or grapes, helps junior athletes get more fruit into their day. Plus plenty of water—during and after games.”

For after the game, Kate also recommends minimally-processed foods that will give the kids energy to recover, fill them up and offer plenty of nutrients. These include yoghurt, fruit, wholegrain crackers, cheese, salad sandwiches on wholemeal bread, baked beans, nuts, wholegrain muesli bars, high fibre breakfast cereal and milk, smoothies, popcorn… The list is endless.

If you’re still a bit unsure as to what constitutes a healthy and nutritious snack, Healthier Choices Canberra has some great resources that you can check out, including the Grab ’n Go for Junior Sports.

You can also learn more about their Junior Sports program here.

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