By Chris Rosenbloom, PhD, RDN, CSSD | Tuesday, September 19, 2017
We all know that swimming is a demanding physical sport that requires good nutrition to fuel the long workouts and long day competitions. Parents often ask how they can improve their children’s nutrition and here is an easy, overlooked way. Eat more family meals. In fact, research shows that there is 24% increase in healthy food consumption when families eat more than three meals together each week.
The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Foundation has established September as Family Meals Month to encourage families to eat just one more family meal…breakfast, lunch, or diner…at home each week. This one small change can reap big rewards.
The FMI Foundation notes that half of all dinners are eaten alone, eaten away from home, or skipped altogether. Probably sounds familiar to parents whose kids are in after-school swim practice. The biggest obstacles to eating together as a family are differing schedules, distractions (put that phone or tablet down!), and lack of time.
Eating dinner together doesn’t have to be a big production. You don’t have to cook from scratch every night. Even if you don’t consider yourself a good cook, you can assemble meals. So, here are some easy ways to get dinner on the table with four basic foods you probably have in your pantry, freezer, or fridge right now.
- Keep a variety of pastas and jars of marinara (red) sauce on hand for a quick meal
- Try cooked pasta with a splash of olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and toasted walnuts
- Top pasta with steamed veggies, like broccoli, carrots, onions, and peppers and add a dash of Italian or Ranch salad dressing
- Grill chicken, fish, pork or beef and serve over cooked pasta
- Wash a baking potato, prick with a fork and microwave for 5 to 8 minutes
- Top baked potato with canned chili, steamed broccoli and cheese, or salsa
- Wash a large potato, cut in wedges, drizzle with olive or canola oil, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning and bake at 350° F for 20 minutes
- Boil potatoes and smash with a fork; add cottage cheese and milk to boost protein
- Try “Ready Rice” in microwavable pouches; ready in 90 seconds in the microwave
- Drain a can of black beans or kidney beans, mix with rice and top with salsa
- Add a cup of cooked rice to your favorite canned soup
- Sauté strips of chicken or turkey with vegetables and serve over cooked rice
- If your family loves rice, invest in a rice cooker for perfectly cooked white, brown, flavorful jasmine or basmati rice.
Pita or flat breads
- Fill pita or roll flatbread into a wrap with turkey, cheese, tuna or chicken salad and/or veggies or leftover salad
- Cut pita into 4 wedges and toast for a chip to dip with salsa or hummus
- Sprinkle whole pita or flatbread with marinara sauce, top with cheese and bake for 5 to 10 minutes
Chris Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian, certified specialist in sports nutrition, and professor emerita of nutrition at Georgia State University. She welcomes questions from swimmers, parents and coaches. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow her on Twitter @chrisrosenbloom.