Sometimes, it can feel like there are simply not enough hours in the day to juggle your family’s busy schedules, especially when you’re raising little athletes. From hauling the kids to and from practice, to making sure they make it to bed on time with all of their homework done, it can be difficult to find the time to come up with, prepare, and cook healthy meals for the week. That’s where we come in. With the advice of Julia Chebotar, AKA Health Chef Julia, we'd like to help you out with some tips on creating quick, nutritious, and delicious snacks and meals that the whole family will enjoy.
Although it’s not essential to buy new appliances or products, there are a few that could be beneficial for minimizing your prep and cooking time and improving your household healthiness overall. Julia, for one, swears by her bluicer—blender and juicer combination (her favorite is the Breville 3X Bluicer). It could be as simple as throwing some spinach, kale, celery, green apple, lemon, and ginger into the bluicer, and then sending your little athlete off with either a yummy green juice or smoothie. And just like that, with a couple sips on the way to practice, your child has conveniently met their daily dose of fruits and/or vegetables.
An assortment of Pyrex containers is another one of Julia's necessities. Rather than making a different dinner every night, it's exceedingly more efficient to prepare the bulk of your upcoming meals in advance. When you find yourself with a few hours to spare on Sunday, use that time to cook two grains, two proteins, steam a variety of vegetables or leave them raw, and store everything in the refrigerator. Then each night during the upcoming week, when it's time to squeeze dinner into your family's packed schedule, simply reheat or re-dish what you've already prepared.
It is paramount that everybody, especially athletes in competitive sports, maintain a nutritious, balanced diet. When figuring out what foods to incorporate, aim for different colors throughout the week. Colorful fruits and vegetables contain phytonutrients, which possess a wealth of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Each color in produce has different phytonutrients essential to your health, so it’s crucial to maintain variety and eat the whole rainbow. In the morning, start your little ones (and yourself!) off with a green juice, or perhaps a bright red beet juice, and a bowl of oatmeal or yogurt with fresh berries. For a lunch or dinner salad, add some color (and delicious flavor) with different combinations of vegetables and/or fruits.
In addition to eating the rainbow, Julia also shares the importance of eating seasonally. In the United States especially, we've become accustomed to having nearly anything we could ever want just a supermarket trip away, but the truth of the matter is that you'll never find a high-quality peach or tomato in the winter, nor will you find a good sweet potato or pomegranate in the summer. To promote better health and sustainability, we should begin focusing more on eating locally and therefore seasonally depending on our geographic location.
Sheet Pan Meals - According to Julia, sheet pan meals are your best friend when you’re always on the go and pressed for time. While you can absolutely customize this based on your preferences, you can’t go wrong with chickpeas, beans, vegetables, perhaps a meat of your choice, and of course, some seasoning. Between preparing everything on the sheet and cooking it in the oven, this meal takes less than an hour to make.
As for snacks, your little athletes will need proper sustenance in between meals to provide them with enough strength and energy to perform at the top of their game. While it seems easiest to just reach for a bag of chips or some cookies come snack time, this is rather detrimental to their health. Instead, skip the processed, salty or sugary snacks and opt for a homemade, healthier alternative. Now just because a snack is homemade does not necessarily mean that it requires a ton of time to make. Something as simple as some fresh berries make the perfect nutritious, antioxidant-packed, after-school or mid-practice snack. As with your grains, proteins, and vegetables, it is most efficient to prepare and store in the refrigerator different containers of berries ahead of time so you can always have a good variety on hand when the kids get hungry.
Trail mix is another healthy snack alternative. Simply mix some nuts (assuming no one is allergic), dried fruits, and even some chocolate bites. Julia recommends making this yourself rather than going for a store-bought bag because this way, you'll know exactly what your child is putting in their body.
But that is not to say that all store-bought snacks are necessarily bad. For those of us who remember Fruit Rolls Ups and Fruit by the Foot, you'll know that, although tasty, these snacks are anything but healthy. As a nutritious alternative, Julia recommends BEAR Fruit Rolls. These leathery fruit rolls are 100% natural with no added sugar and only contain fruits, vegetables, and natural extract. So when your child is in the mood for something sweet and fruity, BEAR Fruit Rolls are the way to go!
Health Chef Julia is an award-winning, NYC-based chef and culinary nutritionist with a passion for creating healthy, sustainable, and----most importantly----delicious unique recipes. One of Food Network's Chopped Champions, Julia also imparts her culinary wisdom through podcasts, corporate wellness seminars, virtual webinars, virtual team-building events, and virtual cooking classes.
Now it's time to think about what to send your child to sports practice with. With Julia's ample nutritional advice, you've got the snacks covered, but what about everything else? Your little athlete will need a spacious, durable bag to carry all of their equipment and extra clothes. Browse these Ascot Manor backpacks for the perfect sports bag for your child.
If your child needs a bigger bag for all of their practice essentials, we also have these stylish and functional duffles.
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