Guest Blog: Connie Evers – Soccer Mom on a Mission
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By Connie Evers MS, RD, LD – Nutrition for Kids

Connie’s Healthy Eating Blog – Soccer Mom on a Mission

Learn how you can be the youth sports parent who advocates for more nutritious snacks

I recently had the opportunity to interview dietitian Sally Kuzemchak, a parent of two and passionate advocate of building a better food environment for kids. She offers real-world advice on how parents can push for healthier food and beverage choices at youth sporting events.

Connie: I recall reading one of your blogs that described being “that mom,” i.e. the one that stood up for more nutritious snacks and beverages at youth sporting events. What advice do you have to persuade more parents to be “that mom” (or “that dad”)?

Sally: One thing to keep in mind is that there are likely many other parents who feel the same way, but are reluctant to speak up. Once you vocalize your feelings, you will probably be surprised by how many parents agree, making it easier to start a conversation. I believe we really do need to start advocating for our children this way, even though it may feel uncomfortable sometimes. Our food culture – including this pervasive, junk food snack culture – is in direct conflict with our children’s health.

Connie: Can you explain how offering junk food and sugary beverages undermines the purpose of youth sports?

Sally: We all like the idea of our kids being active in sports, which promotes fitness, coordination and skill development. So handing them a package of cookies and bottle of sugar water as they run off the field just makes no sense. We should be promoting the idea of sports as a way of having fun and being healthy, and that to be our healthiest and best at the sports we play, we have to fuel our bodies the right away.

Connie: Do you find working with the coach is the best way to set team policies about acceptable snacks/beverages?

Sally: Yes, I do. Parents are much more accepting when a policy comes down from the league or the coach. Coaches all have policies on things like gear, practice times, etc. So why not for snacks? I’ve helped implement a healthier snack policy on four different teams, and the coaches have been supportive in each case. And I’ve been able to tell parents, “The coach and I are asking that you bring fresh fruit as post-game snacks.” Volunteering to organize the snacks and the snack schedule is another way you can both help the coach and bring healthier foods to the sidelines.

Connie: What do you say to the parents who claim “my kids will not eat fruit, vegetables, whole grain, low sugar snacks, etc?”

Sally: First, I’d say: give him a chance. Peer pressure is a powerful thing. When kids see their peers eating something together as a group, they’re more likely to at least consider eating it too. On my son’s t-ball team, a mom told me her son (who was 6) tried strawberries for the first time because of the post-game snack. She was elated! I’d also say that hungry kids eat what is there. If your child is truly hungry after a game, she’ll grab an orange slice or a banana. If she scoffs at it, maybe she isn’t really that hungry. But I also believe that these are the kinds of foods that have to start becoming the norm, the default, so that these foods are what kids see everywhere. Then they will start accepting them as fact, not as “yucky stuff” they have to eat before they get the “good stuff”. A slice of watermelon after a hot summer game should be “good stuff.”

Connie: Once the empty calorie foods and sugary beverages are already there, what advice do you give parents about limiting or restricting the foods? Is it unfair to say “no” to a child if all the other kids are enjoying donuts, chips and sugary drinks?

Sally: This is a sticking point for me. If the whole team is having cookies, I don’t like saying “no” to my child or singling him out in that way. I wrote about that on my blog in a post called “The Mom I Can’t Be.” Frankly, I’m tired of saying no all day long – to donuts at the grocery store, vending machines, soda at the movie theater. I’m worn out from saying no. So I’d rather work hard to surround my kids with healthier food so I can say YES all day instead.

That’s what this soccer snack crusade is about. “Yes, you can have a peach after the soccer game. And yes, have another one!” “Yes, you can have two more little cups of blueberries after the baseball game–and yes, your little brother can have one too.” That’s a much better feeling than saying “no” all the time. Junk food should be the exception, not the norm.

Connie: You are obviously very passionate about this issue. You even produced a music video! Do you think that you have produced positive change in youth sports practices through your blog and other social media?

Sally: I do! I hear from moms all over the country that they’re finally speaking up and trying to change things. I get an overwhelmingly positive response to this message, so that tells me that many, many moms feel the same way I do. They’ve just been too shy or nervous to make waves. I was once too shy and nervous to make waves. But once I started making them – and seeing what kind of real change I could make as one mom on the team – I was hooked.

Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD is a registered dietitian, freelance writer, educator, and mom. She blogs at www.realmomnutrition.com and you can follow her on twitter @RMnutrition


To learn more about Connie, check out the links below:

Web:
Nutritionforkids.com

Books:
Amazon

Social Media:
twitter.com/nutritionkids
Facebook.com/nutritionforkids

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Truth on Health

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