KOKOMO, Ind. — Chili made with pumpkin?
Ben Simic admits to having doubts. He gave the vegetarian concoction a try at one of Indiana University Kokomo’s weekly healthy food sampling sessions for student athletes, and was surprised to like it.
“I was kind of skeptical at first, but it ended up being good,” said Simic, a freshman on IU Kokomo men’s basketball team. “We’re learning about different types of food that are good for you, and help your performance and give you energy throughout the day.”
Kim Mossburg, lecturer in nutritional science, along with student interns in the nutrition program, plan and prepare meal ideas on a weekly basis that student-athletes can prepare at home. They include chipotle chicken, butternut squash soup, barbecued chicken and bacon pizza.
“This allows them to try a few ideas, so they don’t go out and buy groceries and not like it if they cook it,” said Tasha Lane, one of the students who helps prepare and serve the food each week in the food and nutrition lab.
“We’re helping them look at food differently, to see how healthy choices provide the fuel they need to succeed,” said Lane, from Kokomo. “It’s fun to work with them and see their opinions change. We help them realize that whole food is what you need, and habits are what you change.”
The interns also provide the athletes tips for stretching their grocery budget — such as freezing leftover chipotle chicken breast, and then cutting it up and using it as a pizza topper later. They also show how to use cheaper staples such as bread, eggs, and cheese to make meals, including toasting bread to make a pizza crust.
Freshman Vanessa Mullins, a member of the women’s basketball team, especially enjoyed the barbecue pizza, made with chicken and turkey bacon. She plans to try preparing some of the recipes she’s sampled in her own kitchen.
“They teach us important stuff about nutrition, so we can excel in our sports and not be sluggish and tired,” she said.
Antoyne Jackson, a basketball player from Chicago, wants to make the chipotle bowl he tried at one of the sessions. He appreciates being able to try healthy foods, to know if he likes them before attempting to make them himself.
“They give us ideas that are healthy and not too expensive, so we can buy the ingredients and make it ourselves,” he said. “They’re doing a great job.”
Mossburg noted that while her students are helping the athletes, they also benefit, by learning cooking and presentation techniques, and skills working in low fat and whole food ingredients.
Athletic Director Greg Cooper praised the partnership for its impact on all students involved.
“We are helping support the academic endeavor of many students, while also educating our student athletes about how to fuel their bodies properly for peak athletic performance,” he said. “Kim and her students are also doing an excellent job of developing recipes that are inexpensive so our students, most of whom are surviving on very little money, are able to feed themselves well on a college budget.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.