Like a “berry blast” out of the blue, young athletes are crazy about the healthy food and drink options at Ocelot Cafe — the health-conscious snack bar inside St. Joe’s Sports Dome at Schoolcraft College.
And when soccer players might be feeling their “overnight oats” after a tough practice or grueling contest, they can enjoy a helping of that offering, which is served complete with chia seeds for just $3.49.
“Everything in our deli case is made at the school, at the VisTaTech Center,” cafe worker Aaron Eichberg said. “I occasionally have some of the wraps. I’ve had, like, fruit cups and stuff like that.”
For parents and other family members who want to fill up during trips to the dome, more traditional snack bar items such as pizza are available. But so are popular wraps (turkey bacon lettuce anyone?).
“When we have tournaments, usually in between the games, you’ll end up getting rushed,” Eichberg said. “A lot of times, they’ll get smoothies. Those tend to be really popular during those times, during tournaments.
“When it comes to parents, they’re getting more, like, their coffee and what not.”
Michele Sanderson is a Traverse City mom whose son Kevin, 15, recently played a tourney game for the North Storm against the home-grown Michigan Wolves.
“I think it’s a great idea, a lot better choices,” Sanderson said. “I think the kids now are looking for more healthier options, especially the younger athletes.”
She said Kevin is all for healthy drinks, such as the power berry.
“I think that would be the one,” Sanderson said, noting that the power berry’s ingredients include fresh blueberries, strawberries and raspberries, with a healthy dose of orange juice. “I might try to share that with him.”
The healthy approach is all about athletes (including Schoolcraft College players) making nutritious choices while not forfeiting taste in the process.
Schoolcraft chef Heather Moore and registered dietitian Emily Camiener teamed on putting together a menu for Ocelot Cafe (which opened a year ago, when the dome was unveiled).
Moore said she and Camiener “have worked very closely together to make sure we are offering options that not only taste good, but also serve a nutritional purpose.
“Emily likes to use the analogy of thinking of your body as a car, with food and drink as fuel,” Moore added. “Athletes are like fine-tuned cars that require quality fuel to achieve peak performance.
“You will find gentle little reminders we have placed around the dome for the players. For example, in our restrooms, we have various little posters of reminders like, ‘Are you hydrated?’”
The popular smoothies feature 100 percent fresh fruit and vegetables, with no unnecessary fillers.
“They’re great to hide ingredients that are nutritionally beneficial, like kale and spinach, which are both in one of our most popular smoothies, the Hulk Smash,” Moore said.
There also are hummus snack boxes and lettuce wraps, popular for on-the-fly tournament customers. Bottled water and Gatorade are drink staples, not sugary, carbonated beverages.
“To me, this proves that our players want to eat healthy,” Moore said. “But they just need the means of having it available to quickly purchase.”
After a recent U-10 girls soccer match-up between the Michigan Hawks and Michigan Jaguars, diced watermelon and berries were on the mind of Camryn Vlcko, both 10.
“I like getting those fruit cups, I like the watermelon,” said Camryn, a Plymouth resident who plays for the Hawks. “I like smoothies, too. I like banana.”
Her mom, Pam Vlcko, added that Camryn also has had vegetables and fruits from the cafe.
“We had a smoothie, too,” Pam said. “I’ve gotten the strawberry-banana and she’ll sip off it.
“If she’s playing and I did not grab dinner, I will get something. I’ve gotten the yogurt parfait. I think it’s excellent. It’s better than the chips and everything.”
It’s all good
Westland resident Chloe Wygonik, 10, a member of the Jaguars, said Ocelot Cafe is right up her alley.
“I like strawberries, cantaloupe,” Chloe said. “Sometimes smoothies, if I’m in the mood. I love smoothies. I like eating healthy, chocolate milk.”
The quest for nutrition instead of empty calories works for her older sister, 16-year-old Sophia Wygonik (a Livonia Franklin student).
“I love the smoothies and I love the wraps, too,” Sophia said. “Sandwiches, that’s my go-to. I like the healthy options, but smoothies are definitely a big hit in my family.”
“I like it (Ocelot Cafe) a lot. It’s very convenient too for all the soccer games. There’s a lot of kids coming in and out and we have so many people just sitting around here.”
Sophia then nodded in the direction of Chloe about having a one-stop place to get healthy, tasty snacks: “I feel like it’s a great option for after practices, because I know you guys get so hungry after practices, yeah?”
As for chowing down on those overnight oats, however, that’s something one might have to sleep on.
Contact Tim Smith at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @TimSmith_Sports.
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