You, your kids, your family as a whole, are all incredibly busy. I get it and can relate – we all can. Along with kids heading back to school these past few weeks, fall sports and extra-curricular schedules are now in full swing. From school to work to the practice field during dinner hours, there is not much time to cook or sit down for healthy meals together.

The temptation and even the reality of driving through, picking up or grabbing something convenient to feed your kids is becoming the culprit, one of the causes, and a huge contributor of our Nation’s epidemic of childhood obesity. I’ll even go so far as to suggest that convenience is killing us!

Let’s take a closer look…

My son is 12 and in seventh grade. He plays football and in his league can be considered a lightweight player weighing in just under 119 lbs. (at 5’5’’ his healthy BMI is 19.8). There are however, 7th and 8th graders playing in his league that weigh 210-260 pounds. These are 12 and 13 year old boys! Yes, their height varies which will affect BMI accordingly but the actual size of children at this age is shocking!

Granted, these boys play football, but are we developing athletes? They practice 4 nights a week from 6-8pm, and as I pull into the parking lot with my son, boys sit eating burgers from bags sucking down sugary sodas before they are expected to perform like an athlete on the field.

Check out this drive-through dinner nutritional snapshot summary:

  •  ¼ lb. Burger with Cheese, medium fries and a 16 oz soda: 1,020 calories, 36 grams of fat, (14.5 grams of saturated fat) 1,300 mg of sodium and 52 grams of sugar*

How is the convenience of this quick dinner killing our kids? High in calories, fat, sodium and sugar = High cholesterol, blood-pressure, Type 2 diabetes, stroke & cancer risk

While we are so busy creating a culture of go, go, go, grab something quick and eat on the run, we are sacrificing nutrient rich, well-balanced meals and quality time spent together to preparing healthy foods.

Slow down, put on the brakes, and stop seeking convenience, start planning ahead for healthy kids!

Gather the tools you need to make and take homemade meals

  • Lunch boxes
  • Thermos containers
  • Ice packs
  • Crock pot or slow cooker
  • Freezer containers

Seek inspiration from several sources

  • Magazines: Real Simple's current issue has a month of easy meals: breakfasts, lunches and dinners!
  • Blogs: A favorite of mine and kid approved too: http://www.momables.com/
  • Weekly newsletters: Vegetarian Times offers a weekly gluten-free, dairy-free or vegetarian recipe depending on your subscription preferences
  • Websites: Try this for nutrition information and recipe ideas: http://nutritiondata.self.com/
  • Online organizer sites: I use Cozi.com (calendars, recipes and grocery lists)

Ask for Help

  • Get your spouse, partner and/or kids involved
  • Trade nights to cook with a parent who may live alone and still enjoy cooking for more than one
  • Team up with other moms, kids and families going to the same practice – take turns bringing a picnic dinner

Set yourself up for success by shopping and prepping ahead of time. On either Saturday or Sunday let the kids each pick a recipe that they’d like to make for a family snack, lunch or dinner in the upcoming week.

Homemade trail mix, muffins, protein or granola bars, hummus, and hard-boiled eggs are all easily interchangeable items for breakfast, lunches or snacks, offer limitless variety based on the ingredients you use and easy to transport.

Sandwiches, too, can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Encourage variety by using not just bread but buns, tortillas, pitas, bagels and even lettuce for sandwich wraps. Try this Mediterranean Roast Beef Pita as a healthy alternative to the beefy nutritional pitfall in the example above.

As the chill of fall air creeps in, turn on the crock pot early in the morning to welcome your family home with the enticing aroma of a hot, homemade meal. Old-fashioned pot roast is a favorite for my meat-eaters but seasonal slow-cooked stews and soups with fall’s bounty of root vegetables, pumpkins and squash varieties delight our vegetarian and vegan friends and family, as well.

The key here being, your simple choice: trade convenience for commitment to healthy habits. That commitment means prior planning, preparation and often packing your own whole foods with real nutrition to fuel your family and support your active lifestyle!

Do your part and I’ll do mine, let’s create a ripple effect, to stop and reverse the childhood obesity epidemic in our country by raising active, well-nourished, healthy, happy kids!

Living in Parker, Colo., Molly is a yoga teacher, NETA Certified Group Exercise Instructor, avid runner, wife and mother of three active, young children. With a focus on Women’s and Children’s Fitness and Nutrition as well as Cross-training for Endurance Athletes, Molly is compelled to share her passion for fitness through teaching and writing. Visit her blog.

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk via Compfight cc

*Nutrition information taken from McDonald’s USA Nutrition Facts for Popular Items