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Young Athletes Face Unhealthy Food Choices, Parents Say

Last Updated: June 29, 2012.

Junk food, fast food are part of youth sports routine, study finds.

FRIDAY, June 29 (HealthDay News) -- Children who play organized sports often consume unhealthy foods and beverages, a new study finds.

University of Minnesota researchers interviewed the parents of 60 youth basketball players and found that the youngsters commonly had sweets, such as candy, ice cream and doughnuts; pizza; hot dogs; salty snacks, such as chips, nachos and cheese puffs; and soda and sports drinks.

The parents also reported frequent visits to fast-food restaurants when their children were playing sports.

Although the parents agreed that these foods and beverages are unhealthy, they said rushing to practices and games made them rely more on these types of products due to their convenience.

The researchers also found that parents had difficulty determining whether certain foods and drinks were healthy, and had doubts about whether it was feasible for concession stands at youth sports venues to offer healthy choices.

The study was published in the July/August issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

"The food environment in youth sports exposes kids and their families to many unhealthful foods and beverages and few healthful options," principal investigator Toben Nelson said in a journal news release. "Youth who participate in sports spend considerable time in these activities outside of school, and these sports environments are likely to influence their eating behavior."

The researchers suggested many ways to promote healthy eating in children who play sports, including integrating nutrition education into youth sports programs and finding ways to improve the nutritional quality of food available at youth sports venues.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about feeding your child athlete.

Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, news release, June 2012

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