10 Items for Every College Athlete’s Dorm Room

I remember heading to college my freshman year. A huge mix of excitement and nervousness for what was to come. Not so much for classes, honestly, more so for my new intense practice schedule as a swimmer. 

I knew I had so much potential coming from a swim team that worked hard, but didn’t have as much time in the pool as many other athletes and had next to no weight room experience. Still, as I wondered how my body would handle the training adjustment, even as a nutrition student, the role of snacks and my eating schedule in adapting never crossed my mind. 

So, I learned the hard way. I made good choices at actual meals and allowed myself cookies and ice cream after dinner when I wanted them. I definitely wasn’t too low on calories my first two semesters. However, overall nutrients? Protein timing? Hydration? Not things I was knowledgeable enough to recognize I was doing wrong. Looking back, heading to 2 hour AM workouts on an empty stomach and avoiding sports drinks because I thought they weren’t healthy were bad ideas. That’s probably what led to late night cravings for calzone delivery (I did get broccoli in them at least) or mini-binges Butterfinger and Reese’s. Snacking during the day between breakfast and lunch or at least before another intense afternoon workout? I can’t recall any of that except for maybe an occasional PowerBar Harvest bar. 

I not only had a quad injury by our first meet in October, but I also wasn’t recovering well and my energy levels were not that of someone with an extremely high fitness level. My times improved slightly by the end of the year, and I surely gained muscle mass, but my body was not performing the way it should. I didn’t know any better, though. 

Now I do. And that’s what I love about my career. I think my #1 all time favorite thing to do is speak to high school and college athletes. I get so excited while people oviding them with this valuable information, so they can feel empowered to maximize their training and performance. I always tell them nutrition is part of their training, not a separate piece. 

And, healthy eating for an athlete is not the same as healthy eating for a non-athlete. No two are alike in what they need for their own body as well. Still, there’s 10 items that can be helpful to any athlete. Here’s my picks for your dorm room.

1. Whole Food Snack Bars 


Yes, snack. Not meal replacement. Some are better preworkout or in the middle of the day, others are better pair-workout when you can’t make it to the dining hall within an hour of exercise. 

2. Oatmeal


You can make it really quickly and pack it with plenty of other ingredients (see below!) for added nutrition. That way, if you happen to be running late in the morning, instead of skipping the dining hall and breakfast all together, you can get in a balanced meal. Actually, oats are great anytime of day, so this wouldn’t be a bad idea if you’re hungry after an early dinner. Or, it can act as a preworkout snack without the add-ins!

3. Shelf Stable Milk or Soymilk


Stock up on these sources of not only protein, but essential vitamins and minerals, too. I’d steer clear of almond, cashew, rice, etc. milks since they are NOT a protein source. When it comes to calcium, this important nutrient is used in every muscle contraction! Plus, if you’re playing a high impact sport, there is more stress placed on your bones. For these reasons, athletes require more calcium than the average person. 

With a tiny dorm room fridge, you can store a bunch of these under your bed or futon and have more delivered over parents weekend. I recommend cooking oats with the milk to boost protein or carrying around the single serve packs to have with snacks or after practice during the day. It’s also not a bad addition to a PB & banana sandwich a couple of hours after dinner, so your body has all the nutrients it needs to recover while you sleep. 

4. Fresh Fruit

I don’t expect you to roll onto campus with tons of fresh fruit, I know it will spoil. I also know most campus’ aren’t going to have easy grocery store access and athletes don’t have time to shop as new students adjusting to school anyway!

Here’s the super easy hack, so you can snack on fruit whenever you need to replenish energy stores, amp up your antioxidant intake for repair, or grab a quick preworkout snack:

Take a piece of fruit with you at least after two meals each day from the dining hall! Often the bananas aren’t ripe enough (for my taste) anyway, so you can let them hit their peak for preworkout perfection in your room. Those meal plans are expensive enough, anyway, for those of you heading to school without a full-ride. Just keep the fresh fruit where you’ll see it so it doesn’t spoil!

5. Nut or Seed Butter


It’s quick, nutritious, and goes with practically everything. You should probably get a few of the cost club size, not these standard sized ones I happen to have in my pantry right now. Along with them, nut or seed butter single serve packs like the Barny’s ones shown are great to keep in your backpack.

While a lot of people think of peanut butter and nuts as protein sources, they’re a much better way to fit in healthy fats. The mono-unsaturated fats in nut butter and seed butter are great for managing inflammation, which athletes have a lot of due to high stress on all of the body’s systems. Peanut, almond, and sunflower seed butter are also all great sources of Vitamin E! Most Americans do not meet needs for this important nutrient that acts as an antioxidant and also supports blood health, immune health, joint health and skin. Skip the powdered PB that is without E!

6. Seeds


Sunflower are great, but here  I’m talking about my top seed trifecta: chia, flax, hemp. While nuts provide healthy fat, the one nut that contains omega-3 in note-worthy amounts is walnuts (typically not a favorite for my clients, unfortunately). Chia and flax are the best omega-3 sources with hemp providing some, too. I recommend chia for oatmeal and smoothies, ground flax for the same and yogurt, and hemp seeds for practically everything since they add a nice texture. The chia also contains some calcium and lots of soluble fiber, which is great for your good gut bacteria. Flax also has this fiber and magnesium, which supports the functions of calcium. Female athletes take note: hemp seeds are a good source of iron, which you’re at high risk of being deficient in. They also provide more protein than chia and flax. 

Pro-tip: buy the travel packs and bring them to the dining hall to mix in with morning oatmeal or, for hemp seeds, to add to a vegetable side. 

7. Mini-Foam Roller


Where were these when I was a college athlete? Not in the UConn strength rooms and definitely not in my dorm. The half sizes can fit just about anywhere though so you can roll out your aches and knots when you’re finally relaxing in front of the tv. I’m sure my hip health would be so much better now if I was using foam rollers back in the day! Full body massages aren’t on most athletes schedules during a busy semester, so this is the next best option. 

8. The Stick


Now these we did have in the training room, but in hind-sight, I needed my own. The stick gets those places that are really bugging you and extra hard to reach with the foam roller. You may have to recruit your roommate to help you reach that awkward place under your scapula, but it’s also great if you’re prone to plantar-fasciitis pain. Just don’t roll it right over bones. 

9. Arnica Gel


This homeopathic remedy for muscle soreness and bruising is a favorite of mine. It has research backing it and in my personal experience is effective. Better though, it doesn’t leave you sticky, burning and smelling strongly of mint. 

Note: if you start bruising really easily, it may be a sign of iron deficiency anemia. Keep iron intake up!

10. A Lumbar Support Pillow for your Desk Chair


I know for some of you it may feel like you’re going to school to be an athlete and not a student, but that attitude can catch up to you really quickly. You’re going to be not only sore but fatigued from an intense training schedule, so slouching when you study will be even more likely. This pressure influences your posture, potentially activating sciatica pain at your young age, impairing training and performance. It can also cause imbalances in shoulder strength that throw off your strength, too. 

What other must-have dorm room items can you think of to support performance and reduce stress? I’d love to add them to a future list!

20+ Muffin Recipes for Busy, Fit Families

While it may still be August and in my mind summer just began, all over the country kids are already heading back to school! While a balanced breakfast is important for all children and adults, it’s even more essential that student-athletes are fitting in this important meal before they head to use their brains for most of the day. Continue reading

Summer Updates and Nutrition Media

I know to all of my dedicated readers that it may seem like I’ve been loungin’ around as I slack on blog posts this summer, but I promise that is not the case! I have had some summer fun, but have also been workin’ hard on projects with some fun new clients and written some articles, too. While I have a bunch of great posts that are coming soon, I thought I would update you with some of my recent media and work that can keep you up-to-date on the latest in nutrition trends and sports nutrition! Continue reading

Toast Toppings to Fuel Your Fitness

Toast is quick, fits in anytime of day, and is super versatile. Breakfast, snack, lunch, or dinner, sometimes it just hits the spot! With the fabulous #ToastTuesday trend I thought I’d share some of my favorite ways to enjoy it, along with when you might want to enjoy each combo. The “trend” obviously isn’t the old boring toast you’re used to. Warmed fluffy (mostly) sprouted grain bread with a slight crisp and delicious toppings may be a better description of what I’m sharing today (along with creative recipe ideas from some other dietitians and healthy food bloggers). If you’re thinking “sprouted whaaaat?”, have no idea what kind of bread to buy, or still think “carbs are bad“, check out this post on how to choose nutritious bread. And no whining if you’re gluten-free! I have a whole category for you at the bottom!


(L: almond butter, banana cacao nibs | R: sunflower seed butter, gala apple, hemp seeds)

Continue reading

Black Bean Brownie Bites with Hemp Seed Frosting

I know, I know, I’ve been posting a lot of dessert-like recipes lately. You all must be devastated by the fact that these delicious bites all contain tons of nutrients and are a super healthy way to indulge.

Black bean brownie bites

Continue reading

Strawberry Chocolate Oat Bars

Strawberry season is one of my favorites! We hiked over to Doylestown recently for our annual strawberry picking trip at Hellerick’s Farm. Per usual, we went a bit overboard and brought home more than two people need. Obviously, this meant recipe testing! I enjoy oats and chocolate several times per week year round. So, why not mix these delicious ingredients together with the perfect nutrient balance to fuel exercise?

Strawberry Chocolate Oat Bars

Continue reading

Mexican Inspired Shakshuka

Happy National Egg Day! Long gone are should be the days of egg whites and fear for the yolk, and now lies the celebration of this nutrient powerhouse! Eggs are actually trending this year and Americans are celebrating not only their nutrient power but also their versatility.

IMG_2050.JPG

Continue reading