Kids may consume more calories in their post-game snack than they burn during the match, finds a new study.
As part of the research published in The American Journal of Health Behaviour, a team from Brigham Young University observed students in years three and four over 189 games of soccer, flag football, baseball and softball. The researchers looked at the kids' physical activity and the treats they consumed afterwards.
Results showed that parents brought post-game snacks 80 per cent of the time and that 90 per cent of post-game drinks were high in sugar.
While the average energy expenditure for children was 170 calories per game, the team found that the average caloric intake from post-game snacks was 213 calories. The average amount of sugar consumed after a game was 26.4 grams, with sugary drinks the main culprit.
When it came to physical activity, the study found that kids average just 27 minutes of activity per game, with soccer players being the most active and softball players the least.
"Kids are getting inundated with snack culture all the time - celebrations at school, at birthday parties and youth sports games," said senior study author and BYU professor Lori Spruance. "We don't need to load children up with sugar after a game too."
According to Ms Spruance, parents need to rethink the sugary teat post-game mentality.
"So many kids are at games just to get their treat afterwards, which really isn't helping to develop healthy habits long term," she said. "The reward should be, 'I got to have fun, I got to run around with my friend or score a goal.'"
Co-author Jay Maddocks says little changes can make big differences. "When your children are playing sports, we recommend making the healthy choice and choosing water, fruits and vegetables and a healthy protein source too, like nuts."
Simone Austin, Accredited Practising Dietitian and Spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia told Essential Kids that the issue isn't just what children are eating after sport, but during games too.
"Bring back the half-time orange" she says. "If sport is under 90 minutes, we don't really need to eat during that time - particularly bags of lollies."
To prevent kids filling up on high-calorie foods after exercise, Ms Austin also suggests shifting meal times.
"What you can do is move your meals around, rather than adding in extra," she says. "So if you've played netball after school from 4-5, then come home and have dinner earlier. You don't necessarily need to have a snack. Or if you've played an early morning game on the weekend - have an earlier lunch."
Ms Austin, who is the author of Eat like An Athlete, agrees that sugary drinks are also something to watch. "We should be putting water in our water bottles - particularly for the care of our teeth. It's very easy to drink a lot of sugar."
So what are some good post-game snacks? Ms Austin recommends the following:
- Fruit (all fruit is good!)
- Mini rolls, sandwiches or wraps.
- Strawberry and banana smoothies in correct proportions
- Cheese and crackers
- Carrot, cucumbers and hummus
- Or having a small amount of a meal.