Eat like a champion: University of Iowa teaches athletes how to cook

'We totally preach about living an active lifestyle and the nutrition piece is huge,'

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IOWA CITY — Players on the University of Iowa field hockey team come from faraway places including California, New Jersey, Canada, England and New Zealand.

So they’ve got to go a long way for a home-cooked meal. Unless they cook it themselves.

Which is what Nicole White, the UI Athletics Department’s director of sports nutrition, showed the women during a hands-on cooking demonstration last week in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. In one hour, the team prepared toaster oven quesadillas, mango guacamole, single-serve brownies, eggplant sliders and watermelon slushies.

“It’s a great alternative to sports drinks,” White said of the watermelon drink. “It has electrolytes, potassium — everything you need after a workout.”

Plus, you get to use a big knife — a bonus to Lara Bampfield, a sophomore from Maidenhead, England.

“I’m a big cooker,” she said as she diced the pink fruit. “I like to cook shepherd’s pie on the weekend and then eat it the rest of the week. If it’s a quick dinner, it would be something with eggs.”

Ryley Miller, a freshman from Edwardsville, Ill., has fewer opportunities to cook.

“I live in the dorms so I eat Uncrustables PB&J sandwiches and sometimes Nutri-Grain bars,” she said with a laugh.

Field Hockey Head Coach Lisa Cellucci was eager for her team to participate in the cooking demo with White, who previously talked with the players about what to eat before and after practices and competitions. Field hockey is a 70-minute game played outdoors, mostly in the fall, although the team has a spring tournament April 22 in Iowa City.

“We totally preach about living an active lifestyle and the nutrition piece is huge,” Cellucci said. “In the fall, because we travel so much, we structure all their meals on the weekends. In the offseason, (nutrition) is just as important because we’re trying to make gains in the weight room.”

The NCAA in 2014 approved measures allowing colleges to provide unlimited food and snacks to athletes in addition to their scholarship meal plans.

The UI now has “fueling stations” in seven campus locations, including the Gerdin Athletic Learning Center, Carver-Hawkeye and the Jacobson Football Operations Building.

White and her team stock salads, Greek yogurt, cheese sticks, fruit, jerky and granola, among other items, to encourage healthy snacking.

But teaching student-athletes how to prepare nutritious meals at home is a critical part of their education, White said.

“If you give them all these foods, but they don’t know what to do with it, then it doesn’t do any good,” she said.

White, who started at the UI in September, does team talks and one-on-one consultations on topics that include food allergies, eating disorders or intentional weight gain. She posts every day on Instagram and the UI Sports Nutrition Twitter account (@hawkeyefuel) to keep her advice in front of student-athletes’ eyeballs.

“With all this beautiful changing weather, stay in top of your antioxidants,” White chirped during one of February’s warm spells.

White’s words seem to be sinking in.

Bampfield, the sophomore from England, said she was surprised to learn during White’s earlier team talk that athletes should eat within 30 minutes after a workout to replenish and repair muscles.

“I never would have known that,” she said.

White is teaming up with UI Student Health and Wellness to offer a hands-on cooking demo March 27 open to 30 UI students, including student-athletes. The 7 p.m. event at Carver-Hawkeye’s Feller Conference Room requires students to register at

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