The road to kids’ sporting success paved with healthy food, not hamburgers


As restrictions ease and West Aussie kids return to junior sport, Cancer Council WA, through its LiveLighter program, is urging all parents to be aware of the foods and drinks children are exposed to when participating in organised sports.

Cancer Council WA’s LiveLighter Manager, Kelly Kennington, said organised sport is a great way to get all the physical and mental health benefits of physical activity in a fun and social environment, however it can also be a setting that encourages and normalises the consumption of junk food.

“Whether it’s the brightly coloured rows of lollies, the smell of hot chips at the canteen or the fast food voucher awarded to the best on ground, the junk food available to kids when they participate in sports can significantly undermine the health benefits of being active,” Ms Kennington said.

“The shakeup of our regular routines during the pandemic, while difficult, has given us the opportunity to stop and reflect on how we currently do things, and how we could do them better.

“We are encouraging all parents to help their kids to understand that the road to sporting success is paved with healthy food, not hamburgers.

“Kids don’t need to be rewarded with fast food for participating in sport, instead, fuel them up with the extra nutrition that budding athletes need.

“Choose something to help build up their bones, brains, muscles, and their immune system. A small smoothie or yoghurt are good options, or trail mix with dried fruit, nuts, seeds, and some popcorn thrown is a fun and healthy choice for developing champions.”

Four ways to help all kids shoot for health when playing junior sport:

1. Breakfast of champions

All children, especially those participating in sport, should start their day with a nutritious breakfast. Choose a brekkie that provides young athletes with a source of carbohydrates and protein. Protein is used for the growth and repair of muscle tissues and is found in dairy, meat, nuts, seeds and wholegrains. Carbohydrates are the fuel of choice for the body and brain, powering muscles for activity and helping children to concentrate on the field. Fruit, dairy and wholegrains are all quality sources of carbohydrates that will provide long-lasting energy. Some nourishing breakfast ideas:

  • Whole grain cereal, milk and fruit
  • Grainy toast with peanut butter or cheese
  • Baked beans on wholemeal toast
  • Smoothie made with milk, oats and fruit/ veg

2. Hydrate with water

Many kids and teens reach for sports drinks when being active as they think these drinks will improve their sports performance or provide better hydration than water. Sports drinks can be beneficial for people participating in endurance or high-intensity activities that involve long periods of sweating, like marathon running. However, for most children playing footy or basketball sports drinks are unnecessary. Sports drinks contain an astonishing 9 teaspoons of sugar in each bottle that growing bodies just don’t need. Cordial, fruit juice, energy drinks, sports drinks, and soft drink are also high in sugar and bad for teeth. Water is the best choice to keep your kids hydrated and healthy.

3. Fuel to go and play

Healthy snacks give children on-the-go a chance to re-fuel, a bit like putting petrol in the car when the gauge is on low. Rather than being tempted by the lollies and treats on offer at the canteen, bring along healthier options like homemade sweet or savoury muffins, half sandwiches or the traditional half-time oranges.

If the food available at your local sports club is a few oats short of a bowl of porridge, you could also consider getting in contact with the junior committee to suggest some healthy changes. Healthway offers support and funding of up to $4000 to help sporting club canteens to increase the number of healthy food options available via the Healthy Sporting Club Program. Less junk food available will mean less pressure from your kids to purchase it, something other parents will thank you for too!

4. Post-match treats

Giving away free meal vouchers to sporting clubs to award to kids as prizes is a stroke of marketing genius by the junk food industry. They do not have kids’ best interest at heart; they just know that creating that brand loyalty now will create junk food customers for life. Associating themselves with sports gives their foods and companies a “health halo” and sends a confusing message to kids about what a healthy lifestyle looks like.  

Media Contact: Danielle Monastra, 0434 923 343


About Cancer Council WA’s LiveLighter program:

LiveLighter is a public health education campaign encouraging Australians to lead healthier lives by changing what they eat and drink and being more active.

In Western Australia, the LiveLighter campaign is delivered by Cancer Council WA and is funded by the State Government of Western Australia. For more information visit