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Fuelling the football finals

So this week is FINALS week! My husband’s team will take on Brisbane Roar at Adelaide Oval on Friday night for the semi-finals of the A-league.

I often get asked what Nigel likes to eat before games and during a  training week. You just have to look at Instagram to know this one, and many people close to us know how much I dislike spaghetti bolognese after 10 years of having this the night before a game! But I did get asked if this had changed being such a big week, so I thought that I would share.

When I was planning our evening meals for the week, I did have FINALS WEEK in the back of my mind. I wanted to make sure that every night we had good quality protein (and a good variety of sources), lots of vegetables for immune support, healthy fats and carbohydrates at every meal. This is pretty standard, although I often ask Nige which nights we need more carbier meals and what nights we can go easy (this depends on his training load).

This week, being a heavy week and nearing the end of the season when fatigue starts to set in, I made sure every meal had a decent amount of carbs.

So this was our weekly menu:

Sunday night

  • Vegetable soup for entree
  • Spiced lamb back-strap with a zucchini, pomegranate and almond couscous salad for main
  • Honey and cinnamon baked pears with ricotta and pistachios for dessert

Monday night

  • Baked eggs in a kidney bean and vegetable mix served with zesty guacamole and corn wraps

Tuesday night

  • Cumin spiced salmon with sweet potato chips and stir-fried greens

Wednesday night 

  • Chicken and vegetable curry with brown rice for main
  • Baked pears for dessert

Thursday night (you guessed it)

  • Spaghetti Bolognese (I’m having leftover curry) for main
  • Ice-cream for dessert (part of the tradition)

There is also lots of weet-bix, fruit, sandwiches, yoghurt and a couple of pasta lunches to fill in the gaps.


What is your favourite pre-game / competition meal?

Healthy school snacks

Are you in the process of getting your kids ready to go back to school?

No doubt you are busy getting books, bags and shoes organised...but what about healthy lunch box and after school snacks?

Kids require adequate fuel to get them through a busy and active day at school. They also require nutrients to optimise their growth and development. Snacks are a fantastic opportunity to help meet these requirements, but one of the most common questions I get asked is: “What makes a healthy snack?”

Foods coming from our core food groups almost always make a healthy snack. This includes fruit, vegetables, dairy, grain foods and lean meats and alternatives. If these foods are presented in a minimally processed way, they are one step closer to a healthy snack.

I think one of the most important aspects to consider when organising healthy snacks for kids is to make them interesting and fun. Getting them involved in the preparation process and asking them what they like and what they think is healthy also helps ensure that they don’t swap, or throw out their intended healthy snacks.

Lets take a look at how we can use our core food groups in an appealing way to minimise the number of packaged or processed snacks for kids. Not only will this help to improve your child’s health, but reduce your family’s carbon footprint.

1.  Fruit and vegetables

Fruit and vegetable based snacks can provide fibre, water, phytochemicals and a range of vitamins and minerals. Snacks may include:

  • Frozen fruit such as frozen berries mixed through natural yoghurt
  • Small portions of dried apricots mixed with cubes of cheese or seeds such as sunflower or pumpkin seeds
  • Tinned fruit in natural juices
  • Savoury wholemeal flour or quinoa muffins with grated vegetables
  • Corn fritters
  • Fruit salad OR
  • Veggie sticks with a nutritious dip such as hommous or tazziki – why not make your own?

2.  Dairy foods

Dairy based snacks can help to provide protein, low glycemic index (GI) carbohydrates, calcium, vitamin D, B vitamins and zinc. Snacks may include:

  • A container holding a mix of cherry bocconcini and cherry tomatoes
  • Tubs of natural, Greek or flavoured yoghurt –freeze tubs of yoghurt (or small containers of yoghurt) before putting in your child’s lunch box to keep them cold
  • Small portions of flavoured or plain milk (including soy milk) OR
  • A slice of low fat cheddar cheese on wholegrain crisp breads.

3.  Lean meats and alternatives

Lean meat and alterative based snacks provide protein, iron, zinc and B12. Snacks may include:

  • Roasted chickpeas (a nice replacement for chips) – roast canned chickpeas with a sprinkle of paprika and cumin for about one hour on ~150 degrees (fan forced oven)
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Felafels
  • Tinned bean mixes and fish OR
  • Mini vegetable frittatas.

4.  Grain foods

Grain foods will provide fibre, carbohydrate, B vitamins, zinc, vitamin E, magnesium, iron and phosphorus. Snacks may include:

  • Wholemeal lavish bread with a nutritious dip such as beetroot
  • Wholemeal savoury or fruit pikelets
  • Dried cereal such as weetbix biscuits topped with cheese and a thin scrape of vegemite or peanut butter.

Choosing a healthy muesli bar

I often get asked about choosing healthy muesli bars, which can be a great convenient snack, especially for active kids.

My recommendations are to always try and choose the muesli bar that is highest in fibre, lowest in sodium and lowest in saturated fat per 100g. Most will have a little bit of added sugar to increase the palatability of the product without displacing key nutrients, however some bars marketed at children can have way too much sugar than required.

Unfortunately, reading sugar on the nutrition information panel is not always the best indication of a healthier option as the presence of natural sugars such as fruit or yoghurt will be listed under ‘sugars’ on the nutrition information panel. These natural sources of sugar are nutrient dense.

The ingredients list can help you identify added sugars. Look for sucrose, cane sugar, raw sugar, dextrose, glucose, honey, brown sugar, malt syrup, fructose, lactose, molasses, barley malt and caramel. If one of these ingredients is high on the list, this means that there is likely a large quantity of it in the product.

More infomration on this can be found here.

After school snacks

Feeding hungry kids after school can be challenging, especially when trying to find something that is fun, nutritious and easy to prepare. Try:

  • Mini ‘pizzas’ with wholegrain English muffins topped with ‘no added salt’ tomato paste (or homemade tomato sauce), tomato, pineapple and cheese and placed under the grill
  • Freezing any left over fruit to make smoothies – use frozen fruit such as as banana and strawberries and blend with yoghurt and milk
  • Celery filled with your child’s favourite nut butter and a sprinkle of sultanas
  • Baked bean filled toasties OR
  • A platter filled with cubed cheddar cheese, sushi, rice crackers, lavish bread, dried fruit and a nutritious dip.

Fuelling Active Kids

Over the last few weeks I have had the opportunity to help educate many kids about general nutrition and nutrition in sport. I was also lucky enough to attend the Sports Dietitian’s Australia conference in Melbourne, which was insightful and inspiring. Each of these experiences has taught me a great deal. In particular I have learnt that kids are active! Even though our statistics tell us that there is a decrease in the activity levels of many children living in Australia, there are still many kids that are active who need good quality fuel in order to keep them going.

When I talk to kids about nutrition I always relate our body back to a car. If you put the good quality petrol in, the car will drive better compared with if we put the cheap, crappy petrol in. Not only will good nutrition help to maintain adequate energy and concentration levels required to enjoy sport and general activity, it will support a child’s overall health, growth and development.

How to fuel active kids?

Active kids need to eat regularly in order to refuel their energy levels, with the preferred fuel source being carbohydrates. A regular day for an active kid can often be a busy one, especially when they are training before or after an already active day at school. To ensure that kids get the good quality fuel they require, use the following tips:

1.  Organise to have nourishing meals and snacks on hand to enjoy at home, school, during sport or on the run.

2.  Encourage your child to start the day with a nourishing breakfast such as baked beans on toast, a fruit smoothie, toast or a high fibre breakfast cereal topped with fruit.

3.  Have some carbohydrate based meals or snacks available to enjoy before, during and after training and sport. Convenient snacks may include tinned, dried or fresh fruit, yoghurt, custard,  french toast with ricotta, raison bread topped with ricotta and fruit, flavoured milk, pasta or rice salad, wholegrain English muffins topped with honey, nut butter or vegemite, homemade fruit muffins, sandwiches, smoothies or liquid meals such as Sustagen Sport or an Up and Go.

4.  Pack a drink bottle and encourage kids to drink well at school (water being the preferred choice) and during sport to help avoid dehydration. There is a place for sports drinks around sport to help assist with hydration, especially during prolonged or higher intensity sport.

The right meal

To make sure a tired child tops up their fuel tank at the end of the day it is important that fluid is encouraged and a nutrient dense meal is available.

A nutrient dense meal is one that has some carbohydrates for energy (including potato, sweet potato, pasta, noodles, rice or quinoa), protein for recovery and muscle maintenance (including eggs, fish, chicken, legumes or beef), salads and vegetables to help meet fibre, vitamin and mineral requirements and a low fat dessert based on fruit or dairy to enjoy. This can be very challenging, especially when parents and carers are also busy with work, study or their own sport.

To help to ensure a meal is on hand in times of need try some of the following tips:

5.  Be organised and plan the meals and snacks for the week.

6.  Create a shopping list and get the groceries for the busy week ahead.

7.  Plan for meals that are quick and easy to prepare such as stir frys with chicken, vegetables and noodles, fish with vegetables and rice, burritos with minced meat and salad, a tuna and vegetable pasta bake and hamburgers made with lean mince or a vegetable pattie and served with salad on high fibre rolls.

8.  Use a mix of fresh, frozen and canned foods such as frozen vegetables, canned legumes (beans) and tinned fruit.

9.  Dedicate an afternoon to preparing some meals and snacks that can be frozen and reheated.

10.  Put a slow cook meal on in the morning before work so a tasty and healthy meal is ready for when everyone gets home.