Whether it’s travel ball or club sports, living on the road is a normal part of the sports family life. There are tournaments and events that can last up to several days! This type of mobile living can make eating healthy and cost effective meals very difficult for many families. With most options being the snack bar, fast food, or other restaurants, parents need to really think strategically if they want to keep their budgets, waistlines, and their kid’s nutrition in check. A taxing task indeed, but most definitely, not an impossible one!
I don’t know about you, but nachos and burgers from the snack bar can be ok every once in a while, but I can’t eat like that for several meals a day and expect to feel good. And I absolutely cannot assume that my kids can perform at their best eating those foods before games. The dilemma is that even with the best of intentions, when traveling, parents are limited on what they can provide for their kids, so eating out inevitably becomes the only option. What is a parent to do? Planning ahead is key! A few tricks of the trade can help prepare you and your family for the all too familiar sports family road life, all with their nutritional needs being met, and your finances in tact.
This list of simple snacks and meal ideas for the sports family will be your go-to, so keep it close before hitting the road!
Pack a cooler with fruits and veggies such as:
Grapes, watermelon cubes, pineapple chunks, cantaloupe, and other melons
Another option is to freeze grapes, watermelon cubes and orange slices. These are great tasting and keep the kiddos hydrated too!
Fruits That Do Not Require Refrigeration:
Apples-the ones that come in a bag are perfect for traveling
Cuties-those tiny Clementine oranges are great for the road
Kids love foods on sticks!
Use wooden skewers and add cheese cubes, pickle chips, deli meats like turkey or salami, cherry tomatoes, olives, peppers...etc. Cubed fruits are a great alternative! Place them in a freezer bag and toss them in the cooler for an easy and hearty snack. Be sure to wrap the pointy end of the skewer in foil so as to keep the sharp point away from little hands.
Crackers in different varieties such as Goldfish, cheese crackers, graham crackers, and pretzels are great on the go snacks.
Dried fruit (raisins, dates, figs, etc.)
If your league allows, and you’ve verified that there are no allergies, a jar of protein packed peanut butter can come in handy. Add to veggies, sandwiches, bananas, and more. Same goes for nuts and seeds, and trail mix.
If you’re not traveling overnight, then why not join forces with the other families for a potluck? Decide on a theme (i.e., Italian, Mexican, etc.), and find a picnic spot for everyone to sit and share a meal together. This is a great time for families and teammates to bond, while younger siblings play.
Choose a hotel with as many in room amenities as possible. Microwave, coffee pot, refrigerator, are all standard items in many hotels or motels these days, especially the family friendly variety.
Pack a Slow Cooker:
Prep a quick meal with a protein like shredded chicken, or beef, in a soft tortilla, and make your own tacos. Fill the cooler with shredded cheese, sour cream, and other condiments that can easily be transferred into the room fridge.
Pick up a rotisserie chicken from the local grocery store, some bread rolls, and a pre-bagged salad. The chicken can stay warm in the slow cooker while you’re at the games.
This mini appliance is all the rage right now, and for good reason. It cooks delicious meals in practically no time flat! Make a pot of chili, soups, pulled pork sandwiches, pastas, rice, and so many other meals easily. Set it up while your kid is taking a post-game shower, and soon after you’ll all enjoy a delicious and healthy hot meal.
Does your hotel have a BBQ area? Then by all means, grill up your own burgers and hot dogs! You can control what meats you use, as well as the portion sizes, which can make this a more nutritious option.
Some Things to Keep In Mind:
An occasional snack bar meal at the fields is just fine, and encouraged. They are usually fundraisers for the host league, so it’s important to support them if you can!
Ask hotels about their appliance policies ahead of time to avoid any fire hazards.
Try not to pack sliced bread, it gets soggy! Tortillas or pita bread are good substitutes.
Bring your own water! LOTS OF IT! Water bottles at the fields can be pricey, so buy in bulk and have a cooler set aside for water only. Drinks high in electrolytes are great too, but watch the sugar content!
With the expense of restaurant food constantly inching upwards, the cost of feeding a typical family of 2 adults and 2 children, for 2-3 days can be prohibitive. Even more disturbing is the nutrition, or lack thereof, at most eateries available to parents near their kid’s sports. Developing a healthy and cost friendly strategy in advance can be one less thing to worry about, as we hit the road with our athletes!
Do you prep meals and snacks for your sports family ahead of time? What ideas can you share?
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Barbara is the mom behind the blog, Modern Sports Mom. She began writing a craft and lifestyle blog in 2012. As life evolved, and her boys became more involved in sports, she aimed to create a site that would resonate with moms like her, and in 2017 Modern Sports Mom was born. A baseball and football mom, she is fueled by her strong faith, dedication to her family, and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee! Barbara lives in beautiful Southern California with her husband, kids, dog, and cat.