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Ask Stacy: What Foods Can Fuel My Family and My Training?

These delicious, nutritious family-friendly meals also serve as great training foods - saving you time, energy, and endless "what's for dinner?" queries.

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Dear Stacy: What are some of your favorite family-friendly meals that also serve as great training foods?

Many triathletes with families understandably struggle to balance the sizable demands of work, parenting, training, and socializing, so it’s not hard to see why eating healthy sometimes slides towards the bottom of the priority list. If you have picky kids, it can make it even more difficult. But if you plan ahead, you can nail your own training nutrition goals and get the kids to eat healthy. How? Let’s explore a few options.

RELATED: The Busy Triathlete’s Guide to Meal Prepping

Grab-and-go snacks

Running out the door to an early swim squad—or literally running out the door? Having a small snack beforehand will go a long way, and this can also double up as healthy lunchbox “treats” or after-school snacks. Take a bag of trek mix (nuts, dried fruit, some chocolate pieces), throw it in the food processor, blend until it is a dough, and roll into bite sized pieces. You can leave it as it is or roll in unsweetened coconut or cocoa powder.

RELATED: 15 Delicious and Nutritious Snacks for Triathletes

Quick breakfasts

When you get home from training, breakfast is on the agenda. Overnight grains (oats, spelt, buckwheat) can have a range of flavors that make them appealing to all, from apple pie to peaches and cream to peanut butter sundae. A popular option in our house (which is both kid-friendly and a perfect recovery meal) is what we call the breakfast banana split. Simply take a banana, split it in half lengthwise, then top it with plain Greek yogurt and a drizzle of maple syrup, cherries (frozen ones, gently heated), dry-roasted granola or roasted mixed nuts and seeds, with a final flourish of cacao nibs. This is an easy, fun breakfast that is all ready to go within five minutes and also delivers the 20-plus grams of protein you need with ample carbohydrates to help you refuel.

RELATED: You’re Probably Not Getting Enough Protein at Breakfast

Packing a lunch

What about tackling lunch and lunchboxes? If you have a training session planned during your lunch hour, you will most likely be pressed for time, and will either eat at your desk, eat on-the-go, or even skip it altogether. None of these are great options, but we can work with the first two. For picky eaters, presentation goes a long way. Using a bento box or small jars can benefit the entire family. Having a selection of ready-to-eat fruit (berries, grapes, mandarin segments, pineapple chunks) and vegetables (carrot cubes, sliced peppers, celery, cherry tomatoes) in little containers with separate dips (hummus, kale pesto) can make light work of getting the fruit and veggies in. Add in a flatbread wrap with a protein-rich filling (for kids, try nut butter or seed butter with raisins; for adults:, try pesto, chicken, feta, and spinach) with a side of nuts or cheese or roasted chickpeas and you have a great recovery meal for you, and an energy-balancing lunch for your kids.

RELATED: Take Lunch to Go With These Tasty Wraps

A dinner dish to please everyone

Dinner can often be the hardest meal to figure out. If you opt for something like family-style “buddha” bowls, you can have a mix of different flavors, textures, and colors that will appeal to everyone—and, added bonus, you can use the leftovers for cycling food! A typical bowl has a base of grains, with roasted vegetables, a lean protein, nuts and seeds, leafy greens (cooked or not), and a topping such as nuts, seeds, tahini dressing, or sprouts. Making a big sheet pan of roasted sweet potatoes, parsnips, or yams will give you a base of great complex carbs that kids also love.

The most important thing to consider as a triathlete with a busy family life is to find ways to make your food work for you and your kids. By making food fun for them and pulling them into your world of training with your snack balls, smoothies, muffins, or fruit jars in their lunchboxes, you can rest assured that all of you will benefit.

RELATED: Triathlete’s Complete Guide to Nutrition and Fueling