Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Give these snacks the boot

Parents could be doing their kids more harm than good by feeding them sugary drinks, snacks during soccer games

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2With soccer season here, so are the syrup-filled gummy fruit pieces, juice boxes -- even cookies and doughnuts -- that moms and dads feed kids at half-time.

Parents typically take turns bringing the snacks that supply the whole team.

"You're at the mercy of what another parent wants to bring," says the woman who asked not to be identified. "We have dinner after soccer but he's filled up on this sugary food. It hypes them up. I don't understand the point of eating cookies at a soccer game. It can ruin a dinner."

She's right to be concerned, says Dean Kriellaars.

The University of Manitoba exercise scientist says well-intentioned parents could be doing their kids more harm than good by feeding them sugary drinks and snacks -- or snacks of any kind -- during soccer and other sports.

Most young kids playing beginners' soccer don't need anything to eat at all during games.

That's because parents tend to overestimate just how much activity their children get during typical games.

"What happens is people will say, 'My son plays soccer for an hour-long game and he pants and (sweats) drip, drip, drip, drip," says Kriellaars.

The ultra-fit father of two emphasizes that, in actuality, one soccer game usually equates to only 10 minutes of activity -- not the sweat-inducing type of exercise that has kids panting for an hour straight.

Kids, he says, need to get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise daily in order to stay healthy.

If the case of a typical beginners' soccer game, juice and snacks -- even orange slices -- aren't necessary. Such snacks and drinks could even contribute to excess weight gain and obesity.

"Any calories they have burned in a game are probably squashed by the snack that they are having," says Kriellaars, noting that parents, instead, need to make sure their kids drink enough water during activity.

In cases of higher-level soccer when kids are running around, panting and sweating for long periods, Kriellaars recommends they need to take in a carbohydrate-rich drink such as apple juice every 40 minutes.

He is alarmed that between 30 and 50 per cent of parents and kids believe they meet their physical activity requirements. Usually they are "15 times or more off," he says. "That is a physical activity crisis."

Here's a snapshot of a few popular, not-so-nutritious soccer snacks:

GUSHERS

Description: Gummy candy snacks filled with a sweet, syrupy liquid.

The bad news: Strawberry Splash flavour contains 90 calories and 13 grams of sugar in a 25-gram pouch. Ingredients include pears from concentrate, dried corn syrup (controversial form of corn sugar linked to Type 2 diabetes and obesity), partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil (a source of trans fats) and red 40 (a food colouring linked to hyperactivity).

OREOS

Description: A sandwich cookie consisting of vanilla-flavoured icing in between two chocolate biscuits.

The bad news: One classic Oreo contains 80 calories, two grams of saturated fat and seven grams of sugar. Ingredients include sugar, enriched flour (white flour), corn starch, palm oil, high fructose corn syrup and salt.

APPLE JUICE

Description: The unsweetened juice of apples.

The bad news: One cup of apple juice contains 120 calories and 30 grams of sugar -- more than the same volume of regular cola.

Have an interesting story you'd like Shamona to write about? Contact her at shamona.harnett@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 14, 2012 D1

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