Active youth athletes usually have good, healthy diets. But shortages and restrictions that are occurring right now in the face of the COVID 19 pandemic mean that many of them – and their parents, may fall of that healthy diet wagon and begin to lose the edge that a great diet gives them. Or that’s the worry you may have. It does not have to be the reality though.
Eating healthy during social distancing and quarantines is possible, it just calls for a little extra planning. Here are some tips:
Visualize breakfast, lunch, and dinner for at least 5 days. What will you serve? What do you need? Consider the foods your family likes, your food prep methods, interests and skills, and the time and energy you will have for preparing meals.
Working from home may not mean there is more time to cook—especially if you are now responsible for teaching your kids and doing the work your employer expects.
To help save time, include children in meal planning, preparation, and clean up while teaching them writing, math, reading, and science. (bonus!)
- Reading/Writing: Ask your kids to make a list of what’s in the pantry and refrigerator. Then, have them look through cookbooks or online recipes sites to find meals and snacks that use up what is on hand. Have them share their breakfast, lunch, or dinner meal ideas.
- Math: Find math in measuring spoons and cups, counting out numbers of ingredients, taking stock of pantry items, or planning the time it will take to prepare, cook, eat, and clean up a meal.
- Science: Get kids involved in baking bread, cooking an egg, or creating a homemade salad dressing—then, search the internet to discover the science behind why ingredients change when they are combined, heated, or blended
The healthiest meals emphasize whole grains, vegetables, and fruits—serve them in the greatest amounts. Meat portions should be smaller—this will save money and help keep dietary saturated fat in check.
Make a shopping list—and use it! You’ll be less like to forget items or buy impulse items. Stock up on nutrition-packed foods that will stay fresh for a week or longer. These are all good examples:
- Breads—corn tortillas, whole grain English muffins, bagels, breads, wraps, frozen whole wheat waffles
- Grains—instant oatmeal, quick cooking pasta, frozen brown rice, couscous, refrigerated pizza crust
- Fruits—sturdy fresh fruit (apples, citrus), dried, plain frozen, canned in juice or water
- Vegetables—sturdy fresh veggies (celery, broccoli, onions, potatoes), plain frozen, low sodium canned, sun-dried
- Sauces—tomato pasta sauce, salsa
- Soups & Broths—canned, frozen, shelf-stable cartons
- 100% Juice—refrigerated, frozen, canned, boxed
- Milk—fresh, canned, shelf-stable packages
- Eggs—fresh eggs, egg whites in cartons
- Cheese—sliced, cubed, shredded, crumbled, grated hard cheese
- Beans/Legumes—canned beans (black beans, chickpeas), dry beans
- Nuts and seeds—bagged, canned, nut butters
- Chicken—frozen or canned
- Seafood—frozen ready-to-cook fish fillets, frozen shrimp, canned tuna, salmon, and sardines
- Beef—pre-made frozen lean ground patties or meatballs
- Flavorings—add zing with dried herbs & spices, vinegars, mustard, hot/steak sauces, lemon/lime juice, light dressings, honey, Greek yogurt
- Go easy on the frozen dinners—most are high in sodium, fat, and calories.
- Limit purchases of tempting foods like chips, sodas, cookies, and ice cream. They are high in empty calories and run up your grocery bill.
Keeping Costs Down
Consider low cost alternatives. Instead of buying ready-made hummus, purée a drained can of chickpeas to make your own. Try a meatless meal, like chili with beans instead of beef.
If fresh fruits and veggies are hard to find or getting too expensive remember, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables provide the same nutrients as fresh. Best bets are plain frozen veggies and fruits. Go for low sodium canned veggies and fruits canned in juice or water—if these are in short supply, buy regular canned fruits and veggies—drain and rinse before use.
Hopefully it won’t be long before the current measures relax, and we can all start getting back to some kind of normal routine, but until that’s the case making sure that kids – especially youth athletes – eat healthy and stay healthy is a must.