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“Please Bring a Healthy Snack”: An Exploratory Study on Parent Experiences with Post-Game Snacks and Beverages in Youth Sports

Lori Andersen Spruance, J. Mitchell Vaterlaus, Amanda Haines, Joseph Walker

Abstract


Youth sports provide an opportunity for physical activity, but unhealthy snacks and/or beverages, often bought by parents, are prevalent within these contexts. The current study focused on the environmental context of youth sports, investigating parent experiences with post-game snacks and beverages. This was a qualitative study in which trained interviewers conducted semi-structured interviews. Participants detailed snacks and beverages that they (a) provided in the past, (b) thought would be healthy options, and (c) would prefer their children did not consume. Participants were recruited from a youth sports facility and were required to be a parent and/or guardian of children between the ages of 8 and 11. Nineteen parents/guardians participated in the study.

Three major themes were identified through qualitative analysis. First, participants addressed the logistics of post-game snacks in youth sports. They explained that post-game snacks and beverages were provided through a volunteer effort by the youth athletes’ parents/guardians, but the coaches/organizations provided little guidance on the types of snacks/beverages that should be provided. Second, participants detailed their self-reported post-game snack behavior in youth sports. Most commonly participants reported providing granola bars and 100% fruit juice for youth. Parents reported social pressure to conform to certain snack/beverage traditions. Third, participants addressed concerns and desired changes regarding post-game snacks and beverages in youth sports.

The results from this study suggest that the social environment can influence parent choices for post-game snack and beverage consumption, thereby influencing the types of snacks and/or beverages children consume. Potential future interventions could attempt to influence the individual, interpersonal, and organizational levels of the Social Ecological Model by providing information in a variety of ways about healthy snack and beverage options, as well as leveraging organizational policy or guidelines surrounding snacks/beverages. Because of the opportunity for the youth sports realm to influence dietary and obesogenic behaviors among children, parks and recreation administrators need to be cognizant of the implications of the youth sports food environment.

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Keywords


nutrition; physical activity; children; qualitative research; youth sports

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.18666/JPRA-2019-9985

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