Team sports are good for kids, right…?

Sports like soccer, baseball, basketball and lacrosse provide kids with regular exercise, which is good for maintaining a healthy weight, bone development, coordination, and even improved performance in school (read these NY Times articles: How Exercise Fuels the Brain and Can Exercise Make Kids Smarter?)  Team sports also teach kids important lessons about sportsmanship, being “coachable,” and the importance of being a good team player.

So some parents might be scratching their heads wondering why their child actually gains weight during the soccer or softball season?  The dreaded “snack” schedule could be to blame. A recent study revealed that kids who participate in team sports consume more junk food than those that do not, read Huffington Post article Do Kids Who Play Team Sports Eat More Junkfood? Check out the sugar and calorie counts of some typical “snacks” that can follow those sports, and it will become crystal clear.   You don’t have to be a mathlete to figure this one out – an 85 pound kid can burn anywhere from 180 calories an hour playing a sport like softball or baseball to just over 400 calories an hour playing full court basketball.  But all of that can quickly come unraveling when well-intentioned parents roll out the post-game snacks, which typically can range anywhere from 250-500 calories.  Not to mention the amount of artificial colors, trans fats, MSG, and sugar kids are getting after the game.  Some experts have linked food dyes to ADD and other behavior problems, read more.

Typical Snack #1:

Totals: 390 calories, 11 g. fat, 46 g. of sugar (over 10 teaspoons), 5 different kinds of artificial colors, and MSG.

Made-Over Snack #1:

Totals: 165 calories, 4 g. of fat, 9 g. of sugar.  This made-over snack saves 225 calories, has close to 1/3 the fat, less than one fifth the sugar, and none of the artificial colors or MSG.

Typical Snack #2:

Totals: 260 calories, 3 g. of fat, 41 g. of sugar., high fructose corn syrup, red 40, blue 1

Made Over Snack #2:

Totals: 235 calories, 2.5 g. of fat, 23.9 g. of sugar (some naturally-occurring).  Saves 25 calories, and over 17 g. of sugar, and none of the artificial colors or high fructose corn syrup.  Provides some fiber and antioxidants too.

Typical Snack # 3:  The birthday/post-game snack.  Inevitably it will be someone’s birthday during the season – why not celebrate with donuts or cupcakes after the soccer game?  This is why…

Totals: 390 calories, 16 g. fat, 53 g. of sugar (over 13 teaspoons!). Contains trans fats, artificial colors and caffeine.

Made-Over Snack #3: You can still celebrate a birthday with a fun snack for the soccer team, just ditch the store-bought cupcakes for some healthier choices that won’t provide a whopping 400+ calories, and 3 days worth of added sugars and trans fats.  Here are a number of options that are healthier and still fun:

If you don’t believe me that these are typical post-game snacks, check out Soccer Mom on a Mission’s Video.  Notice everything from Krispy Kremes to rice crispy treats…

Get the Whole Team on Board

So what is a health conscious parent to do?  Avoid team sports all together?  Grab their kid and run before the snacks come out?  Or just speak up and request that snacks be healthy, or that each parent simply brings snack for their own child?  It’s not always easy to be “that parent” that always is speaking up about this kind of thing.  But more often than not, other parents are thinking the same thing, and are grateful that someone spoke up.  And sometimes, parents don’t realize how many calories, artificial colors, trans fats, and sugar they are feeding kids.  The first step to change is always – AWARENESS.

Unfortunately, no kid wants their parent to be the only one that brings ‘healthy’ snacks after a game, when everyone else is bringing donuts and cupcakes and sodas.  But when the whole team agrees to bring healthy snacks, then no one parent has to stand out as the one that only brings ‘healthy’ food.  When the whole team agrees to follow this plan, everyone benefits – and it could even be the difference between winning the trophy, or missing it by an inch.

A few seasons ago, I was so grateful to Nora, the team mom for my son’s baseball team.  She sent out an email at the beginning of the season requesting that all snacks be healthy and should help to “power up” the kids, not cause a sugar rush and drop.  And instead of the snack coming out at the end of the game – just as everyone was heading off to dinner, she suggested that they should come out in the dugout around inning 4 or 5.  That way, they could boost their energy to get through the rest of the game.  Guess what?  Their team made it all the way to the championship – winning the pennant that year.   How much the healthier snacks contributed, we can’t be sure.  But I can bet that professional baseball players don’t celebrate their games with donuts and sodas, or cupcakes and juice boxes.

Hungry Kids Will Eat…Pretty Much Whatever Is Around!

One of the oldest tricks in the book is to put out the healthy foods when kids are the hungriest – and after a hard game of soccer or basketball, they are going to be hungry. Why not take advantage of it – and put out oranges, bananas, raisins, and other healthy snacks?  This is a great approach for a picky eater too (read 20 Tips for Picky Eaters for more).  Our soccer coach a couple of seasons ago requested orange slices for a half time boost – and all the kids happily gobbled them up each game.  In fact, my daughter didn’t like orange slices until that season – now she loves them because that was what was offered, she was really hungry/thirsty, and all her teammates we gobbling them down.  Oranges are a wonderful snack for hard working athletes, they hydrate, provide natural sugars to replace lost glycogen/energy, and provide important lost minerals.  When healthy snacks come out during or after the game, kid’s bodies will feel and function better, and they will come to expect those kind of snacks instead of the junk food.

Treat Kids Like Athletes

So instead of the donuts, rice crispy treats, and cupcakes; the flavor-blasted chips and Cheez Its; the brightly colored sports drinks and sodas, and sticky sweet fruit treats and candies…let’s try to think about what we reach for after a workout, or what an athlete chooses. When we start to think about our kids as little athletes, and not just kids; that is when we start to feed them better post game snacks. Some good snack “rules”:

Post-game snacks should rehydrate (without artificial colors), replace lost energy & glycogen stores (without overflowing them), and help the body/muscles to heal and recover.  Junk food promotes inflammation, which works against recovery.  Too much sugar gets stored as fat. Artificial colors and trans fats just aren’t needed or good for their hard-working bodies.  Who knows?  Healthy snacks could be the difference between making the All Stars Team, and well, not.

Thank you so much to the parents, coaches, team moms, and bloggers/writers that are speaking up, spreading the word and offering healthy post-game snacks.  Please put your ideas for healthy  snacks in the comments below.

We can all either be part of the solution, or part of the problem. Which team are you on? I think Taylor Mali put it best in his poem, An Apple a Day is Not Enough.

Article written by Clinical Nutritionist Sara Vance with ReBalance Life, find her on Facebook.

Worry no more!  Its almost Back to School time – so here are some tips and product ideas to make packing a healthy lunch easy and fun!

A working mom myself, I know how hard it is to juggle it all.  These products and tips can help us think outside “the box” and make packing a healthy lunch easy and delicious – and fun!  If you can bring your kid into the kitchen to pack it – they will be more likely to eat it.

Veggies & Fruit

Fill Up Half the Lunchbox!

The USDA recently replaced the Food Pyramid with MyPlate, which shows that half of all of our meals should be fruits and veggies.  Most people could benefit from eating more plant based foods – MyPlate gets us thinking about increasing our fruits & veggies!   The good news is there are so many great products out there now – that make fruit & veggies easy, yummy & fun for lunchboxes:

Kids Love to Dip!

Another great way to incorporate more fruit & veggies is to send in dips!  Laptop Lunch containers (or bento buddies) are perfect for sending dips, because they have a really cute dip container!  Also great for sending salads too – put the dressing in the mini bento buddy so the salad does not get all soggy.

Remember – if you are sending anything perishable, make sure to include a cold pack, or you can freeze some items the night before, learn more from this Today Show segment.

Buh Bye Boring Sandwich.

So many kids just get bored of the same old sandwich, so why not surprise them with:

The Chip Rule of “Thumb”

Kids like a little “crunch in their lunch” so it is no wonder that chips are a favorite.  My chip rule of “thumb” is if they turn your thumbs orange, or are flavor “blasted” – we can make a better choice! We don’t even think about chips having artificial coloring, and forget about those ‘flavor blasted’ ones – that just is extra artificial flavoring!  I like these options better:

Don’t Drink Your Sugar!

I am not a fan of juice boxes – I think kids already get too much sugar each day in the foods they eat, they don’t need to drink it.  But it is important for kids to stay hydrated at school, especially if they head right to sports afterschool.  Here are some cool alternatives that are super-hydrating:

To Dessert or Not Dessert, That is The Question.

So what about a little something sweet for dessert, you ask?  Is that allowed?   Yes – I like to follow the 90/10 rule that the Obama’s follow, if 90% of the diet is healthy, then 10% can be treats.  Here are some fun yet healthier alternatives that are treats – but without going overboard with tons of sugar or fat; and no artificial coloring:

Go Green!

Most people like to buy a fresh new lunchbox every year – why not “Go Green” this year?  The Go Green Lunchbox is not only ECO-friendly, but it really can make lunch fun again for your kids.  No more plastic wrap needed – it has lots of fun compartments, and a little white board to write notes!  Your kids will be so excited to open their lunchbox everyday to see the message.  Top rack dishwasher safe, so clean-up is a snap!  I suggest getting 2 liners – so one can be in the dishwasher, while the other ones is heading off to school.

If you already have a lunchbox for your child and want to make that more eco-friendly, get some bento buddies to fit inside.  I especially like the mini-container the bento kits offer – perfect for dips.  You can also buy the whole Laptop Lunches system.  Check out this video to see what Laptop Lunches has to offer:

I know there are a lot of other great lunchbox ideas out there.  Would love to hear from you…what are your favorite products and recipes for the lunchbox?

For vegan lunchbox ideas, check out these vegan kid-friendly  lunchbox ideas.

Leave your comments below, or let us know at

During the hot Summer months is important to stay on top of hydration.  Up to 75% of the body is made up of water, so drinking enough fluids is essential for our bodies to function properly. Dehydration occurs when too many fluids are lost, not enough are taken in, or a combination of the two.

Acute Dehydration

Certain factors such as sweating, hot climate, vomiting, medications can quickly accelerate fluid loss to cause acute dehydration. It is important to be familiar with the signs of dehydration, especially parents and coaches as kids can get dehydrated faster than adults.  Taking these symptoms seriously is important, as complications from severe dehydration can be life-threatening. Relying on thirst is not always ideal, as thirst is not always a good indicator of dehydration.

Chronic Dehydration

Chronic dehydration is not like acute dehydration, in that it typically occurs from regularly not taking in sufficient hydrating fluids and/or foods. Often the symptoms are not recognized as dehydration at all and can range from bothersome to serious and can include constipation, headaches, low energy, elevated cholesterol, and more. Although controversial, some theories link Rheumatoid arthritis and other serious conditions to chronic dehydration. People suffering from one or more of the above symptoms, might try gradually increasing their intake of fluids and foods with a high water content and notice if there is an improvement in their symptoms over a period of time. Regularly drinking caffeinated, sugary or alcoholic beverages can also lead to chronic dehydration, as all are diuretics. Chronic dehydration can also make us more prone to acute dehydration from a workout and/or sweating.

Dehydration and Heart Attack
Studies have found that a loss of 2% or more of one’s body weight due to sweating can cause a drop in blood volume – so the blood essentially becomes “thicker.” When this occurs, the heart has to work harder to move blood through the bloodstream, raising the risk of a heart event. Because we are not replenishing fluids while we sleep, people tend to be slightly dehydrated in the morning, which could explain why heart attacks are 40% more likely to occur in the morning. Blood thickening also causes muscle cramps, dizziness, fatigue, heat exhaustion/ heatstroke, and can even lead to swelling of the brain and hypovolemic shock.  A tip for people that like to drink coffee in the morning – fill up your coffee cup with water while the coffee is brewing – before you can pour yourself a cup of coffee, you need to drink the water in the cup.  Starting the day with a glass or coffee cup of water will hydrate you better than the coffee.

When Do you Need Electrolytes?

Electrolyte replacement is needed when someone loses measurable amounts of fluids from one reason or another (sweating, vomiting, etc). How do we know how much fluid we have lost? One way to tell if there is fluid loss is to weigh yourself before and after a workout, if you have lost weight, there has been fluid loss. Typically 2 cups of fluid accounts for approximately each pound of weight lost. But if it is not convenient to weigh yourself, you need to consider the following: did you exert yourself hard, sweat a lot, maintain fairly continuous movement over a period of time? Was it a hot or particularly dry day? Are you working out in high altitude? Did you drink enough water leading up to the activity, or do you tend to be chronically dehydrated? If there has been a significant amount of fluid lost – there will be sodium, potassium and other important minerals also lost. Plain water will not replace those lost minerals. A condition called Hyponatremia can happen when someone loses a lot of fluids and drinks lots of water without replenishing electrolytes – there is not enough sodium in the blood. But if there was NOT a lot of sweating and it was a fairly low intensity sport, or a sport with lots of breaks (sat in a dugout, or stood in the outfield a lot) – then plain water should be fine to stay hydrated.

For endurance athletes, prehydrating the body for as much as 3 days before a tournament can help to prepare the body for a major sports event. Drinking an extra glass of fluid each day over a 3 day period can help to hydrate the body and muscles. Even slight dehydration in the muscles can negatively affect performance. Increasing the carbohydrates 3 days before a big sports event is also helpful to help prepare the body’s glycogen stores for the activity.

Sports Drinks
After a very intense workout, glycogen stores get depleted in the muscles,  – in addition to replacing electrolytes, many sports drinks contain some form of sugar because it is a fast-acting carbohydrate that can quickly replenish lost glycogen. So endurance and intensity athletes that want to quickly replace lost energy after an intense workout – might use sports gels or drinks – which offer the electrolytes and fast acting carbohydrates they need.

But consuming sports drinks when the body has not exerted itself and does not “need them,” the carbohydrates/sugar can end up getting stored as fat overtime. A 20 oz. sports drink contains 125 calories and 35 grams of sugar – which is over 9 teaspoons – more than the recommended daily limit for added sugars for one day for kids. Studies show that over-consumption of sports drinks is linked to weight gain and an increase in cavities in children.

Another concern are the artificial colors many sports drinks contain – they serve no other purpose than to make them more “fun.” There is some evidence that some kids are sensitive to artificial coloring – potentially causing ADHD-like symptoms, or making them worse. So it is important to read labels to know what is in the sports drinks, when there is a color and a number – that means it contains artificial coloring.

If someone is showing signs of dehydration – grab them any sports drink – dehydration is very serious and it is not the appropriate time to debate about the drawbacks of artificial colors or sugar.

Artificially Sweetened Drinks

Many people choose artificially sweetened sports drinks to avoid the sugar and calories. But the artificially sweetened ones will not replenish the lost glycogen – so the only purpose the artificial sweetener serves is for taste. There is evidence that artificial sweeteners might have negative health consequences, read The Truth About Aspartame, MSG and Excitotoxins – an interview with Dr. Russell Blaylock.  I do not recommend them to adults or children. There are much better alternatives out there now.

Alternative Electrolyte Replenishers:

If you want an electrolyte replenisher, but don’t want the added sugar, artificial sweeteners, and artificial coloring, there are some cool products available:

  1. Nuun – is a complex blend of electrolytes designed to be absorbed by the body quickly & easily. Nuun contains no sugar or artificial sweeteners, so if you want to replenish lost glycogen stores – reach for another kind of carbohydrate – like raisins, orange, granola, a banana, etc.
  2. Coconut Water – Nature’s perfect drink – coconut water is naturally high in potassium and other minerals, and it also has some natural carbohydrates. Coconut water is naturally alkalizing – which helps to balance our body’s pH and recover from workouts. I like the brand Zico, which comes in a variety of flavors.  Or you can pop a straw right into a raw young coconut!
  3. Electrolyte waters – replenish lost electrolytes without the sugar, artificial coloring, etc. I like the brand Metroelectro. These do not contain carbohydrates, so to replenish glycogen stores have with a carbohydrate.

Soft Drinks & Alternatives

Soft drinks are not a good choice for hydration, for a number of reasons:

When you want a soda, try making your own “Fruit Fizzy.”  Squeeze your favorite citrus juice into a glass, squeeze in some Natures Agave clear nectar, and pour some sparkling water – voila!  An antioxidant-rich homemade soda!  If you can’t make your own fruit sodas, I like IZZE-esque – which only has 50 calories and is made with sparkling water and real fruit juice.   Or if you want something calorie free, quick and on the go – try Metromint – is pure water and 100% real mint, which creates a unique cooling sensation that relieves your thirst, soothes digestion, and revives your body. They come in a variety of minty flavors – even chocolate mint!

Some foods can help hydrate and replace lost minerals, to mention a few:

Stay hydrated!

Suggested reading:


Dehydration, Wikipedia

The Dangers of Dehydration, Natural News


Your Body’s Many Cries for Water by Dr. Fereydoon Batmandhelidj

Free E-Book!