Family Meals & Training

Turkey-chiliLet’s be honest, we are all busy, regardless of how many hours a day we train. Our lives have everything else; work, kids, volunteering, chores, errands, the children’s activities, along with just wanting to spend some quality time with family and friends.  It isn’t always easy to train around meals, in general, and to train around family meals can be even more of a challenge.

Most families these days don’t have all their daily meals together as a unit.  Trying to eat as a unit, at least some of the time, is important.  It isn’t just the eating part that matters, it is also important for families to have rituals, to create connections, enjoyment and stability.  Research shows that family meals, as a unit, results in better academic performance and self-esteem for children.  In addition, there are lower rates of obesity, eating disorders, depression and substance abuse for children when they are afforded the opportunity to eat with the family as a unit.  Family meals can result in some pretty good stuff!  For us, dinner is the time we sit, eat, and enjoy being together.  Of course anyone, who has children knows meals aren’t always calm and relaxing, and bringing the family together as a unit can be difficult.  Our dinner table can get loud and goofy, but in those times, we really are making memories as a unit, which has immense value.  It is a reality these days that it may not be possible for daily family meals but working toward a routine of most days is an important family goal.

Meals are also essential for an athlete’s success.  It is important for fueling for the training day and key for recovery from workouts.  It is key to have a meal or snack within 30 minutes of finishing a hard training session.  An athlete should focus on getting 1-1.5 grams of carbs per kg of body weight and 10-20 grams of lean protein, and including healthy fats, like salmon, walnuts, avocados and flax, has shown to provide “bonus” recovery. Rehydrate by drinking 24 ounces of fluid per pound of body weight lost during a training session with the goal of correcting losses within two hours of exercise.  If the family meal won’t be ready until 1-2 hours after completing your hard training session, have the recovery snack within 30 minutes,then a snack every 30-60 minutes, until the meal is ready, with the intent of correcting losses.  If your workout was an easy recovery day and less than 90 minutes, a post workout recovery snack/meal isn’t necessary and you can just plan to eat on the family schedule.

As an athlete, mom, and dietician, I’m always thinking about what to serve so that I am incorporating the essentials for proper fuel and recovery, while satisfying my children’s palates and growing needs. The following are the main components for a meal that works and meets both of those objectives:

  1. Have a lean protein source, like chicken, lean beef, fish, beans, or dairy products;
  2. Include a whole grain, like whole wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa, or soft tortillas;
  3. Include 2 vegetables or a vegetable and a fruit.  Most of us don’t get enough servings of fruit and veggies during the day, so dinner is a good time to sit down and enjoy them.

Below, I provide some winter season meals that satisfy the recovery component for the athletes in the family, while also being healthy and appealing to growing kiddos.  I try to serve at least two items that I think my boys enjoy, but I have to remind myself they are children and some days they’ll eat a lot (and like what I make), and other days they will refuse to eat that exact same meal.   I try not to take it personally…all part of being a parent, right?!  The following are some of those winter season meals, I mentioned:

  • Veggie & Meat Lasagna (see recipe below), side salad, milk
  • Chicken Enchilada Casserole, sliced avocado, corn, milk
  • Salmon, brown rice, green beans, side salad, milk
  • Turkey Chili, cornbread, raw veggies, seasonal fruit, milk
  • Pork tenderloin, baked baby potatoes, asparagus, fruit, milk

Happy Family Meals!

Veggie & Meat Lasagna
3 cloves of garlic
1 pound ground beef (or elk or bison)
1 cup each diced carrots, thinly sliced zucchini and chopped red pepper
1 can (28 oz) tomatoes, cut up, untrained
1 can (14 oz) tomato sauce
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
9-12 lasagna noodles (I use the ones that don’t require precooking)
2 cups low fat cottage cheese
1 egg white
1 8 oz pkg of fresh spinach
1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Brown beef, drain excess fat.  Add garlic and cook for a few more minutes, then add carrots, zucchini and peppers and cook until softened.

Add tomatoes, tomato sauce tomato paste, and spices.  Mix well and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine cottage cheese and egg white. In a separate bowl, mix the two cheese together.  Set aside the fresh spinach.

To assemble, spray a deep 13 x 9-inch baking pan.  Spread 1 cup of sauce over the bottom of the pan.  Place a single layer of noodles over sauce.  Spread 2 cups of sauce over noodles, followed by half the cottage cheese mixture, then half the spinach and 1/3 of the cheese.  Top with another layer of noodles, 2 cups sauce, then remaining cottage cheese and spinach and then 1/3 of the cheese.  Layer final noodles on top, followed by 2 cups of sauce.  (Should be left with 1/3 of the cheese)

lasagnaCover with foil and bake according to noodle directions.  Remove foil for the last 10 minutes of cooking and add the remaining cheese. Once out of the oven, let lasagna sit for 10 minutes before slices.  Enjoy!