College Athletes Guide to Diet on a Budget

Eating healthy foods and drinks can be a challenge for college athletes on a budget who are away from home for the first time this fall. This article provides tips on stocking dormitory rooms with inexpensive, nutritious, and long-lasting items to support wellness, academics, exercise, and exercise performance.

These foods and drinks are time-saving, easy to prepare in advance, and make great portable snacks between class and practice. However, when packing for college make sure that you also bring the following with you:

  • tin opener
  • Plastic sandwich bags
  • mixer
  • A pot (if there is a stove)
  • Sieve (e.g. for draining pasta water, canned fish filled with water, beans or fruit).

Also important: dorms may or may not have refrigerators or freezers. If not, buying an inexpensive small fridge-freezer is handy and essential for storing perishable foods and for extending the shelf life of the various foods listed below. And if there is a small kitchen and a stove in the dormitory, this is another plus point for preparing healthy drinks with a long expiry date such as green or black tea and instant coffee or for conveniently and inexpensively preparing hard-boiled eggs or for boiling frozen vegetables, potatoes, sweet potatoes, dried pasta, brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, or farina (all of which appear in this article).

Purchasing guidelines

Ideally, there is a grocery store nearby or on campus rather than regularly dining in the campus cafeteria or potentially more expensive local restaurants and not always offering desirable healthy menus. Instead, shopping at a grocery store gives athletes more control over buying the healthiest, most affordable foods and drinks. But buyers beware:

  • Always check the expiry date of food / drinks! Canned, packaged and frozen goods usually have a long expiry date (several months to a year from the date of purchase) compared to, for example, fresh fruit and vegetables, which can spoil within one to two weeks.
  • Check the ingredients on the labels – in general, the fewer ingredients, the more natural the product with no processed additives.

Unless you have any food allergies, buy the following nutritious foods and beverages:

High protein foods / drinks

  • Canned fish (e.g. tuna, salmon). Buy tuna or salmon wrapped in water instead of oil and drain off the water and salt. Add heart-healthy olive oil, lemon or lime juice, and spices for flavor. Canned fish contain bodybuilding protein for muscle growth and recovery after weight training, games and exercises, as well as omega-3 fatty acids that help strengthen the immune system.
  • Canned beans. Like fish, beans are a good source of protein. Beans are high in fiber and have an impact on heart health as well. Like canned fish, rinse the beans and drain the added water and salt.
  • Milk powder. Milk in cartons or bottles can spoil and turn sour over time. An alternative is long-lasting milk powder – add cold water, mix and voila – either a refreshing glass of milk, pour over muesli or mix with frozen fruit to make a delicious smoothie. Milk powder contains all of the vitamins, minerals, and bodybuilding protein found in bottled milk.
  • Ricotta cheese. Check the containers of ricotta cheese and find that this cheese is another great alternative to regular milk as the expiration date is two to three months from the date of purchase. Ricotta cheese on frozen berries is a delicious and nutritious dessert or snack. Buy a large container, cool it down, and consume a few spoons a day for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
  • String cheese. A wonderful calcium-rich snack on the go, like ricotta cheese, is also good for building bones and muscles. Put some in the fridge in sandwich bags and take them with you on the way to the gym or class.
  • Yogurt. This immune-boosting, muscle-building food has an expiration date of a few weeks from the date of purchase. Greek yogurt is generally higher in protein.
  • Nuts and seeds. Packed with essential fats and some protein, nuts and seeds are also heart-friendly and high in fiber. Keep in a cool place to avoid rancidity. Together with dried fruits (e.g. raisins, plums) nuts and seeds are ideal as an energizing or regenerating protein / carbohydrate combination snack before or after training: eat nuts, seeds and dried fruits in sandwich bags for on the go. for example.
  • Hard boiled eggs. Chilled eggs have a long expiry date, which is stated on the carton (usually more than a month from the date of purchase). They are inexpensive and sold in boxes of 6, 12, 18, or even 24 pieces. Put a dozen eggs in a saucepan filled with water, boil, chill, chill, and consume one or two a day for another convenient muscle-building meal for on the go, breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Energy-giving carbohydrate foods

  • Dried fruit. Raisins, plums and dried apricots, for example, can be kept in the refrigerator for a few months and are excellent portable, practical, vitamin and mineral-rich energizing snacks with cheese spreads, nuts or seeds or on whole grain muesli.
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables. Frozen fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh vegetables – but can be stored in the freezer for a few months. For example, open a bag of frozen berries and take some out, defrost them overnight in the refrigerator and eat them for breakfast or put them in the blender for a smoothie. The same goes for frozen vegetables – defrost part of the bag and take it for lunch or dinner.
  • Preserved fruit (e.g. peaches, pineapples). Store in the cupboard for a year or more from the date of purchase and buy canned fruit in their own juices – not processed with the addition of syrup or sugar.
  • Whole grain bread and cereal. Freeze a loaf of whole wheat bread, thaw a few slices every few days, and make a sandwich or toast. Whole grain cereals such as oatmeal and Farina can be kept for several months in a cool, dark place (cupboard). Mix powdered milk and water, bring to the boil and combine with oat flakes or flour for breakfast or as a snack.
  • Andean millet. This high-protein, high-fiber grain is an underrated and unusual food (compared to the more popular oatmeal or farina) with a long shelf life. Bring it to the boil and have it as a muesli or side dish for dinner, for example.
  • Brown rice. With more fiber than white rice, cook a cup of brown rice for a hearty side dish, or toss in some beans and peas for a great protein / carbohydrate meal.
  • Pasta. Dried pasta can be stored in the cupboard for up to a year. Buy whole grain or whole grain pasta for variety and more nutrition.
  • Tomato sauce from the can. Heat and serve over pasta.
  • Potatoes and sweet potatoes. Store in a cool, dark place and these nutrient-dense staples should last up to two weeks.

Healthy drinks

  • Water. Bottled or straight from the tap, water is the number one beverage for athletes and non-athletes alike to keep hydrated, cook, or make other healthy drinks like black or green tea or instant coffee. Keep bottled water packs in the refrigerator for several weeks.
  • Black and green tea and instant coffee. Packaged black and green tea bags and instant coffee containers will keep in the cupboard for several months. Each contains heart-healthy and natural anti-inflammatory antioxidants that help reduce muscle and joint pain and inflammation from strenuous exercise and exercise.

Soothing spices

  • Mustard. Cool and place on hard-boiled eggs or prepare a dressing with lemon juice and olive oil for salads or vegetables.
  • Lemons and limes. Generally refrigerate well for up to two weeks, cut into slices and press in water or tea to enhance the flavor, or make a dressing with olive oil, as mentioned above for salads or canned fish.
  • Olive oil. This heart-healthy bottled oil will last a month or more in a cool, dark place and is useful for cooking or on salads and vegetables.
  • Bottled herbs and spices. Store long-lasting and anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich bottled herbs like parsley, basil, oregano, garlic and onion powder, ginger powder, and spices like cinnamon, black pepper and crushed red pepper flakes for seasoning in a dark and cool grocery cupboard.
  • Salt. Can be kept for several months, use sparingly and season lightly over the food to preserve the taste. Salt is also useful for medicinal purposes. A well-tried remedy for a sore throat is gargling with salt in warm water several times a day and relieves an annoying dry cough.
  • Vinegar. Store red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar in the cupboard for several months and use in salads or for cooking.

Follow these food and drink recommendations, plus two additional wellness guidelines: Try getting 8-10 hours of night sleep regularly and exercising regularly to promote mental and physical academic and athletic performance throughout your college years.

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