Healthy Meals and Snacks for the Busy Athlete

As a registered dietician, a common phrase I hear is: “I have no time to eat breakfast, plan meals, or pack snacks for the day. It’s just impossible!” Between school, sports practices, homework, and extracurricular activities, finding time for healthy yet quick options for meals and snacks can be quite the challenge!

Your child’s nutrition directly affects their performance both on and off the field. And proper nutrition also helps prevent illness and injury. Many young athletes do not have a snack before they head out to practice after school, but snacks are an important part of an athlete’s day.

If possible, an athlete should aim to have a snack 30 minutes to an hour before practice. And if you have practice in the evening hours, taking just five minutes to pack a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, banana, carrots with dip and a granola bar will better fuel your young athlete than a burger and fries from a fast food drive-thru. You can time it and make it a family game!

Good nutrition practices and a healthy diet are one of the greatest keys to success for your young athlete., The tips and ideas below can help you find the time to plan more nutritious meals and snacks for you and your family.

Wishing everyone a happy, fueled sports season and new year!

General Tips for Healthy Meals and Snacks:

  • Plan ahead for the week. Take 10 minutes on the weekend to plan out a family calendar of meals.
  • If you have to hit up the drive thru, make smarter choices like grilled chicken sandwiches/wraps, apple slices, or yogurt parfaits.
  • Pack meals to take with you. Have all items deconstructed in the refrigerator and ready to go for quick preparation!
  • Buy food items in bulk to have on hand during busy seasons.
  • Provide food for your child to keep in their locker or backpack.
  • Pack 2-3 meals ahead of time. Put in lunch boxes or brown bags for quick grab and go access.
  • Get the kids involved! Studies have shown greater compliance with healthy eating if your child has a hand in meal preparation.

Healthy Breakfast Ideas:

  • Smoothies – put all the ingredients in the blender the night before, and stick it in the fridge overnight so it’s ready to go when the kids wake up
  • English muffins with peanut butter and banana slices
  • Yogurt, granola, fruit parfait
  • Granola bar with piece of fruit
  • Hard boiled eggs and toast
  • Whole grain cereal with milk
  • Non-traditional breakfast is okay too!
    • Turkey/cheese sandwiches
    • Cheese stick and crackers
    • Leftovers from the night before
    • Breakfast pizza on English muffin with sauce, cheese, and veggies

Healthy Lunch and Dinner Ideas:

  • Chicken breast/fish/lean beef with pasta/rice/quinoa, veggie side dish, whole grain rolls, and frozen yogurt for dessert
  • Pasta with lean meat sauce, garden salad, and whole grain rolls
  • Burritos or rice bowls with rice, chicken/pork/beef, beans, vegetables, salsa, light sour cream and cheese Sandwiches on whole grain bread, turkey/chicken/roast beef, veggies, cheese, and pretzels or baked chips on the side
  • Veggie and chicken quesadillas, with tortilla chips and guacamole
  • Stir fry with chicken/pork/beef and veggies, served over rice or noodles
  • Turkey sandwiches with cheese warmed in the oven topped with veggies. Serve with fruit.

Healthy Snack Ideas:

  • Granola bars
  • Crackers with peanut butter
  • Fruit (banana, apple, applesauce in a pouch) and nuts
  • Baggie of trail mix
  • Pretzels with cheese cubes
  • Cheese stick with a piece of fruit
  • Popcorn
  • Half of turkey sandwich
  • Bowl of whole grain cereal
Jessica Buschmann, RD
Jessica Buschmann, MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian with Nationwide Children’s Sports Medicine. As part of her role at Nationwide Children’s, she provides nutrition services to Ohio Dominican University’s athletic teams and the general student population. She is registered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration and licensed by the Ohio Board of Dietetics. Before joining the NCH Sports Medicine team, Jessica completed her Master’s degree at Marywood University in Sports Nutrition and Exercise Science. Jessica’s professional interests include Female Athlete Triad management and prevention, employee wellness, and meal planning for optimal sports performance. Jessica’s personal interests include anything outdoors, running, cooking with friends and family, grocery shopping (especially at Farmer’s Markets!), trying new restaurants around Columbus, spontaneous and planned traveling adventures, skydiving, and reading with a good cup of java in local coffee shops.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *