Study Shows Children Eat More Calories In Post-Game Snacks Than They Expend On The Field

Jun 18, 2021, 7:40 PM | Updated: Feb 13, 2023, 1:27 pm

KAYSVILLE, Utah — A BYU study shows kids eat more calories in post-game snacks than they burn during the actual game. With a childhood obesity rate of 19 percent in the United States, dieticians are concerned.

One Utah dad and coach said he is keeping health a priority on the field.

Steve Harris of Kaysville loves his children and sports, making him the perfect coach for all four of his children’s teams — soccer, basketball and baseball.

He said they’ve created lots of memories together over the years.

“I wanted my kids to grow up being, ‘Yeah, Dad was there. He was involved with us, having fun with us, playing sports,’” he said.

Harris is also a fifth grade teacher.

“I see kids get unhealthy snacks all the time,” he said. “Kids bring snacks for birthdays, treats, whatever.”

Harris and his wife, who is a nurse, decided the soccer field didn’t need more sweets.

“We’re having two, three games a week, you know, so if they have those unhealthy snacks, that’s two, three times a week… they’re getting it,” he said.

So he implemented “the halftime fruit.”

“[It] gives them some natural sugars so that they have more energy for the second half of the game, because they’re already tired then,” he described.

Tara Finnerty, a pediatric dietician with Intermountain Healthcaresaid feeding athletes treats is counterproductive.

“We’re kind of negating those benefits by providing foods with high sugar, processed foods — they’re loaded with calories that are really, actually unnecessary,” she said.

Instead, opt for whole foods and water, she encouraged.

“You can get that same benefit from oranges and apples and bananas, maybe some higher protein foods like peanut butter and yogurt, string cheese, hummus with vegetables, even air popped popcorn” she said.

Tara Finnerty, a pediatric dietician with Intermountain Healthcare, suggests parents bring whole food snacks to games like fruit or high protein foods like cheese or yogurt. (KSL TV) Steve Harris has coached his oldest daughter, Kaitlyn Harris, since she was in preschool. She now plays on an all-star competition team. (KSL TV) Steve Harris coaches all four of his kids' soccer teams. He implemented "the halftime fruit" at his soccer games to cut down on the amount of added sugars kids consume. He notices his kids play better when they're fueled with the right sources. (KSL TV) Steve Harris has coached his oldest daughter, Kaitlyn Harris since she was in preschool. She now plays on an all-star competition team. (KSL TV) Steve Harris kicks the ball back and forth with his 10-year-old daughter, Sarah Harris. He says coaching allows him to spend time with his kids and play sports which are two of his favorite things. (KSL TV) Steve Harris plays soccer with three of his kids, Sara, Ben, and Sam Harris. He says coaching allows him to spend time with his kids and play sports which are two of his favorite things. (KSL TV)

A recent study by the American Journal of Health Behavior found, on average, children are only getting 27 minutes of physical activity per game.

Finnerty argued they’re just not exercising long enough to add the extra calories.

“They’re consuming far more calories than they’re actually burning during these physical activities,” she said.

For example, she said most 20 ounce sports drinks contain about a 1/4 cup of sugar.

While Finnerty said parents don’t need to count their child’s calories, they can still be mindful.

“Kids are growing. We need to fuel their bodies in a healthy way,” she said, creating healthy habits while they’re young. “We need to nourish their body, not just give them this endless supply of sugary calories or empty calories.”

She encouraged people to look at how often they are consuming these foods and identify where they can swap the treats out for healthier options.

“The special occasions are turning into daily events,” she said. “And then the next day, it’s the family barbecue, and the next day it’s a holiday… and pretty soon it’s we’re using food for every event — good and bad.”

Harris said his teams have responded well to the adjustment.

“Parents have loved it. They think it’s a great idea because it’s promoting healthy eating,” he said. “It’s just been the expectation, like that’s what we do. And really, I’ve found that kids are happy as long as they’re getting something.”

Harris has already signed up to coach all of his children’s teams again next year.

“Oh, it’s the best. That’s what life’s all about — seeing your kids grow up, having fun and then getting to mesh that with sports… it’s a win-win for me,” he said.

The US dietary guidelines recommend children younger than two years should not be fed foods or beverages with added sugars at all.

Finnerty suggested limiting added sugar intake for all children in general.

“It truly is addicting and so they kind of just get this ongoing sweet tooth,” she said.

She said this will help prevent long-term illnesses related to obesity like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes, cancers and even dementia.

Finnerty also said when kids graze on unhealthy foods, it can spoil their appetite before dinner time and prevent them from getting the nutrients they need.

“It really does impair their appetite to want to eat healthier foods at the mealtime,” she said.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Your Life Your Health

Jason Peck with his sons...
Ayanna Likens

How an outpatient program helped Salt Lake man overcome substance abuse

A Salt Lake man is sharing his story of overcoming opioid use and how Intermountain Health's outpatient program helped him.
7 days ago
Doctors are seeing a higher number of adults under 55 diagnosed with colon cancer. (Jeffrey Gray)...
Ayanna Likens

45 is the new 50 when it comes to colon cancer screenings

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month, and 45 is the new 50 when it comes to colon cancer screenings.
14 days ago
(KSL TV)...
Ayanna Likens

Why helmet safety is important when playing in the snow

All of the recent snowfall in Utah has created every kid's winter wonderland, but if you plan to hit the sledding hill, there are a few things to keep in mind. 
21 days ago
Linda LeCheminant...
Ayanna Likens

Why it’s important to recognize your risk for heart disease 

February is National Heart Month and heart disease is the number one killer in the United States for both men and women. But there are some ways that you can change your lifestyle to help prevent it.
28 days ago
Ross heart procedure...
Ayanna Likens

Complex heart surgery at Primary Children’s is saving lives

February is Heart Health Month, and a young Idaho boy is thriving because of a heart procedure gaining traction at Intermountain's Primary Children's Hospital. 
1 month ago
Andelyn Jensen...
Ayanna Likens

A resource that can help prevent sports-related injuries

In the United States there are more than 3.5 million sports-related injuries for children and teens each year, according to a study from John Hopkins Medicine. 
1 month ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Close up of an offset printing machine during production...
Les Olson IT

Top 7 Reasons to Add a Production Printer to Your Business

Learn about the different digital production printers and how they can help your company save time and money.
vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Study Shows Children Eat More Calories In Post-Game Snacks Than They Expend On The Field