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Juggling Kids Calendars with Healthy Food Choices

June 14, 2009

I don’t know about you, but in our house, we’re in the thick of the spring sports season and these days I feel more like a taxi service, portable cheering section, health clinician and referee more than anything else.  If you’ve got, or had, kids in sports then you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about!

Don’t get me wrong, I love the games and being there to watch my sons get a hit or my daughter chase the soccer ball around the field, but the sports schedules put our “normal” dinner schedule totally out of whack.  We’re a family that tries to eat together 7 nights a week, but this time of year we’re like ships passing in the night.  The challenge is making sure your kids eat well even though they may only have 15 minutes to inhale something.

We all have our little tricks of the trade, but here are a few things that I like to do to keep the fast food wrappers out of my car and the grease out of my kids stomach.

Plan ahead

Try to anticipate what your day looks like the night before and prep some meals in advance.  Okay, I know, we’re all busy and some of us work, but sometimes I’ll stay up an extra 20 minutes (or get up a little earlier than normal) and make a meatloaf that I can throw in the oven when I get home from work.  Spaghetti is also really easy to take care of in advance.  Prepare your sauce at night and stick it in the refrigerator.  That way, the next day all you need to do is heat up the sauce and boil noodles.  Plus, your kids get great carbohydrates which they need for their games!  If you think of it, make enough for leftovers, it’s an easy way to have an after game “snack” or another meal later in the week.   If you want more great ideas AND recipes, check out the “Easy Eats” section at  You’ll be stunned by the number of things that you can put together in 10 minutes or less.

Frozen Foods

Last night, my oldest son had a baseball game and I didn’t have time to get something together between when I got home from work and when he had to be at baseball.  Without time for a “real” dinner, I threw some chicken nuggets in the toaster oven, put them in a paper bag and sent him off to his game.  Okay, so it’s a little crude, but the guy had to eat on the run and he had a more substantial meal after the game.  Best of all, the Bakebrush white meat chicken nuggets are way better than fast food chain nuggets.  They’re just 9 grams of fat per serving (4 pieces per serving), 0 trans fats and they’ve got some carbs and 12 grams of protein, which is rockin’ for a quick snack.

A Good Old Fashioned Sandwich

I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, my mom went back to school and quite often I’d need to eat something before swim practice and in most cases a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is all I needed.  It wasn’t glamorous or sexy, but it worked.  With the protein in peanut butter and the carbs in the bread, it was all I needed at the time.  Best of all, if your kids are old enough they can make it themselves.  If you want to be real “high end,” get some turkey breast or other meat from the deli and put together some sandwiches and stick them in the refrigerator until the kids need them.  Remember the old fashioned picnics?  They need to make a comeback!

Fruits and Vegetables

What’s that you say?  You don’t eat enough fruits and veggies in your house?  Before games and practices can be a great time to get the kids going on these.  In our house our kids are just starting to get hungry around 5pm, which is right about when we’re out the door for sports.  We like to bring some bananas, grapes or carrot sticks in the car and it’s a great way for the kids to get something healthy in their bodies that will get them through their hour and a half of practice. I find that if I make a conscious effort to have fresh fruit washed and prepared, they are more likely to reach for it than if it sits in the refrigerator waiting to be cut up.

The hardest part in putting these ideas into practice is making a commitment to the belief that you want your kids to eat well and there’s no reason they can’t do that even with a busy schedule. Remember, aside from it being better food they are putting in their bodies, chances are they’ll feel stronger and perform better in games an practices when they’ve had a healthy meal or snack ahead of time.