Parents Say that Healthy Eating Is Challenging for Youth who Play Sports
New study highlights how parents, coaches and youth sport organizations can promote healthful eating
Philadelphia, PA, June 19, 2012 – The food and beverages available to youth when they participate in organized sports can often be unhealthy, according to a new study released in the July/August 2012 issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. The findings were based on interviews with parents of players participating in youth basketball programs. Common food in youth sport settings were sweets (e.g., candy, ice cream, doughnuts), pizza, hot dogs, ‘‘taco-in-a-bag,’’ salty snacks (e.g., chips, cheese puffs, nachos), as well as soda pop and sports drinks. Parents also reported frequent visits to a fast-food restaurant (e.g., McDonald's, Dairy Queen) when their children were playing sports. Parents told researchers they considered these to be unhealthy. Parents said their busy schedules getting to practices and games made them rely more on convenient, but less healthy, foods and beverages.
The research was conducted by investigators from the University of Minnesota. They recruited 60 parents of youth basketball players and conducted eight focus groups. Despite finding that parents considered youth sport an unhealthy food environment, parents were ambivalent about the food and beverage choices available in youth sports, viewing snacks as an occasional treat, and sometimes rationalizing unhealthful eating because they saw their child as healthy. Parents had difficulty determining whether some food and beverage options were healthful. They also expressed concern about whether making healthful food and beverages more available at youth sport venues, particularly in concession stands, was feasible.
According to Toben F. Nelson, ScD, principal investigator of this study, “The food environment in youth sport exposes kids and their families to many unhealthful foods and beverages and few healthful options. Youth who participate in sports spend considerable time in these activities outside of school, and these sport environments are likely to influence their eating behavior.” Lead author, Megan Thomas, MPH, RD, adds, “Parents should be concerned about what their children are eating, because good nutrition has benefits beyond weight management and is important for optimizing performance.”
The study also brought to light that despite parent awareness of the poor food and beverage choices that are prevalent in youth sport; few parents attempted to change the situation. “These findings suggest the importance of helping parents understand the benefits of healthful eating for all children, regardless of their current weight status, and of helping parents feel empowered to create a healthful food environment for their children despite time obstacles,” says investigator Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, PhD, RD.
Despite the study findings, researchers believe that youth sport is a promising setting for promoting nutrition. According to the National Council of Youth Sports, more than 44 million youth participate in organized sports each year. Studies have shown that youth sports participants are more likely to consume sports drinks and items from fast-food restaurants than youth who don’t participate in sports.
The investigators made recommendations to promote healthful dietary habits in youth sports participants: Integrate nutrition messages into youth sport programs; develop collaboration between youth sport leagues, public health professionals, and dietitians to create positive messages about nutrition that are specific to youth sport and could be delivered by coaches and peer mentors; enlist coaches and older peer mentors to deliver key nutrition messages; develop nutrition guidelines for sport leagues regarding the types of food and beverages that are appropriate for organized snack schedules and concession stands; and explore feasible ways to improve the nutritional quality of food and beverages available and sold in youth sport settings.
# # #
Notes for editors
“Exploring Parent Perceptions of the Food Environment in Youth Sport” by Megan Thomas, MPH, RD; Toben F. Nelson, ScD; Eileen Harwood, PhD; and Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, PhD, RD. It appears in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, Volume 44, Issue 4 (July/August 2012) published by Elsevier.
Full text of the article is available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Eileen Leahy at +1 732 238 3628or firstname.lastname@example.org to obtain copies. To schedule an interview with the authors, please contact Dr. Toben F. Nelson by email at email@example.com or by phone at +1 612 626 9791. Additional information about the Healthy Youth Sport Study at the University of Minnesota is available at http://umn.edu/~hyss.
An audio podcast featuring an interview with Toben F. Nelson, ScD and information specifically for journalists are located at www.jneb.org/content/podcast . Excerpts from the podcast may be reproduced by the media; contact Eileen Leahy to obtain permission.
About the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior ( www.jneb.org)
The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB), the official journal of the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB), is a refereed, scientific periodical that serves as a resource for all professionals with an interest in nutrition education and dietary/physical activity behaviors. The purpose of JNEB is to document and disseminate original research, emerging issues, and practices relevant to nutrition education and behavior worldwide and to promote healthy, sustainable food choices. It supports the society’s efforts to disseminate innovative nutrition education strategies, and communicate information on food, nutrition, and health issues to students, professionals, policy makers, targeted audiences, and the public.
The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior features articles that provide new insights and useful findings related to nutrition education research, practice, and policy. The content areas of JNEB reflect the diverse interests of health, nutrition, education, Cooperative Extension, and other professionals working in areas related to nutrition education and behavior. As the Society's official journal, JNEB also includes occasional policy statements, issue perspectives, and member communications.
Elsevier is a global information analytics business that helps scientists and clinicians to find new answers, reshape human knowledge, and tackle the most urgent human crises. For 140 years, we have partnered with the research world to curate and verify scientific knowledge. Today, we’re committed to bringing that rigor to a new generation of platforms. Elsevier provides digital solutions and tools in the areas of strategic research management, R&D performance, clinical decision support, and professional education; including ScienceDirect, Scopus, SciVal, ClinicalKey and Sherpath. Elsevier publishes over 2,500 digitized journals, including The Lancet and Cell, 39,000 e-book titles and many iconic reference works, including Gray's Anatomy. Elsevier is part of RELX, a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers. www.elsevier.com
+1 732 238 3628