Devil’s Glen ‘Hunger Games’ challenge encourages healthy eating habits for youth

Youth athletes took their training at Duntroon Ski Club to a new level this month, as they participated in the club’s first-ever ‘Hunger Games’ initiative, which aimed to promote healthy eating habits.

The competition was called the ‘HOWCAT Hunger Games Challenge.’ Differing from the famous movie franchise, which featured physical endurance battles, this was a challenge meant to encourage the development of a healthy eating mindset during March, which is nutrition month.

“Throughout the season, I would see kids eating muffins or chips and maybe the odd athlete here, or there would have a banana, and they’d come up to me so excited when they had that piece of fruit,” says Catherine Struss, a coach of the club’s under 14 division (U-14). “So I thought you know what for March why don’t we make a competition out of this? We’re all athletes, we’re all competitive, and let’s see who can eat the most fruits and vegetables.”

The name HOWCAT is a combination of her name and her colleague Wayne Howard, who goes by Howie.

The coaches developed a points-based system, allocating different values ​​for different fruits and vegetables based on their nutritional value. They were allowed up to two visits to the grocery store every week, which also provided points.

The athletes are all ski racers between 12 and 13 years old.

“We do a whole bunch of different disciplines,” says Struss. “It’s basically preparing athletes for the next stages of their ski career if they want to take it to collegiate or a national team, provincial team. Hopefully, you produce that one athlete that ends up going to the Olympics one day!”

Struss, a holistic nutritionist, stresses the importance of a healthy diet for athletes.

“It’s important to start to cement this at a young age so they can start to think about it,” says Struss. “I didn’t take anything out of their diet; that wasn’t the goal. It was just to plant a seed, spark some excitement and get some variety in there so they can start to question their choices as they get older.”

However, differing from a traditional diet system that allocates points, participants were not required to remove any unhealthy items from their diet but to add as many fruits and vegetables as possible.

“I’m beyond proud of all the athletes, and then, of course, Devil’s Glen has just been so supportive of it,” says Struss. “It takes a village to raise a child, and I think that couldn’t be more true in this case.”

The competition caught on with many of the athletes, with the winner coming in with more than 1,000 points.

As the athletes ended their season, prizes were handed out on Saturday, which were largely ski-oriented and donated by various community partners.

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