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Nutrient-Packed Family Fueling Guide

Nutrient-Packed Family Fueling Guide by Jackie Hendrickson RD, MPH

As a busy parent working towards athletic goals, trying to juggle kids, work, and training can be a difficult task. The last thing you have time for is to be a short-order cook, preparing different meals for you and for your kids. You’ve probably asked yourself, what foods are good for my training and for my kids? What kinds of meals & snacks can you prepare that will not only feed your kids (happily), but also support your training load? Let’s dive in and create a nutrient-packed family fueling guide! These tips will also help you save time.

Choose to see food differently

As adults, we often see food in black and white terms. Certain foods will either support or hinder our performance, with little in-between. In reality, even the most childish foods can have a place in our diet as an athlete. Choose to see foods for what nutrients they provide & place them in your diet appropriately. 

Here’s an example: before a workout, endurance athletes should focus on fueling with simple carbohydrates so that their body can get energy as efficiently as possible. Kid-friendly foods such as applesauce pouches, graham crackers, pretzels, poptarts, fishy crackers, and “white” breads or bagels provide the simple carbohydrates you are looking for. Many pantry staples can overlap for athletic parents & kids alike.

Color + Carb + Protein

Once you start seeing food differently, in terms of the nutrients they provide, it can make meal planning much easier and less stressful. For athletes, I recommend focusing on this simple formula: color + carb + protein. At each meal, include all 3 components on your plate. For each snack, choose 2 of the 3 components. Here are a few quick meal & snack combinations (with classic kid favorites) that can also be supportive of your training goals:


Nutrient-Packed Family Fueling Guide Meals by Jackie Hendrickson RD MPH
Nutrient-Packed Family Fueling GuideSnack by Jackie Hendrickson RD, MPH

This is a fantastic way to teach your children to eat balanced meals without labeling certain foods as good or bad. Occasionally my son asks to have a cookie for breakfast. In response, we simply ask “what protein & color will you have with it?” His plate will then include greek yogurt, fruit, and a cookie. Oftentimes the cookie is left half-eaten while the other food components are finished. Focusing on balanced meals & snacks helps you and your children feel more energized, balanced, and satisfied.

Broadening your child’s palate

Even though chicken nuggets and fishy crackers can easily be part of your diet as an athlete, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some of your more adult-friendly foods either. Quinoa, feta cheese, spicier foods, and vegetables in general should remain staples in your day to day life. Building meals that maintain a balance of familiar foods & new foods is a good way to start broadening your child’s palate. Plus – you may be surprised at which foods your child ends up liking!

When introducing a new meal (let’s use shrimp pasta as an example), the shrimp and the vegetables in the sauce may be a bit intimidating for your kid. Encourage them to try some, but don’t force it on their plate. It may take up to 15 exposures to a new food for a child to accept it. Simply being around the food, smelling the food, and seeing others eat it counts as an exposure to the new meal component.

Make sure kids have some familiar foods as part of the meal. In this example, some plain noodles, sliced bread, or fruit on the side would act as the safe food for your child to eat. Eventually, you should be able to include a wider variety of foods in your families meal & snack regime that satisfy kids & parents alike.This progress will help you develop a nutrient-packed family fueling guide for your meals.

Wrapping it up

In conclusion, there is no perfect diet for an athlete to follow. All foods – even those that seem especially childish – can be supportive of your training goals. Choose to eat foods at the best times of day when they will be particularly beneficial to your training. Use the color + carb + protein formula to create balanced meals and snacks for you and your children. Don’t be afraid to incorporate new foods into your family’s diet. Be patient with your children as they learn to embrace a wider variety of food options. Good luck!


Jackie Hendrickson RD, MPH Enduura Nutrition Run Tri Bike Magazine Tips

Jackie Hendrickson RD, MPH is a registered dietitian with a Masters Degree in public health nutrition from Utah State University. Jackie is the owner of Enduura Nutrition and loves coaching her athletes to their athletic potential through sustainable training & nutrition principles. She is an avid road & trail marathoner with a background in collegiate track, cross country, and competitive swimming. Jackie and her husband, Adam, were teammates in college and continue to pursue their running goals together. They live in beautiful Ogden, Utah with their 2 year old son, Lincoln.