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Meal Planning when School's in Session

Updated: Feb 5, 2022

As we come to the end of the Summer for students, school routines will begin to arise. However, adding on a school routine and a sports routine for student athletes can be very overwhelming. I'm here to help give you some meal planning tips to get you started!

Organize your Schedule

You'll first want to figure out timing of things during your day including:

  • When do you need to leave the house to get on the bus, drive, or be dropped off at school

  • What time is your lunch

  • When does practice start and how long is practice

  • Are there certain days or weekends you have to train early in the mornings

  • Do you have scheduled game days

Determining the answers to these questions first is going to help plan the rest of the day for meals, snacks, hydration, sleep, and yes of course - homework! The athlete should be an integral part of this process.

Meal Timing

After figuring those points out, then you can start to plan the timing of meals and snacks and whether they will be at home or on-the-go. It's best to use some good-ole scratch paper or a weekly organizer that can be found in pretty much any store these days to plan out the timing of meals and snacks.

You may need to wake up early and you know you won't be able to have a sit-down breakfast, therefore, you need all your breakfast to be on-the-go.

You may have the last lunch and that's at 1pm, but your breakfast was at 6am, and 7 hours of not eating is definitely not recommended for an athlete! So you'll have to plan on bringing an extra snack or two to school and eating between or during classes (whatever your school rules may be).

Dinners are probably the biggest challenge I hear from athletes. Being at school and going straight to practice (or maybe a game certain days) can be limiting. When you get home (or are driving home), the parents, who have been working hard as well all day, need to figure out dinner, and therefore it may be a quick stop through a drive through or another hour before dinner is ready. The point here is to PLAN- it's totally okay if one or two days a week the meal needs to be a drive-through option, but have that planned out!


Picking the Menu

Now that the timing of meals has been determined and whether they will be at home or on-the-go, it's time to pick your menu of foods! This is when a sports dietitian comes in handy, because you may be missing out on key nutrients as an adolescent and athlete. A key basic is to always have carbohydrates and protein foods at every meal and some quick carbohydrates at every snack. If your snack is within 2 hours of your practice or game, you want these quick carbohydrates to provide your body the energy it needs so you don't feel tired, unable to sprint or run or think as fast! Download my What's in Your Bag; 20 Snacks for the Busy Athlete Freebie today for some ideas.

  • Carbohydrates and Proteins at every meal

  • Carbohydrates less than 1 hour before practice or a game

  • Non-perishable so you can keep in your car, sports bag, locker, etc.

  • Always have extra!

  • Use the above snack guide for ideas!

Meals can be quick and easy, or they can be leftovers (think lasagna, casseroles, crockpot meals). A sports dietitian can help you make substitutions and create meals that may be easier for this busy lifestyle if you're having difficulties, along with determining budget-friendly ways to feed those athletes.

Make sure you include beverages in this step as well, and always have a reusable water bottle to fill during the day. This may be where a tracker or space in your school planner, notebook, phone (don't get caught!), may be helpful so you stay on track throughout the day.

  • Keep it simple- there's nothing wrong with that!

  • Don't forget the fluids: reusable water bottles, juice boxes or pouches, sports drinks

  • Try to keep track of fluids in your planner or on your phone

We're making the list and checking it twice!

Now that the meals and snacks are planned, you can determine what you need at the grocery store. Make sure you check what you already have in your cupboards, pantry, refrigerator and freezer so this way you can save space and money! A sports dietitian can also help you determine simple substitutions as well to use up food in your home and save on the budget. For example, if your recipe calls for quinoa but you already have brown rice, use brown rice! If a recipe wants you to use fresh garlic but you only have garlic powder, use garlic powder- it'll save you preparation time and money.

Have the athlete be involved in choosing recipes and foods to encourage these life skills in the future. It also enables the athlete to choose foods they know they will eat-they need to eat, we want them to eat and grow and play well, so the more they are involved and choosing foods they will eat, the better their nutrition is going to be!

  • What do you have

  • What do you need

  • Can you make substitutions?

  • Get the athlete involved!


Now the fun or the worst part for some- grocery shopping! Make sure of course you have your list, and try to snack or have a meal before going, this way you stick to your list and avoid buying foods because you are hungry and they look good right at that moment. You may find that some items on your list may not be available- this too is where a sports dietitian can help you figure out a substitution. If there's a fruit not available- pick another fruit. If a certain snack is not available- pick another snack. You may already know some items tend to be out of stock more often, and can already have a backup plan in your head (or better yet, write it on your list!), so you know exactly what to get and can make the trip fast!

  • Eat something before you shop

  • Know what items you may need to swap if they are out of an item


The last part of Meal Planning is to determine what you need to prepare and when, to make the actual cooking more easy. This may include cutting up vegetables all at one time, cleaning lettuce, bagging up snacks into snack-bags to grab and go, organizing your refrigerator by using bins for yogurt or fruit cups, cheese sticks and veggie bags, or beverages. There are plenty of resources online to watch to help you organize your refrigerator, pantry, or cupboards to make grab and go a little easier to pack those lunches or sports bags!

  • Do more ahead of time to limit time spent in the kitchen during the week

  • Don't even put groceries away that need to be washed and cut

  • Make it FUN!

  • Get the athlete involved!

Make this FUN. Enjoy the process and learn throughout what you may want to change or do better with. It is not about perfection, rather, it's about planning ahead so the athlete can be fueled for school and for their sport, while they also need to grow well for a healthy future!

Let's take a look at the steps for Meal Planning when School's in Session:

Overview of Meal Planning

Step 1: Figure out your weekly schedules

Step 2: Determine timing of meals at home and on-the-go

Step 3: Figure out the menu and snacks (don't forget beverages!)

Step 4: Make your grocery list

Step 5: Grocery shop

Step 6: Meal preparation and organization

For additional guidance, my sports nutrition packages offer a deep dive into determining all of these steps and continued focus on ensuring the athlete is obtaining the nutrients they need!

Visit to schedule a Warm-Up Call to talk about your athletes concerns!

Information provided on this website does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to assist in the diagnosis, treatment or alleviation of any medical condition. Persons seeking to address a medical condition should consult with a qualified medical professional. Emily Richters Fasciana LLC will not be liable for any damages, losses, injury or liability suffered as a result of reliance on the information provided on this website.

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