The Balancing Act: Family, Food & Activity
Many schools around the country have started in-person learning again. As a result, families have many schedules to accommodate and need to re-learn how to balance family time, meals and healthy snacks, and everyone’s different activities. There is no one answer to this perennial challenge, as every family has different needs and priorities. What’s essential is to create a regular schedule and understand why it’s so important to eat together as a family. Also – recognize the value gained when you create a network of families involved in similar activities. You can share tips about balanced eating and snacks and support each other when struggles arise.
What happens to family meals when kids go back to school?
It can be tough to spend quality time together between work, school, and everyone’s activities. Without quality time, you find a disconnect in the daily happenings in each other’s lives. Family meals allow each member to share good and bad things that happen in their day. This time together allows parents to help kids work through challenging ideas and celebrate everyone’s positive news. Mealtime can bring families closer together.
The great balancing act between healthy and unhealthy eating
When school starts up, and extracurricular activities get rolling, it always seems like there’s just never enough time to get everything right. There’s a mad rush for parents to leave work so they can arrive at the child’s activity on time. This time crunch often leads to an improper balance between eating healthy and unhealthy foods.
Everything in perspective – 80-20%
First, take the pressure off and acknowledge that “perfection” in terms of healthy eating is a high bar indeed. Do your best to be mindful when choosing foods for mealtime or snacks, with a goal to be as balanced as possible. Strive for an eating plan that includes protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates to keep everyone’s blood sugar stable and keep cravings to a minimum. If you take time to plan and shop ahead, you really can eat healthy food 80% of the time.
Eat whole foods as God intended
In the beginning of time, God gave Adam and Eve every seed-bearing plant and fruit tree on earth to nourish and sustain them, according to Genesis 1:29. These clean, whole, one-ingredient foods are still the healthiest choice for us today. After the flood, God added meat to the list of items people could eat. In Genesis 9:2-4, “All the animals of the earth, all the birds of the sky, all the small animals that scurry along the ground, and all the fish in the sea will look on you with fear and terror. I have placed them in your power. I have given them to you for food, just as I have given you grain and vegetables. But you must never eat any meat that still has the lifeblood in it.”
This list opened up a whole world of new foods for people—muscle-building protein sources combined with energy-producing carbohydrates and fats to sustain our bodies. God intended us to eat heartily and well and provided a means to do so.
Especially in today’s world, where so many food choices abound, it’s easy to make questionable food choices at times. Some situations where we make poor choices are entirely understandable, like an extended family gathering, dinner with friends, a birthday or anniversary, or a celebration of any kind. Food is at the heart of most social gatherings, and people are social animals. In pursuit of a healthy balance, you don’t have to say no to sweets and other indulgences every single time. Instead, do your best to keep those special foods for special occasions, rather than having them on the table every day.
What makes a healthy snack?
As adults, depending on your activity level and eating plan. You may find yourself in need of a snack between meals to keep your blood sugar stable. Children often benefit from a snack to help them focus in school or prepare for an after-school activity. What does it mean to choose a healthy snack? Snacks do not mean treats! Fruits, nuts, meat, and cheese are good food choices to grab and go for snack time, pre-assembled into snack portions for speed and convenience.
Getting back on track
It takes a bit of extra effort to plan for family meals – both at home and away – but when you do so, you make it much easier for everyone to maintain their intake of healthy food most of the time. Many families find it works best when they choose one day of the week to plan a menu, shop for groceries, and prepare food for the week ahead. Grocery shop for your week, preferably on Saturday, as Sunday is a good day to rest and worship God.
Your efforts to plan and shop can lead to time spent as a family to prep, cooking up meat in advance, or cleaning fruits and vegetables for snacks and meals. When you get your children involved in the process, you’ll also give them a good food foundation. You can explain the types of food you purchased, why you chose those particular foods, and how they will help keep them healthy and strong.
You can also spend the time teaching children how to prepare and cook food in a way that enhances its nutritional properties. For example, instead of boiling broccoli until it turns to mush, you can boil the water, take it off the burner and add the broccoli to the pot of hot water. When you allow it to cook for 10 minutes in hot water, you increase the cancer-fighting properties of the sulforaphane in broccoli, according to Dr. Rhonda Patrick, Ph.D., biomedical science and expert on nutritional health.
With a good supply of healthy meals and snacks ready in your home. You can easily take your meals and snacks along when the family has activities that keep them away from home for a mealtime. Simple preparations can you away from the fast-food drive-through and prevent you from purchasing “dinner” at the concession stand.
Here is an easy, tasty, and nutritious recipe you can try as a family.
Fall Champs Chili
Serves 10 (less if serving linemen)
(Serve with Cornbread *optional)
2 pounds of ground meat (beef, chicken, turkey)
2 or 3 cans of beans (kidney, chili, garbanzo, etc.)
2 large cans of diced tomatoes
1 8 oz. can of plain tomato sauce
1 can of tomato paste
1 small sweet onion (finely diced)
2 cloves of fresh garlic
1 cup of freshly diced carrots
1 cup of freshly diced sweet peppers
½ tsp of cayenne pepper
1 tsp of sweet basil
1 tsp of parsley
1 tsp of chili powder (more or less for taste)
1 box of cornbread mix
½ C of sour cream (for later)
½ C of Cheddar Cheese
Let your imagination go wild
Dice veggies up (have your athletes use their muscles)
Prepare Crockpot with tomato products and beans. Most athletes can also open all the cans for you. Then turn on high as you prepare the next portion of ingredients. Sometimes I have a box mix of cornbread for them to stir up for me. Usually, this can be put into the fridge for later or made right then.
In a frying pan, saute the onions, garlic, and veggies with spices. Add ground meat and brown. Add meat to crockpot mixtures. Cook for one hour on high and turn on low as the smell starts driving you crazy. Keep on low and cook for 4 or more hours. One hour before serving, take the mixture for cornbread out of the fridge and put it into cupcake tins. Bake and let them start asking you when is dinner! When ready to serve, have toppings have your team put their favorites out on the counter for serving. After they all have had their fill, NOW put them into your serving size containers and place them where they will be able to warm up in 90 seconds.
Can be served with strawberries and blueberries with a dollop of yogurt and granola for a dessert.
Getting support and staying active
Shifting to a healthier lifestyle can be challenging, especially when those around us do not make the same choices or have the same priorities. Planning ahead can help you and your immediate community stay healthy and active. When you’re watching or coaching your children’s activities, take the time to talk to other parents about the food and lifestyle choices to which your family has committed. This groundwork will help when the team decides to go out to eat after a game. When everyone knows ahead of time, you can plan this gathering as an off-plan meal for the family – or bring along your family’s meal to allow a special outing with the team. It will be easier to stick to your plan and keep your family healthy when you get support from others around you.
Healthy eating will provide energy for everyone’s school, sports, and family activities. Just choosing healthy food isn’t enough, however. It is also essential to exercise and stay active as part of a healthy lifestyle. Exercise, whether it’s a brisk 30-minute walk each day or playing a favorite sport like tennis or basketball, will raise your heart rate and help you maintain your weight. Keeping your heart and muscles strong through exercise also helps you live longer.
Exercise has other benefits as well. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins that make you feel good—making exercise more fun. These endorphins also keep people from being overwhelmed by stress, fatigue, and depression. If you cannot exercise every day, set a goal to exercise 3 to 4 days a week to stave off preventable illnesses and maintain a positive outlook.
There is always a balancing act when you strive to keep your family healthy and active. Your goal is to choose clean foods and snacks and to be active most days of the week. You will set a good foundation for your children to establish healthy, lifelong habits by planning to have the right food in the house, shopping, prepping, and cooking together. Spending your meal time discussing the day and enjoying each other’s company is a great way to balance work-school activities and daily life.
Tell us about your favorite family meals….leave a comment below.