Apart from the committed and strong-willed people who are dedicated to healthy eating and exercising, college students aren’t always the best at maintaining a balanced diet. Taco Bell and malt liquor are not part of a balanced diet. A lot of students have crazy schedules, and on some days it can actually be a struggle to find a time to eat before 10pm. Cooking takes time, food is expensive, and the last thing anyone wants to do after a long day is make food, enter Taco Bell. I don’t know about you, but I usually throw a bag of chips (Cheetos actually) in my backpack, wait as long as I possibly can to eat them before passing out, and call that breakfast, lunch and dinner. If I’m lucky, there will be a string cheese stick somewhere in my daily plan as well.
Eating right is hard, but it really is important. If it is impossible for you to eat at least 2 good meals a day, and it very well might be, then snacks can be your saving grace. If you do it right, healthy snacks can be easy to prepare, just as affordable as junk food, and can even taste good. Yes, healthy food can taste good sometimes! The importance of snacking boils down to science. Our bodies respond well to small meals and snacks spread throughout the day, and the right snack can give you a better boost of energy than a can of Red Bull. The key is to balancing out what you eat, and combine the right amount of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and such, and fat (yep, you get to eat a lil’ bit of fat).
If you want to start snacking better, here are some ideas for snacks that are quick, easy and can withstand being at the bottom of your purse for half of the day. If you need a new way to procrastinate on Sunday nights, why not spend that time making snacks for the week? And for some general guidelines, check out this list of foods that boost your energy and this explanation of why snacking is good.
1. Granola Bars
Granola Bars make awesome healthy breakfasts and snacks, if you get the right granola bars. The ones loaded with chocolate and peanut butter are amazing, but they are usually full of sugar as well. Although it may seem like a daunting task, making your own granola bars is actually super easy, and you don’t even need an oven. This recipe is a great base recipe for easy and healthy granola bars, and the best part is that they are really easy to customize. Don’t like raisins? Just don’t put them in, and add whatever you like instead. You can slice them up ahead of time and wrap each bar in some plastic so all you have to do is grab one off the pile before you run out of the door.
2. Trail Mix
To me, Trail Mix is sort of like the granola bar for people who like to snack a little more slowly and prefer to pick through a big bowl of stuff and carefully select the next little crunchy nugget to eat. Eating slowly is also a good habit to develop, because you may end up eating less and won’t feel bloated. Similar to granola bars, trail mix can be awful for you if you pick the wrong one, and unfortunately the wrong one means the one full of M&Ms. Here is another basic recipe, but again, you can more or less add whatever you want. This trail mix is on the savory side, but if you prefer sweet you can use honey as a flavoring and add dried fruit and even a few chocolate chunks (dark chocolate is good for you!)
3. Spicy Roasted Chick Peas
Many of the best snacks are crunchy, that is a basic fact of life. Few things are more satisfying than crunching through a bag of chips, until 5 minutes later when you just want to curl up in a salty ball and puke. Luckily, there are healthier crunch alternatives that won’t make you feel disgusting. For example, chick peas are super healthy and great sources of protein and fiber, making them a snack that will keep you feeling satisfied for a while. Roasting chick peas is really easy to do, and if you season them with some salt and chili powder, they definitely won’t taste like a health food.
One of the problems with healthy snacks can be that they are boring, and even though you just ate a bunch of carrots, you are still hungry and end up eating a bag of Doritos anyway. Eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to eliminate every delicious thing from your diet, you just have to learn the art of moderation and pair the less healthy items with other foods that will boost their nutritional value. Nutella is a college student staple, and can be a great component of a healthy snack. A component, you can’t eat the whole jar. I’m sure you can, but don’t. Nutella is very versatile and has many natural pairings. Nutella and bananas on some whole grain bread, or Nutella mixed with greek yogurt as a fruit dip are just a few options. Pro-tip, don’t ever snack on Nutella with the whole jar next to you, put some in a little container then walk away.
Like Nutella, Hummus is another spreadable college student staple. Ideally, hummus is healthiest if you make your own, but really who has time for that? A lot of times you can buy individual snack packs of hummus, so that way you don’t have to worry about eating too much, having your roommates steal a few dips or forgetting about it until it isn’t edible anymore. They also make hummus a lot more portable, you can just throw a pack and some dippers (this is a great opportunity to scarf down some carrots) in your bag for later.
6. “Ants on a Log”
The mention of Ants on a Log probably sent a lot of you into a wave of nostalgia. Peanut butter smeared into a celery boat covered in chocolate chips or sprinkles was a childhood snack staple for many, even though you probably just licked all the peanut butter out and fed the celery to the dog. This childhood staple can easily be updated for adulthood, and can still make a fun and healthy snack. You can stick to the peanut butter and chocolate combo, or also try hummus spread with olive ants, or almond butter with whole almonds as the ants.
7. DIY Lunchables
Speaking of nostalgia, who else misses the glory of those delightful little build-your-own pizzas and a refreshing Capri-sun. If you want to stick to your roots, making your own “lunchables” kit might be the motivation grown-up you needs to eat a healthy lunch. Cheese makes a great healthy snack, if you eat just a few cubes of slices of a good cheese, not kraft-singles, as it is high in calcium and protein. You can fill a container with some cheese, a few slices of your favorite lunch meat, some healthier than Ritz crackers and even a sweet treat, and voila, colleges style lunchables.
8. Dark Chocolate
As I’ve mentioned before, snacking on some dark chocolate is actually good for you. It can help lower your blood pressure, boost brain function (thanks in part to the caffeine) and is full of anti-oxidants. So basically, your body will thank you for having some dark chocolate a few times a week. If you can’t picture yourself chowing down on a hunk of dark chocolate, check out this recipe for chocolate covered dried figs. You will essentially be making healthy candy.
Freshly popped popcorn that didn’t come from a microwave pouch or a movie theater, and isn’t loaded up with butter and salt is an excellent low calorie snack. You can get a pretty decent size portion of popped corn for about 100 calories, and it is a great vessel for many flavors. Depending on what kind of mood you are in, you just need to mix your popcorn with a different flavor blend, or just leave it plain. It is also pretty affordable to buy a big container of kernels that will keep you supplied for a while, and all you need is a pot with a heavy bottom to get poppin’.
Water is not a snack technically, but you need to drink it. A lot of it. All of the healthy work you put in by eating the right snacks will pretty much be cancelled out if you don’t drink enough water. Many campuses have water fountains or even special fountains for refilling a water bottle, so you pretty much have no excuse (if they don’t, chances are the tap water is perfectly delicious). If you absolutely can’t stand the idea of guzzling plain water all day, check out these ideas for adding some flavor.