Brought to you by the Washington State Beef Commission
As a working mom of three young athletes, youth soccer coach, former collegiate player, and running enthusiast, I know how essential good nutrition is to feeling good and keeping up with my family’s fast-paced life. But paying attention to my nutrition and fitness goals isn’t where my job stops, it’s where I get started.
Fuel for fitness is about more than the dinnertime food choices I make as a mom in my kitchen. Speedy breakfasts, packed school lunches, on the go food, sideline snacks, and quick fuel after matches or late-night training sessions have all become a part of our family’s nutrition balancing act each week. These food choices outside of our planned, well-balanced family dinners are easy places to lose track of the nutrition going into our bodies. After all, who hasn’t grabbed a box of chocolate chip granola bars from the store or hit the drive-thru when you’re in a timing pinch? Or had ramen soup for dinner at 9:00pm? Or made a great crockpot dinner only to realize no one will be home to eat it? While this is a reality, even in our house, as a mom and coach, I’m always encouraging young players and parents to be aware of their food habits and seek overall balance. When I look back at our family’s week, it’s my hope that I’ve managed to average out to at least two homemade meals each day, a variety of fruits and veggies each day for each kid, and incorporated protein and healthy fats at least two to three times a day. And in a perfect world, we’ve shared one meal each day together as a family of five.
Here’s a few mom-hacks I’d encourage other moms to embrace in this effort to find balance in your family’s nutrition. And if they don’t happen all the time, that’s okay too. Small steps can become healthy habits!
Get Going: Start your day right with a dose of protein that will stick with you by creating a breakfast station on the counter with a toaster, whole-grain breads and quality nut butters. Or make up freezer bags with mixed berries, Greek yogurt and bananas or your favorite smoothie ingredients so they’re ready to just drop in the blender. Breakfast burritos made from Taco Night leftovers are another great protein-loaded option, just wrap up and heat up when you need them! Same goes with Sausage & Egg Muffin Cups that can be made ahead and reheated for quick, powerful protein even on the way out the door!
Speedy Snack Hack: Making a habit of packing lean beef jerky in your purse, car and the kids’ soccer bags saves you from falling back on carbohydrate or sugar-filled foods that deliver empty calories. And the nutrition community agrees that a hearty dose of protein within 30 minutes of completing your exercise is the most efficient time for muscles to put that protein to work repairing and rebuilding from the strain of the work out.
After the Tunnel: If you’ve got little soccer players, you know the importance of halftime oranges and the all-important after-game snack bag. Encourage your fellow parents to skip the sugar filled sports drinks and provide non-fat chocolate milk instead, along with small cut veggies or fruits and 1 ounce packs of beef jerky for a great balanced mini meal sure to make those tiny footballers happy.
Zoom, Zoom: Dinners on the go are reality when training runs late or you spend the whole night dropping off, picking up and doing it all again. Consider meals that can be packed like Mu Shu Steak & Apple Wraps or a Beef Bagelwich, cut veggies and fruits and bottles of water all packed in the good old cooler. We call this our “car picnic”. Stopping into your grocery store’s deli section provides great salad and sandwich options, even hot soups to warm you up on those cold evenings and almost ready items that can be heated and combined for fast meals when you do finally get home.
For more recipes that are ideal for families in motion, visit us at wabeef.org. And to keep that Dinner Game strong, I suggest you check out our Kid-Friendly Fare collection, where kid is king and mom is happy.
A note on identifying your young athlete’s protein needs: The amount of protein your child needs depends on his/her age, body size, gender, and activity level. But a good rule of thumb, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, is that protein should make up about 15 to 20 percent of your child’s daily calories. According to the Kids Health from Nemours website, kids usually need to eat about 1/2 gram of protein for every pound of body weight. This means that a 70-pound child should eat around 35 grams of protein disbursed throughout a day. Very athletic older children and teens might need up to a gram of protein per pound of weight to sustain their energy, growth and athletic development. Seeking nutrition advice specific to your family’s needs is always encouraged.