Constantly finding yourself queuing up in the takeout line because there’s just no time to cook dinner at home for you and your very hungry athletes? Or simply sick of spending an hour in the kitchen getting dinner ready every night—plus the cleanup afterward—when you’re already tired from a long day at work? Young athletes require a lot of food and need it to be packed with the macro and micronutrients they need in order to grow and recover, but that shouldn’t require you to spend hours every week in the kitchen.
Here, TrueSport Expert Kristen Ziesmer, a registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, is sharing a few surprising tips and tricks to speed up meal time by meal prepping and making smart menus that provide variety and flavor without hours in the oven.
Pick a Day for Meal Prep
“You can either make three meals a day five times a week, or you can do it one time,” says Ziesmer. “If you plan out your week of meals and prep as much as you can in one session, things are going to go a lot more smoothly throughout the week. It just simplifies things.” While many people use Sunday as a meal prep day, you can pick whatever day works best for you. You may find that you can’t get everything done in one session, but if you’re judicious with your time, you should be able to multitask and make a big batch of rice or another grain, grill or bake a big tray of protein, and clean and chop all of your fruits and vegetables. Take advantage of kitchen tools like slow cookers, pressure cookers and rice cookers that allow you to easily make big batches of rice, beans, chilis and soups but can also be used to cook a whole chicken or hard boil a batch of eggs.
Develop a Reusable Shopping List
While meal prepping doesn’t have to mean boring meals, it does speed things up if everything is more predictable. The middle of a busy practice and competition season isn’t time to test out new recipes with exotic ingredients on a nightly basis—stick to the staples! Having one ‘master grocery list’ that’s accessible to any member of the family who may be doing the grocery shopping makes each week’s trip to the grocery store easier. You can add or subtract from the list, but having a starting point list that has all the basics saves a huge amount of time (and trips back to the grocery store because you forgot eggs!).
Get the Kids Involved
At any age, your athletes can be helping with meal prep, from grocery list making to cooking the meals. And teaching them to prep their own meals from a young age helps them develop better nutritional habits in the long run, says Ziesmer. If your athlete is old enough, let them help with the grocery shopping—perhaps even handing the list off so they can shop while you run other errands. And even the youngest athletes can help with meal prep if you’re doing things like layering vegetables in a casserole dish or mixing up individual jars of overnight oats.