Objective: Australian data indicate that 63% of children participated in sport in 2009, a 4% increase since 2000. Children’s high participation in sport, and the association between sport and health, means that these settings provide an opportunity to promote other aspects of health, such as healthy eating, to children. This study aimed to determine healthy eating practices and policies at children’s sports clubs.
Methods: Sports clubs (n=108) for the nine most popular sports for children aged 5 to 14 were randomly sampled from three large geographical areas across one state and one territory in Australia. A purpose-designed telephone questionnaire for sports club officials was developed to determine the food and beverages sold, provided and promoted at sports clubs and the availability of healthy-eating policies.
Results: The most frequently sold item at canteens was water, followed by sports drinks, chocolate/confectionery and soft drink. Only 20% of canteens promoted healthy food. Thirty-nine per cent of clubs made recommendations on the food and beverages to be consumed during sport, mostly relating to water consumption. The majority (76%) engaged in fundraising; many in collaboration with chocolate/ confectionery companies. Only three clubs had a written policy on healthy eating.
Conclusion: Addressing the low uptake of healthy eating policies would be a useful strategy to improve the healthiness of sports clubs.
Implications: Policies could seek to reduce the availability and promotion of unhealthy food and beverages through canteens, vending machines and fundraising.