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Surviving Weeknights at the Sports Fields: How to Eat and When to Eat


Weeknights at the sports fields can be a logistical nightmare for families. Between shuttling kids to practices and games, cheering them on, and managing household tasks, finding time for a proper meal can seem impossible. However, with a bit of planning, you can ensure your family eats healthily and stays energized without resorting to fast food or poor dietary choices. Here's a guide on how to navigate weeknight meals and snacks at the sports fields.


The Key: Early Dinner

One of the best strategies for surviving weeknights at the sports fields is to have an early dinner. Here’s why:

  1. Avoiding Unhealthy Choices: If you wait until after the game or practice to have dinner, chances are you'll be exhausted and more likely to grab something quick and less healthy on the way home. Fast food and other poor choices become all too tempting when everyone is tired and hungry. Once in a while this is FINE! But multiple times a week starts to add up.

  2. Preventing "Hangry" Moods: Eating an early dinner can help you avoid that dreaded "hangry" state—a mix of hunger and anger that can make the evening unpleasant for everyone. A well-timed meal keeps everyone’s blood sugar stable and moods in check.

  3. Portion Control: When you eat earlier, you might not eat as much as you would when you're famished after practice. This can actually be beneficial, as it promotes healthier portion sizes and listening to your hunger cues.


What to Eat for Early Dinner

Opt for a balanced, nutrient-rich meal that includes a good mix of protein, carbohydrates, vegetables and healthy fats. Here are some quick and easy ideas:

  • Grilled Chicken with Rice and Veggies: Simple, nutritious, and quick to prepare. The protein from the chicken and the fiber from the rice and veggies will keep everyone satisfied.

  • Turkey and Cheese/ Avocado Wraps: Whole grain tortillas, lean turkey, and fats from avocado or cheese make for a filling meal that’s easy to prepare.

  • Vegetable Stir-Fry with Leftover Beef: A protein & veg winner! Serve with rice or noodles for added energy.

  • Pasta with Marinara and Meatballs: Pasta with a tomato-based sauce and meatballs can be a hit with kids and adults alike. Add a side of veg, salad or load that sauce with added veggies and call it a meal!

  • Chicken and Veggie Skewers: Marinate chunks of chicken and a variety of veggies in olive oil and your favorite seasonings. Grill or bake them for a quick and tasty meal.

  • Bean and Cheese Quesadillas: Whole grain tortillas filled with black beans, cheese, and veggies. Serve with a side of salsa and guacamole.

  • Baked Salmon with Sweet Potatoes: Season salmon fillets with herbs and bake alongside sweet potato wedges for a nutritious and delicious dinner.

  • Egg Fried Rice: Use brown rice, scrambled eggs, and a mix of colorful veggies. Season with a bit of soy sauce or tamari for flavor.


Packing Snacks

Even with an early dinner, having snacks on hand is crucial. Kids burn a lot of energy during practices and games, and a well-timed snack can be a big help.

Here are some healthy snack ideas:

  • Fresh Fruit: Apples, bananas, oranges or a mix of berries are easy to pack and provide quick energy.

  • Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, walnuts, or pumpkin seeds are rich in protein and healthy fats.

  • Granola Bars or Energy Balls: Opt for low-sugar, high-protein bars to keep energy levels up.

  • Veggie Sticks with Hummus: Carrot, peppers, cucumbers and celery sticks paired with hummus make for a crunchy and satisfying snack.

  • Yogurt and Fruit: Greek yogurt with a handful of berries can be a refreshing and protein-packed option.

  • String Cheese: Convenient and rich in protein, perfect for a quick bite.

  • Hard-Boiled Eggs: Easy to prepare in advance and pack for a protein boost.

  • Trail Mix: A homemade mix of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit can be a great energy booster.

  • Rice Cakes with Nut Butter: Spread almond or peanut butter on rice cakes for a crunchy, satisfying snack.

  • Whole Grain Crackers with Cheese: A simple, portable snack that pairs well with fresh fruit.


Timing Your Meals and Snacks

Here’s a suggested timeline for eating on busy sports nights:

  1. Early Dinner: Aim to have dinner ready early! Plan ahead. Cook the night before.

  2. Pre-Activity Snack: If there's a significant gap between dinner and the activity, a small snack about 30-45 minutes before practice or the game can help maintain energy levels.

  3. Post-Activity Snack: Have a light, healthy snack ready for after the practice or game. This helps with recovery and tides everyone over until bedtime.


Tips for Success

  • Plan Ahead: Meal prep on weekends or less busy days. Having meals and snacks ready to go saves time and reduces stress.

  • Stay Hydrated: Ensure everyone drinks plenty of water throughout the day and during activities. Hydration is key to maintaining energy and performance.

  • Involve the Kids: Get your kids involved in meal planning and preparation. This not only teaches them valuable skills but also makes them more likely to eat what’s prepared.

  • Keep It Simple: Weeknight meals don’t have to be elaborate. Focus on simple, nutritious options that can be prepared quickly.


By eating an early dinner and packing healthy snacks, you can survive weeknights at the sports fields without sacrificing your family’s nutrition. With a little planning and preparation, you’ll be able to cheer on your kids with energy and enthusiasm, knowing that you’ve made healthy choices for everyone.

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