In our early days as sports parents, my husband and I scoffed at the thought of meal-planning. In our minds, the process would be too overwhelming given our time-crunched schedules. It didn’t change the fact that we had to eat, but we simply trusted that our meals would come from “somewhere.”
We weren’t alone in this common dilemma among sports parents. When you’re scurrying around, packing for a tournament or reminding your kids for the 100th time to remember their cleats, eating, in general, takes a back seat.
But our lack of meal planning turned into years of snack stands and multiple visits to the drive-thru which over time translated into larger waistlines and smaller wallets!
We eventually ended the fast food free-for-all by adopting a clean-eating strategy. Of course, I was averse to this suggestion for fear it would it cause a unnecessary backlash, but this shift in our thinking has helped us regain control of our health and budget.
We finally came to the realization that it was just as easy for us to buy healthy food instead of junk food. It was simply mind over matter. It took no greater effort on our part to walk to the produce aisle versus the snack foods aisle. It was our own stubbornness that prevented us from choosing what was best for our family.
Clean-Eating Tips for Snacks:
After years of adopting a clean-eating on-the-go strategy, I have created a simple checklist for having healthier foods at arm’s reach:
- First off, have lots of bottled water on hand. Keep them in a cooler and give your child a separate thermos of ice-filled water to keep on the bench. Skip the Gatorade and opt for lower sugar options such as Body Armor or homemade smoothies for in between games. We make our smoothies with greens, bananas, berries, coconut milk and protein powder. (Paula’s recommended whey protein brands).
- Stick with cut-up servings of water-based foods such as watermelon, cantaloupe, berries, grapes and even oranges. Carrot and celery sticks and cucumber slices also work for the pickiest of eaters. Another snack that we don’t leave home without is jarred pickles as they’re great for hydration.
- Pack individual servings of your produce in small containers inside an insulated cooler bag. This keeps them fresh and quick to grab during breaks. I learned the hard way that food packed in sandwich or storage bags becomes watery from condensing ice packs. For this reason, I no longer pack bananas because they ripen too quickly under those conditions.
- Our go-to protein foods are nuts, cut-up cheese in a container, beef sticks and hard-boiled eggs. Jerky is also a good option, but only if you have ample time to eat it. 😉
Tips for Meals on the Go:
- Salads with meat are the most practical to transport and refreshing to eat on those hot days at the field. Pinterest has an endless supply of salad recipes in which you can find a use for leftover chopped chicken, turkey, or steak – or mix up some chicken, tuna or egg salad as long as you keep it cold. Nitrate-free lunch meats are available in most stores, even Aldi’s. Pack your dressing in a separate container and keep a box of plastic utensils in your bag as well.
- If you have to eat out, buy salads with meat. Most convenience stores also sell cut-up fruit and veggies, hard-boiled eggs, and even pickles. If you’re stuck buying hoagies or burgers, take along an extra container to pour the contents except for the bread.
Silly but Practical Tip:
- This may sound silly, but ask for rubber bands to put around your salad package. Keep in mind that you’re transporting food and drinks across bumpy fields and up and down hills. We made the mistake one time of placing a store bought salad container on top of the ice in our water cooler. Lunchtime arrived only for us to find the container lid wide open and the salad contents swimming in ice water!
Clean-Eating is Best!
Regardless of what you’ve been told, eating clean is cheaper than eating junk food. Aldi’s is our first stop for healthy foods. Next, I scour the produce clearance shelves and coolers at our local grocery stores knowing that we’ll be eating those items within a day.
You may not always be able to execute your clean-eating plan all of the time, but make the best choices you can under the circumstances. Your health and budget will thank you in the long run.