By: Heidi Smith – RD Sport Dietitian
When the hockey season overlaps with dinners, it can sometimes become more of a ‘grab and go’ than a sit down meal. Drive thru dinners can work on occasion, but if they become the norm, you may start missing out on essential nutrients from fresh vegetables, fibre, iron and calcium. It’s also challenging to find whole grain, lower fat, lower sodium options to fuel young hockey players before ice times. Every hockey family can benefit from making a list of quick, portable, nutrient packed meals to eat in the car or in the stands for parents! Check out the list we have started and begin adding your own favourites.
Building a meal to go – is as easy as 1,2,3. Be sure to include these 3 important nutrients:
1. Complex Carbohydrates – 1-2 cups per meal.
Carbohydrates need to be continually replenished in the athletes diet. Complex carbohydrates come from less refined whole grains such as brown rice, whole grain pasta/breads, corn, quinoa, potato, yams and whole fruit. The challenge with eating whole grains before exercise is that higher fibre foods are slower to digest. Experiment during the season and see how close to exercise you can handle these higher fibre options. If white bread and pasta feel better in the 1-2 hours before exercise, just be sure to fill up on whole grains during your other meals and snacks. Parents looking to trim down may choose to reduce dinner carbohydrates to ½ cup if they are not exercising regularly and bump up the veggie portions.
2. Lean Protein – 10-20g protein per meal.
Protein is important for muscle maintenance, bone health, and to feel full after a meal. You may prefer to keep protein portion smaller in the 1-2 hours before exercise to speed digestion. Quick sources of protein for a ‘dinner-to-go’ include: Leftover cooked meats (chicken, steak, ham, turkey), Fish (Salmon, tuna, sardines), Beans (Chickpeas, Black beans, hummus, soy beans), Cheese (shredded, feta, goat), hardboiled eggs, Nuts (pine nuts, walnuts, pecans, cashews, almonds), Seeds (sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds).
3. Colourful Vegetables – 1+ cups per meal.
Include a variety of different colours to get a variety of essential nutrients: Dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, romaine), Dark/Red and Orange (Peppers, carrots, squash, yams) and Vibrant greens (cucumbers, broccoli, snap peas, green beans). Every colour offers important phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and fibre. The athletes diet should include at least 2 cups of vegetables per day.
Tips for Building a Meal to Go
Prepare Ahead of Time
Cook extra meats, slice and keep in the fridge or freezer. Next time you cook pasta or rice, cook extra and keep in the fridge or freezer in 1-2 cup portions for quick reheat in the microwave. Wash and chop vegetables or buy pre-washed chopped lettuce/veggies.
Invest in Some Quality Containers
Look for glass or good quality containers that can be heated in the microwave. Check online for shapes and sizes to fit your needs. Even glass mason jars can be filled for quick grab and go meals and smoothies.
Keep Flavour Boosters on Hand
Once you have your 3 nutritious components you can boost flavour by adding salad dressings, crumbled bacon, feta cheese, hot sauce or bottled sauces (peanut sauce, thai sauce, bbq sauce, soya sauce). For fast digestion, eat 1-2 hours before exercise and aim to keep fat content below 20g and sodium below 500mg.
Pasta Salad to Go
This salad makes a great pre-exercise meal eaten in the car on the way to the arena and packs well for Mom or Dad to eat while in the stands. For athletes bump up the pasta content and make sure dressing and feta are lower fat for fast digestion. For less active parents – bump up the veggies and reduce pasta.
Mix all ingredients and package in individual containers for a quick grab and go dinner. For an even quicker salad – you can substitute the fresh veggies for defrosted frozen mixed veggies. Keeps well in the fridge for 2-3 days.
Per serving: 295kcal, 47g Carb, Protein 15g, Fat 4g, Sodium 500mg
Heidi Smith is a Sport Dietitian and Head of Nutrition at the Health and Performance Centre at the University of Guelph. She has worked alongside some of the world's top hockey players including NHL, National, Olympic, Junior, and Rep. She is the author of the practical sport nutrition handbook entitled "Nutrition for the Long Run". Heidi is also a mother of three rep hockey players and understands the demands faced by today's sport focused families.