What feelings do those two words evoke? Fun? Convenience? Nourishment? Dread?
Years ago visiting a concession stand was a special event. Peanuts, Cracker Jacks, and hotdogs. Nobody really thought of these things as “food” – they were special treats as part of a fun experience for the spectators of a game.
The game has changed. Kids are becoming serious competitors at younger age and concession stands have become a mainstay of youth sports.
Our elite athletes have demanding schedules and consequently, concession stands have also become an all too regular convenience food for both our athletes and our families.
Oh the irony. The intention of getting kids into sports is often to support a healthy, active lifestyle yet concession stands provide them with junk each and every game. I think we can all agree that typical concession stand food is not the most nourishing avenue and therefore does not support a healthy lifestyle.
It’s not as if the intention is to purposely provide “junk food” to our children, the reality is that concession stands are lucrative fundraising endeavors for athletic organizations. They are often sponsored and sponsorship can mean exclusivity of certain products as well as additional incentives for the amount of sales. The goal is to make money, not nourish our children.
The tide is turning though. We are immersed in a growing movement of food awareness. Consumers everywhere are becoming more aware of how refined foods are harming our bodies and disrupting our lives. We are voting with our dollars. The unhealthiest fast food chains are closing restaurants while newer ones that have pledged to source healthier ingredients are expanding.
Change needs to happen closer to home - in the gyms and on the fields too. It’s time we step back and consider how these “non-food-like products” that our athletes are consuming on a regular basis are affecting their performance and more importantly, their long-term health.
It’s the parents who have the say in what is sold at concession stands. You can voice your opinion. You can make a change. It doesn’t have to be a sweeping change and your go-to concession stand does not have to lose money. In fact, you don’t even need to remove foods, you can add as little of five new healthy choices and potentially increase sales as one small pilot study by researches at the University of Iowa revealed.
Ultimately, however, it’s in your children’s best interest to be empowered with the knowledge of how certain foods can work for or against them and to make their own informed choices.
Over a series of upcoming articles, we’ll be exploring the impact that unhealthy snacking has on your athlete’s goals and other areas of their life.
I encourage you to talk to your children about this subject - get their views and ideas. Strategize together on how you can improve the nutritional quality of the concession stand. Discuss which foods support their goals on and off the field. Then make a plan on how you will implement the changes.
We’ll dive deeper into this subject and give you some specific ideas in our follow-up articles but until then, I also encourage you to teach your children to read the ingredients list of food labels and to choose products where most if not all ingredients are what you recognize as real food.
Here’s what we'd like you to do:
- Check out your athletic organization’s concession stand. Does it have at least five healthy options?
- Have a family meeting about the concession stand and brainstorm ideas for healthy options you can recommend adding.
- Propose the healthy options to your athletic organization.
Have you already implemented the changes we’ve discussed here or did this article prompt you to? Comment on our Facebook page and tell us what you did with #ConcessionRevolt.
Other questions about your athlete's nutrition? Post to our Facebook page with #AskHolly!