Today we live in a very fast paced world. This is especially true for athletes. There are hours of training, practices and games that fill your and your family’s week. This type of jammed packed schedule often leaves you eating a quick, fast food type dinner before getting on the bus or hitting the drive thru on the way home from a practice. Because it is so quick and easy, and time is so limited, many people fall into this trap on a weekly or daily basis. Studies show that as a nation we are eating out at least four to five times a week which is not only costing us our health, but also our habits.
As an athlete food is fuel and power; therefore you should feed yourself the most lean, wholesome food to be found. The restaurant industry is not the market to provide wholesome, powerful food. Rather they provide food that tastes good so you will buy it again. They are not concerned about your health or your athletic performance. To make food taste good recipes are pumped with calories, sodium, fat and sugar in order to appeal to your taste buds. All these ingredients in excess can led to an increase in weight over time and therefore put you at higher risk of chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or even Type 2 diabetes and will hinder, not help with your athletic aspirations. As an athlete you should be fueling yourself with lean proteins, fruits, vegetables low fat dairy and whole grains, which can be difficult to find at common fast food locations.
A place that you can find an abundance of lean protein, fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy and whole grains is at home! Preparing meals and snacks at home is the optimal way to properly fuel yourself to perform your best. A study done by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health stated, “When people cook most of their meals at home, they consume fewer carbohydrates, less sugar and less fat than those who cook less or not at all.” The study also found those who cooked at home-six to-seven nights a week also consumed fewer calories. On the occasions when they ate out, they tended to eat healthier meals, or not go completely crazy consuming bad food!
Since you are still living at home, encourage your family to eat more meals in. Not only should your family start preparing meals and snacks at home, but you, as the athlete, should help with the preparation. As an athlete it will be very beneficial to assist with the cooking now in order to learn and continue those healthy habits throughout your sports career later. A long-term study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found that confidence in cooking led to fewer fast-food meal and more frequent preparation of meals with vegetables, therefore leading to a healthy lifestyle. Learning to cook at a younger age will prepare you to eat more nutritiously and involvement in cooking is associated with better dietary patterns, says lead author Jennifer Utter, PhD, MPH, RD at New Zealand’s University of Auckland.
Just as you practice to get better at a sport, or buy proper equipment to help you achieve your athletic goals you will want to invest in good, healthy eating to help get an edge up on the competition. Healthy eating is an investment that starts at home by learning the basics in the kitchen. This investment will start to improve your health now and develop lifelong healthy eating habits. So, what are you waiting for? Get in the kitchen and start chopping, slicing, mincing and peeling!