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5 Healthy Packed Lunches for the Busy Parent and Athlete

Struggling to get lunch packed on hectic mornings? If you have a young athlete on the go, you know providing a good meal for them midday is critical to their ability to get through practice. But it’s tough to make time for meal prep and packing a tasty lunch when you’re already busy.

Here, TrueSport Expert Kristen Ziesmer, a registered dietitian and the owner of Elite Nutrition and Performance, shares some tips for packing easy lunches with minimal prep—and these options can feed you as well as your hungry athlete!

Tips

We often think of meal prep as something that needs to be done for dinners, but lunches are a great way to utilize a once-a-week hour of meal prep. Alternatively, though, if you’re stretched on time but already are making dinners every night, doubling your dinner recipe and using the leftovers for lunch the next day is an easy way to make packing lunch much simpler. You can combine the idea of meal prep and leftover hacking by making a big batch of brown rice early in the week and using that as the base for the leftover protein and vegetables from each dinner.

Make sure your athlete also has plenty of snacks packed as well. Start each week with a big bag of trail mix with a variety of nuts and dried fruits, as well as options like apples, bananas, and clementines. Athletes often need more than just a basic lunch at school—having a second meal for before or after practice will help to ensure good fueling habits.

Recipes

1. Oatmeal bowl

Quick oats may not sound like a great lunch option, but if your athlete can bring a bowl with the dry ingredients pre-mixed, plus a thermos of hot water (or the ability to get hot water from the cafeteria), you have a great breakfast-for-lunch option. Oatmeal is a sweet, filling option that’s packed with critical fiber and carbohydrates, and can be boosted with plenty of tasty options suited to every athlete’s preference. But don’t opt for those pre-flavored packets of instant oats, which tend to miss out on protein and overdo the sweeteners. Ideally, you and your athlete share oat preferences and you can make a big gallon Ziplock mixture at the start of the week and scoop out servings each day.

For 10 servings, in a large gallon freezer bag, combine:

  • 5 cups quick oats
  • Add roughly 1/2 a cup of 3-5 toppings
  • Dried fruit: Goji berries, currants, dried cranberries, shredded coconut, raisins, dried apple chunks, and even banana chips are great options
  • Fresh fruit: If storing in the refrigerator, feel free to add in fresh fruit like blueberries, raspberries, sliced bananas or diced apples
  • Nuts/Seeds: Chopped pecans, walnuts, peanuts, macadamia nuts, chia seeds
  • Extras (add sparingly): Brown sugar, pinch of sea salt, cocoa powder, cinnamon
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