Going Gluten-FreeSeptember 14, 2011

Kid Athletes and Snack Attacks

My dietician friend Sally Kuzemchak stirred up some controversy in cyberspace last week. In her blog about team snacks (http://www.realmomnutrition.com/2011/09/07/snack-attacks/), she encouraged kids' sports teams to do away with chips and sweet drinks and provide healthy fruit and water instead. As a parent and registered dietician, she wants her children and others to have healthier food while exercising.

For food-allergic children, the benefits of eating healthy snacks are even greater than the obvious nutritional boost. My 8-year-old son, who is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, milk, egg and soy, knows that his life could be threatened if he eats, or even touches, food containing an allergen.

He can't eat the typical snacks, such as pretzels, flavored chips, peanut-filled sandwich crackers and nut-laced granola bars, that many kids eat. He tenses up if he spots spilled candy on the sports field, kids eating granola bars and bags of flavored chips on the sidelines or moms carrying boxes of Dunkin' Donuts to the ball park. He can't even escape unsafe snacks at the library — a place where food and drinks are prohibited, mind you — as some kids can't seem to go 20 minutes during story time without munching on cheese-coated goldfish crackers.

I understand the need to provide snacks and I certainly don't expect parents to alter their snack choices because they might come across a food-allergic child—even my son with multiple allergies eats foods that other kids are allergic to.

But my friend’s stance that kids should snack on fresh fruit is refreshing. My son wouldn't eat fruit that has been cut up by someone else because of the danger of cross-contamination. But he can easily bring his own fruit and safely feel like part of the gang. It’s not a problem if he touches fruit or if another kid, who just ate an apple, touches him. He can safely eat his snack and enjoy a sports activity with other kids without being anxious about having an allergic reaction because of the food they’re eating.

My friend didn't just sit on the sidelines and complain about all the junk parents were feeding young athletes at every game. She took a stand for her kids' health, something parents of food-allergic kids must do regularly to ensure their children's safety. She didn't know how the other parents would react but her children were more important than her popularity among the team moms.

In my mind, this is an inspiring example of how one parent can attempt to effect change for the safety and betterment of her children. Have you had to take a stand about team snacks?

Living Without contributor Wendy Mondello blogs at tasteofallergyfreeliving.blogspot.com.

Comments (1)

Fresh fruit is an appropriate choice for student athletes. Fluid pack fruits like orange slices or watermelon cubes make sense when you consider the relationship between performance and hydration status. Another option to satisfy students with food allergies and non-allergic students are frozen fruit bars made from 100% fruit juice.

Posted by: Hannah R | September 15, 2011 9:19 AM    Report this comment

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