How to stick to healthy eating options when your kids are in youth athletics

As a busy working woman and mom, the dreaded question of “What’s for dinner?” is endless. The demands of career and family often place meal planning low on the priority list. As a result, you are likely to rely on prepared or take-out foods.  After all, it is easy, satisfies everyone’s desires, and is so readily available. Yes, it is a meal, but you may not feel happy relying on this option on an ongoing basis.

Spring, sports and kids

Despite the efforts and attempts made to select healthier prepared or take-out food options, they are often smothered or bathed in oils, dressings, or sauces high in calories, salt, and/or sugar.  You or your family members may even feel uncomfortable after eating these meals, especially if dinner is eaten late & close to bedtime.

This is not intended to make you feel bad.  It’s ok; we all turn to these options at some point.  The purpose of this is to raise mindfulness in your decision-making process. Prepared foods and take-out are ok occasionally, but getting into the habit of doing so several times a week is not the best for anyone.

You probably want to make a homemade meal but finding the time to make it happen is where you run into trouble. You are unsure where to begin, or you feel like it will be too hard to maintain.   So you are left wondering, “What else can I do” right?  You may not like the answer, at least not immediately, but stay open-minded & hear me out. Taking time to plan is key. First, look at the week’s schedule. Identify which days and the number of nights impacted by activities. Next, decide if you want to prepare for just those nights or the entire week. If you choose to do weekly planning, keep in mind that you don’t need to make the same meals every week for each day of the week (i.e., Monday meatloaf, Tuesday tacos, etc.).  When you do this, you and the family likely get tired of the same foods/meals. When you make different meals and recipes, you are more likely to enjoy preparing and eating the meals. 

Get yourself organized

Next, create a shopping list with all the ingredients you need for the recipes, side dishes, and snacks. You may even want to double up some of the ingredients so you can make more for another day or time. If you are looking to cut down on time, buy the fresh vegetables that are already sliced and ready to be cooked.  Fresh-cut vegetables are also great to keep in the refrigerator and have on hand as a quick go-to snack. Another tip is to freeze some fresh vegetables or buy some frozen vegetables, so there is always something available to add to a main dish or side.  Third, involve family members in the process. (Granted, a trip to the grocery store may end up with a bunch of things you did not want or need, but I digress.) Get family members to join you in the kitchen and help you. You do not need to be banished or isolated to the kitchen. When others are involved, it becomes more fun. Family members can be included in the planning and meal preparation. Valuing their input in the process can also lead to better communication and build relationships.   Family members also learn that healthy home-cooked meals are important and worth the time invested.  Next, get your containers and break up the meals into portions that work for your family.   It all does not need to go in the refrigerator. Some can be put in the freezer and saved for another time, like lunch or dinner.  When storing food in the freezer, be sure to label the containers or bags to eliminate guesswork and being surprised once it thaws.

Evenings at the ballpark or soccer field shouldn’t be the reason to kill a healthy habit.

Now this may be a helpful tip or reminder for some of you, but others may face the problem of not being able to even eat at home. What happens on the nights where there are two practices, and you are not getting home until 9 PM?  Ok, take in a deep breath & relax, you can do this too.   Prepare something that does not need to be served hot or heated up. Yes, it can be a sandwich or salad, but not the same thing that you or the kids would have for lunch. Try to think outside the box. It does not have to be salad greens, cold cuts or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Consider something like a pasta or quinoa salad with protein, a pita or wrap sandwich with veggies & protein.  Yes, it sounds like something you can pick up on the way but remember when you make it at home you control the quality and amount of ingredients.

On game days, which often occur on the weekend, do not forget to plan healthy snacks to keep you and your player going. Fresh fruits or sliced vegetables are easy to toss in a container or bag. If you like to dip those vegetables and get tired of hummus and guacamole, try a non-dairy option or make one from fresh herbs. For those who are not allergic, nuts are also easy to grab as you head out.  When you spend a few minutes thinking about what you can take, you’ll be surprised and happy that you are not limited to a bag of chips or cookies. Planning does not have to be hard or stressful. It does, however, require a little work and creativity. I think you and your family are worth it, don’t you agree?


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Diane Saulle, PhD.
Diane Saulle, PhD. is a certified Health Coach and Founder of Eat Clean Be Vital Inc. The demands placed on women today make it easy to prioritize everyone & everything before ourselves. This takes a toll on how we look & feel. I provide guidance, support & accountability to women looking to reclaim their health & well-being. Focus is placed on what to eat, physical activity & personal development.
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