It seems with busy schedules, both parents working in many families, and everyone being pulled in a million different directions with different schedules, spending time as a family at the dinner table takes a back seat. With sports practices and games added to an already busy academic and extracurricular school schedule, dinner is an afterthought. Trying to make it healthy often seems to be an impossible task.
It doesn't have to be impossible and can actually be enjoyable with these simple tips:
1. Plan ahead. If you wait until the last minute and don't plan ahead for snacks or dinner, you will be grabbing things on the go and they likely won't be the healthiest options.
2. Prep ahead. Part of the planning needs to be prepping. Cut up fruits and veggies, pack hummus or peanut butter, grab a stash of granola bars, chill the juice, sports drinks, water, or chocolate milk. Have it all ready to grab and go for snacks before and after practices.
3. Crockpot it. I love, love, love a crockpot meal. You can throw ingredients in before work, and walk in the door to a delicious dinner ready to go. Think outside the pot roast. Soups and stews, casseroles, BBQ, meatballs, chicken, beans...the list can go on and on.
4. Eat together. Did you know that families who eat together tend to eat healthier and there are social benefits for the kids? It's a time to connect, highlight the day, and make plans for the future. Nothing brings people together like a shared meal. The way to our heart is through our stomach!
5. Have snacks. If kids (or parents!) wait until they are ravenously hungry, they eat too fast, make bad choices, and overeat. Not a good scenario. Make sure your young athlete has snacks before, during, and after practices and games to ensure they are properly fueled for energy and recovery.
6. Balance. Meals should always include a source of complex carbohydrate (bread, cereal, rice, pasta, tortilla, potato, beans, etc), protein (beef, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, beans), and fruits/vegetables. This is the right balance for energy, recovery and health.
7. Fluids. Don't forget to encourage hydration before, during, and after exercise. You know your young athlete is properly hydrated if the color of his or her urine is barely yellow. Ask them to monitor it themselves to take responsibility over their hydration status. If it's dark yellow, drink up!
8. Get creative. If you and your kids feel like you're eating the same things day after day, shake it up! Challenge yourself to try just one new recipe a week and pretty soon you'll have a whole new repertoire to choose from. Get the kids involved! If they assist in the planning, shopping, and preparation of food, they tend to eat it. Encourage healthy planning of course!
With these few simple tips you can fuel your active family the right way...it just takes a little bit of planning and preparation.
Make your New Year one of proper fueling for energy and performance.
Known as the "Diet Diva," Tara Gidus Collingwood is a nationally acclaimed nutrition expert and the official nutritionist of runDisney.