By Carie Connell

What is more fun than relishing in the excitement of the great American pastime?  Watching your little ones learn the joys of that pastime, of course!  From a very young age our kids can begin to play sports, and baseball is definitely among the most popular choices.  Not only does it offer great opportunities for exercise and constructive team building, but it gives our kids important (and fun!) chances for socializing beyond the classroom.  One of the many, many parts of being a mom means not just being an exuberant and encouraging audience for their sports activities, but preparing them mentally and physically for life both on and off the field.

As moms we work super hard to ensure our kids’ health and safety every hour of the day, from watching what they eat to protecting them from illness to teaching them safe play and interaction.  We make sure they have the best nutrition possible to prepare for the game…and then we come smack up against a huge pitfall: all of the really fun, really colorful, really enticing, really popular snacks that we see at every Little League field.  And don’t we all know how impossible it is to resist our little one’s pleading eyes and excited looks as they beg us for these fun snacks to celebrate a great game with all of the other kids who are eating loads of the exact same snacks?  Yes, we do know how hard that is.

BUT we also know how hard it is to watch our kids’ energy lag and possible sickness creep into their little bodies as a result of filling their bodies with artificial ingredients and foods that do not nourish the growing organisms that they are.  And another huge part of being a mom is knowing when to protect them from the seemingly fun snacks that will not be fun for their bodies later on.  It might be hard to ward these snacks away from your kids, but helping your little ones learn to choose better things for their bodies will do them so much more good in the long run.  And, maybe even more importantly, helping encourage other moms to make the same choices for their kids will help the social aspect of those snacks seem much less appealing.  Kids are very visual and social little people – they want to feel included and part of what is going on around them, and if they see other kids eating healthier options rather than the artificial packaged junk, they’ll be excited about the choices you help them make.

13981644_mUnfortunately we live in an age where we are inundated with options of junk to eat and drink.  The supposedly “healthy” sports drinks found in all Little League snack shacks (and all other sports games as well) are full of artificial sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup, both of which do nothing but poison our bodies.  Capri Sun is loaded with highly processed sugar, and Gatorade and Powerade both contain such high concentrations of artificial sweeteners that they give kids an unnatural energy rush that later results in their blood sugar crashing and making them extremely tired and lethargic.  Drinking these sports drinks consistently over long periods of time can disrupt natural insulin levels and often contribute to developing diabetes.  The solid foods are no better!  Beyond all of the candy that snack shacks boast as game day food (including Fun Dip, which is nothing but processed sugar!), the energy bars and granola bars also contain high quantities of refined sugars and heavily processed oils.  Chips and bagged items like Pirates Booty and Cheetos, and even seemingly “healthy” pretzels, have such long lists of ingredients it is nearly impossible to make sure about all of the additives that have gone into the food to preserve it for a long life in a bag.

So rather than promote kids eating junk, let’s make smart choices for their little growing bodies.  Pure, clean water is still the best preparation for kids before, during, and after sports.  Keeping them well hydrated before a game will help them last through it.  If you are really worried about their electrolytes, choose whole organic milk or organic coconut water, both of which are excellent natural sources of the electrolytes that Gatorade claims to provide.  Fresh fruit, like apples cut into wedges or sections of orange (easy to pack and carry in a Wexy Bag), help to give them the natural sugars they need for energy – and sugars that won’t cause them to crash later.  By giving our kids the most natural, pure forms of foods and drinks possible we are best equipping them for all the running and growing they do, and supporting their emotional health too!  We want for them to be happy and healthy on and off the field, and this means keeping them from highly processed foods and chemicals that will ultimately make them tired and grouchy.  Let’s strive to bring the healthy food back into sports and physical activities so that all aspects of the game are as healthy and fun as they should be!