February 19th, 2020

Training Matters: Food tips for college athletes on a budget

By Kimberlee Brooks on August 23, 2019.

Many of the athletes we work with at the Alberta Sport Development Centre – Southeast go on to play at a post-secondary level. Along with balancing classes at school, training schedules, practices and games, student athletes also need to eat to fuel their performance. Often shopping for food comes with a limited budget which can make it challenging for athletes to eat well while training and competing.

To make the most of their limited food dollars I have compiled a few tips to help stretch a food budget. With my own two older boys heading off to post-secondary school this fall, I hope they also pay attention to these money-saving hacks!

Skip bottled water. Water is essential for athletes and an easy way to save a dollar is to use tap water. Fill a jug of water and store it in the fridge so it is always cold. Make it a habit to pack a reusable water bottle for class and practice. Often there are many refillable water stations throughout the school and gym.

Make your own sport drink. Instead of purchasing expensive sports drinks prepare your own. Combine two tablespoons of sugar and 1/8 teaspoon of salt and dissolve in two tablespoons of boiling water. Add two tablespoons of orange juice, one tablespoon of lemon juice and 1 3/4 cups of cold water and mix. Store in the fridge until needed. Other unsweetened fruit juice can be substituted for the orange juice.

Prepare your own homemade snacks and sport foods. Purchasing sports bars can be very expensive and making your own doesn’t have to take much time. With super busy schedules, easy to assemble and prepared snack foods are important.

Save money by making your own trail mix with mixed nuts, dry cereals, raisins and other dried fruit. Store in small containers to take on the go. Make your own no-bake granola or energy balls. Search for recipes online or try this simple five-ingredient recipe: Mix together in a bowl 2/3 cup peanut butter (or any nut butter), 1/2 cup chocolate chips (or raisins or dried cranberries), one cup of oats, 1/2 cup ground flax (or chia seeds or shredded coconut) and two tablespoons honey. Refrigerate until cool and then roll into balls.

Hit up the sales flyer or discount days. Look for warehouse sales or discount days and stock up on discounted items such as canned beans, canned tuna, whole grain pasta, rice and tomato sauce. Buy fresh produce that is in season and poultry, lean beef and fish according to what is on sale. Take advantage of online coupons for additional savings. Some stores have regular discount days each month that offer a percentage of savings like 10 or 15 per cent off your total grocery bill. Save money by planning your shopping trip on these days.

Include more budget proteins in your diet. Canned beans, lentils and split peas are a cheaper protein compared to meat. Substitute beans for ground beef in chili, soups, burritos and tomato sauce. Eggs are usually lower cost than meat. Make an omelette with vegetables, French toast with sliced bananas or take hard boiled eggs on the go. Instead of purchasing single serve yogurt portions buy yogurt in a large tub. Choose Greek yogurt for more protein per serving.

Don’t leave out vegetables and fruits. It is easy for athletes on a budget to shy away from purchasing vegetables and fruits as they may cost more but they are so important in an athlete’s diet! Full of vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants they contribute to a healthy immune system. Save money by buying frozen vegetables and fruit. They’re just as nutritious and fresh and store longer. Sometimes larger bags of plain frozen vegetables and fruit are a better deal than smaller bags. Buy fresh vegetables and fruits when they are in season and on sale. For example, in the fall apples, melons, pears, sweet potatoes, carrots and squash are good buys.

Get the most nutrition for your money while going to school. For more tips go to Health Canada’s website Canada.ca and search for resources on meal planning, healthier grocery shopping and safe food storage.

Kimberlee Brooks, RD, MSc, is a sport dietitian with the Alberta Sport Development Centre and can be reached at kbrooks@mhc.ab.ca.

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