Good news—research shows that kids who cook at home are more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables.
While getting in the kitchen and cooking healthy meals after practice might seem daunting and unreasonable, it doesn’t have to be hard with these quick and easy meals that will provide your young athlete with plenty of carbohydrates to refill glycogen stores, protein to promote rebuilding and recovery, and healthy fats that are essential to an athlete’s development—plus plenty of fiber and micronutrients to round out a healthy diet.
Breakfast for Dinner: Super Quick Scramble
It’s hard to beat brinner—breakfast for dinner—for an easy, quick meal after practice. A single-pan scramble is also a simple way to ensure that your athlete is getting carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats, and plenty of vegetables for fiber and micronutrients in a delicious plate that takes minutes to prepare. With seven grams of protein per egg and the opportunity to mix up the vegetables in this scramble, as well as the toppings, you can tailor this to your athlete’s preferences. Big practice? Add an extra egg or chop up some sliced turkey or chicken lunch meat to add extra protein. You can also toss in another potato or add a side of whole grain toast.
- 2 eggs
- 2 small yellow potatoes
- Vegetables: spinach, tomatoes, peppers, onions, broccoli (whatever is in the fridge or freezer, this is a great recipe to use leftovers!)
- Optional toppings: cheddar cheese, salsa, avocado slices, hot sauce
- Heat skillet on medium heat, add olive oil
- Scrub potatoes, then chop or grate into pan and cover
- Allow potatoes to cook while chopping vegetables
- Add vegetables to pan once potatoes begin to soften, stir occasionally
- Crack eggs over potatoes and vegetables once vegetables have begun to wilt or soften
- Allow eggs to fully cook before scooping onto a place and serving with whatever toppings your athlete prefers
(Love breakfast? Get more easy breakfast ideas right here.)
Quinoa Bowl with Tilapia
Tilapia is one of the speediest protein options and has a mild flavor that even picky eaters often accept. Combined with the nutty flavor that protein-and-carbohydrate powerhouse quinoa provides, tilapia is a great base for building out a bowl designed to make any athlete happy. For harder or longer practices, increase the amount of quinoa on the plate, and always make sure there are plenty of vegetables! (Feel free to mix up the toppings here. There are two different flavor palettes below, but your athlete might prefer something different!)
- Rice cooker
- Tilapia filets
- Olive oil
- Topping option 1: soy sauce, sushi ginger slices, frozen package of Asian stir fry vegetables, fresh kale
- Topping option 2: salsa, avocado slices or guacamole, chopped tomatoes, cilantro, frozen onion and pepper mix, fresh spinach
- In the rice cooker, measure out your desired amount of quinoa and water in a 1:2 ratio
- In a pan on the stove, sauté your frozen vegetables in olive oil
- When vegetables are hot, add spinach or kale and cover until they have wilted
- Add tilapia filets to pan and cook thoroughly
- Scoop into a bowl with quinoa and add toppings as desired
Kitchen Sink Stew
You can’t beat a hearty stew for warming up an athlete after a hard outdoor practice in winter. Stew is also a great vehicle for all of those leftover vegetables wilting in the refrigerator, and the perfect way to provide hydration, protein, micronutrients, carbohydrates, and plenty of fiber in a single bowl. Added bonus: It’s a great make-ahead meal for a busy week, with minimal prep or mess.
- Slow cooker
- One pack of frozen mixed vegetables (most brands offer a few different mixes, from Parisian to hearty stew to Italian medley, so choose the one that has the most vegetables that your kids like)
- Vegetable stock bouillon cube (look for an organic, gluten-free option)
- Frozen spinach
- Frozen meatballs, pre-chopped chicken, or can of kidney beans
- 2 cans of diced tomatoes
- Whole wheat macaroni noodles (or use gluten-free version if your athlete has a gluten sensitivity)
- Add any other vegetables you have in the fridge or freezer that are starting to go limp or that you need to use up—this soup is a great way to finish off leftovers!
- Chop and wash any whole, fresh vegetables
- In your slow cooker, add a quart of water and all the ingredients except for the noodles
- Add noodles and allow them to simmer for the time required on the package
- Salt and pepper to taste and serve
Healthier Grilled Cheese with Tomato Soup
It’s hard to beat the classic grilled cheese with a bowl of hearty tomato soup: Even as an adult, this meal is one of the ultimate comfort foods, and for a hungry athlete, it’s filling and satisfying any time of year. While the traditional option—white bread and American cheese with tomato soup from a can—is less-than-optimal from a health standpoint, there are a few tweaks to make this a perfectly healthy meal option.
- Swap white bread for a whole-wheat or sprouted option for slower-burning carbohydrates
- Add extra protein to your grilled cheese by putting a slice or two of turkey or chicken lunch meat into the sandwich
- Add flavor by putting in chilis, pickled onions, chunks of tomato or other vegetables your athlete likes
- Opt for a hard cheese like cheddar for the most flavor without using several servings of cheese per sandwich
- Lower the amount of oil needed to fry your sandwich by getting a panini press
- Stir a cube of frozen spinach into the tomato soup (or blend it in if you have a truly picky eater!)
- Look for soups made with organic ingredients and skip the ones that are preservative and sodium-packed.
It’s no easy task to cook after getting home from your athlete’s practice, but these quick recipes will make it easier than ever!