Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ask the Internet: Healthy Study Snacks?

Today's question comes from college student Caitlin, who has finals coming up.

Q: What about healthy study snacks? i think i ate my weight in popcorn yesterday and definitely need an alternative!

A: Caitlin! Having been a carouser of the late-night cafeteria scene (read: mozzarella sticks, pizza, something called "broccoli cheesebake"), I understand your delicate, frommage-craving pain. You'd like something filling, but light. Tasty, but not time-consuming. And if it's caffeinated, all the better.

This sounds lame, but fruit was always a good bet to start, with coffee acting as my beverage of choice. Energy drinks weren't so popular back in 199X, but I might have avoided Monster and its ilk like a florescent green plague.

How about some all-natural granola bars? Or trail mix? Or, when all else fails, hummus, carrots, and pita will work wonders.

But I hand it over to you, sweet readers. What snacks will help Caitlin ace her semester-end tests?

Want to ask the interweb a question? Post one in the comment section, or write to Cheaphealthygood@gmail.com. Then, tune in next Tuesday for an answer/several answers from the good people of the World Wide Net.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Anonymous said...

I consider snacks mini-meals so I approach them that way. I like small wraps with low carb pita, protein and veggies. I substitute fresh avocado for mayo. I also do rice cakes piled with tuna, spinach and avocado.

Jen said...

I always liked to eat tuna when in the depths of schoolwork, if you do fish. Brain food! I'd make up a batch of tuna salad, going easy on the mayo, and add veggies like red pepper/onion/celery and some beans (garbanzos or cannellini) to stretch it and add fiber. Then I'd snack on it for a couple days with bread, corn chips, make a wrap sandwich, or even rolled up in lettuce leaves. Very cheap, filling protein.

Otherwise, a half peanut butter and/or jelly sandwich was a mainstay. Again, very cheap and filling, plus easy to pull together. I also ate a lot of cereal. It's not perfect, but it's quick and if you get a more wholesome brand you can at least get some whole grains and some protein (when you add milk/soy milk/etc). I still sometimes eat a small bowl as as an afternoon snack!

Good luck with your finals! I don't miss those days. :)

Edward Antrobus said...

Dark chocolate (darker the better, my personal favorite is 72% cacao), green tea, blueberries, peppermint (the leaf, not the candy, sugar=bad for concentration).

Fatty fish like salmon and tuna are also good choices to contribute to long-term brain health.

Gail said...

Travel friendly fruit is good. Fresh stuff like bananas, apples or if you can find them gorgeous little Satsuma mandarin oranges (whenever I see these I buy the biggest box the store has). There's also lots of dried fruit and nit combos out there, you can pretty easily create your own mix if want to.

lauramich said...

Nothing wrong with popcorn—at least, not air-popped or popped in a microwave bowl (I <3 mine) with just enough fat to allow seasonings to stick. Popcorn is a whole grain (aren't we supposed to be eating more of those?) and about 100 calories for 3 cups. Definitely superior to chips, crackers, or pretzels.

Of course, microwave popcorn is full of chemicals not found in nature, and is best limited or avoided completely!

Baby carrots are good for providing crunch, and can be dipped in hummus, nut butter, a yogurt-based dip, or salsa.

I sometimes make a "trail mix" out of dry Cheerios, dried fruit, and nuts.

I don't recommend what I did when finishing up my master's—living off of Trader Joe's chocolate-covered espresso beans.

Annie said...

Definitely stay hydrated with lots of water; if you don't like plain water, you can jazz it up with lemons/limes/cucumbers.
Also, I'd suggest nuts (Trader Joe's has some great varieties), fresh fruit, and yogurt for snacks. Frozen berries can really come in handy, too--they're great to add to yogurt/cereal, or you could make a smoothie with them.

Deanne said...

Popcorn is actually not that bad for you, although I'm taking about the pop-it-yourself-in-a-brown-bag kind, not the prepackaged stuff. All you need is the kernels, some brown lunch bags, and a little salt. Use a scant quarter cup of kernels, seal up the top of the bag by folding it about an inch (do this two times), and pop using whatever setting your microwave does. Then sprinkle it with the salt (and maybe a little oil to help the salt stick). You can also make great flavor combinations when you make it yourself. I love to use chili powder on mine.

Autumn said...

While writing my thesis (6 years ago now. . . wow) I drank a lot of coffee and alternated cups of coffee with water to stay hydrated. Having to pee all the time kept me awake at least.

For munchies baby carrots and dip were my favorites, or just some plain cheerios to nibble on. I have a hard time eating/typing and my research took over the whole dining room anyways

I always made sure I took a dinner break (shut off the laptop, leave the desk) and make myself something. Lots of pasta cause it was cheap and I was a poor grad student. Then I watched friends reruns while I ate. It helped me to step away from the work and reapproach with a fresher mind.

And I took friday and saturday nights off with my libation of choice. . . margaritas!

Anonymous said...

I found that I can air-pop popcorn with no oil whatsoever in a heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid; my pressure cooker is ideal. The trick is to keep it moving constantly (and doing so provides a few minutes of exercise, too).

Aside from that, I find that it's not the hunger, it's the desire to keep constantly munching or sipping for hours that undoes me. So: carrot sticks, cucumber sticks, celery sticks. Tea (unsweetened) or simply a mug of hot water.

Delilah said...

SUNFLOWER SEEDS!!!!! I actually discovered the truckers' secret weapon while driving cross-country to save on plane tickets over winter break, but eating sunflower seeds will keep you awake better than caffeine will. I mean the shelled kind, one at a time, cracking them with your teeth, removing the nugget of goodness, then spitting the seed into an empty cup. I don't know why, but having some multiple-part task going on in your mouth really will prevent you from becoming tired.

Lo and behold I applied this same principle to finals studying later that year only to find a real winner. Just get some healthy sunflower seeds (probably not spitz dill pickle, yummmm) and it takes a really long time to rack up the calories. You'll be so alert it's ridiculous.

Kaitlyn Baker Wessels said...

Ooo great post! I'm getting my Master's right now and I find myself bashing an entire bag of chocolate chips over the course of a week, especially during exams! I can't wait to try out all of the tips from these wonderful readers!

spotter77 said...

All good stuff. I use any kind of raw trail mix (almonds, cashews, raisins, sometimes cashew nibs if they're on sale), and 72% chocolate bars have staved off many a trip to the vending machine. My favorite is raw green beans or sugar snap peas with hummus or almond butter. Measure your fats (nut butters, hummus, mayo and the like), but it's nice to have any kind of pre-cut raw fruit or veg that you like, too. Grapes are another favorite--there's something oddly comforting about that hand-to-mouth motion while you're buried in books and papers. Good luck!

Dogfood Provider said...

My job has the odd deadline or two, so I still find myself pulling all nighters. I love hummus and pita chips, or celery or carrots. All of the above, actually. The protein + crunch combo is killer. Grapes are nice, especially if they are a bit frozen. A trip to the whole foods bulk bins can provide inspiration, too - I just grabbed a few cups of a mix of pecans, dried cherries, and dried cranberries - excellent nibbles! Raisins are delicious. Peanut butter or cream cheese on celery sticks can also hold you for a while. Yogurt covered raisins. The odd bar of dark chocolate with sea salt helps, too.

Anonymous said...

My go to snacks for studying are:

-cottage cheese
-Good Earth Tea
-hot cocoa (milk + water + cocoa + pinch of salt + sugar/stevia + microwave for about 2 minutes)
-green bean fries (just take a frozen bag, toss with olive oil and salt, and broil. So yummy!)
-nuts, if you can control yourself. I usually can't, so I steer clear. Those things are great for you, but they add up fast.

Caitlin said...

Thanks for all the great ideas guys! These are definitely helpful and reading the comments gave me nice little study break!

Anonymous said...

mentally, i felt like i could go further when i was rejuvenated with vitamin rich freshness - but emotionally, stress makes u want salty goodness.
Two of my fave study(and later, work) snacks were:
carrot sticks and green olives swimming in the olive juice (then carrots taste like olives!)
or carrot sticks with a little hot sauce, vinegar, and adobo
grilled cheese is also great
or, a baggie filled with golden grahams, cheerios, all bran, and raisins

Anonymous said...

Trader Joe's makes these awesome seaweed things called "roasted seaweed snack" and omg they are so good. I think they're healthy too. They say sea vegetables provide minerals that you can't get anywhere else. You can also get them at asian grocers, but the ones I got at Uwajumia (sp?) were not as good as TJ's. Try em. You won't be sorry. And they're only like $1 for a pack of them.

Alison said...

Definitely agree with the baby carrots. I'm also a fan of yogurt (especially greek or trader joe's european-style). Laughing cow cheese on bread (with cinnamon) is tasty and feels like a meal, but is pretty healthy. Cucumbers, carrots, peppers (basically any veggie) make for good snacks. Sometimes I'll grate an apple (on the biggest setting) or peeling it into strips makes it last longer. Other suggestions: egg sandwich (whites only to make it healthier), hummus (I like TJ's edamame kind) and rice crackers or kashi go lean + almond milk (go for unsweetened vanilla, it's 40 cal/cup which makes it perfect for everything from cereal to chai to hot chocolate).

Nathalie said...

My last exam for this semester was yesterday, so I feel your pain! Stress makes me snack all the time, even if I eat big meals. I try to eat healthy at meals, I love to cook so that is usually a refreshing 10-20 min break for each meal, and 10-15 or so to eat it away from my school work.

For snacks I used to eat a lot of candy and a lot of chips. It was getting out of hand so last year I cut out candy and chips completely. It was hard at first but now my 'junk food' snacks are healthier, even if they are not perfect. Since I don't eat as much sugar, now when I'm craving sweets dark chocolate, vanilla yogurt and fruit (apples, clementines, and pomegranate this time of year) do the trick. For salty snacks I go for bell peppers and baby carrots with or without dips (store-bought low fat if you are not too scared of chemicals, or plain yogurt + herbs), air-poped popcorn with butter and salt or herbs or parmesan, and when I'm really naughty, Smartfood cheddar popcorn (still better than chips!).

As for caffeine, I drink 2-3 coffees in the a.m. and early p.m. (ok, a bit more on rough days), but I switch to tea later and herbal tea when I know I'll be going to bed in less than 4 hours, and plenty of water all day long. I usually add milk and sugar to the coffee but I like my tea plain. If I'm constantly drinking something warm I don't snack as much. However I have to pay attention to the caffeine because my insomnia goes into overdrive when I'm stressed. I know I perform better if I'm rested so I make sure to sleep at least 5 hours per night, even though it means a little less studying (no all-nighters), and for that I have to cut caffeine and sugar in the evening.

Hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

I agree with all the people mentioning salty snacks and the comforting feeling of the reach-dip-eat-repeat motion... Air-popped popcorn and anything you can dip sounds fantastic!

I tried something one year in undergrad (not sure how well it worked because my grades were just as good as always). I got a giant bag of different flavors of sugar-free hard candies, and I assigned a different flavor to each topic I had to study for. I had French, Spanish, a math class and physics, if I recall correctly. So while I studied French, for example, I would eat peppermint candies, Spanish was cherry, math and physics was grape. And then when I took the tests for those classes, I would bring some of the appropriate candy with me to trigger sensory attachments to memory.

Like I said, not sure if it worked better than regular studying, but I did just fine that semester. It also kept me from trying to find something to snack on and ravaging through bags of chips and popcorn and whatnot while I was studying.

Juno said...

smoked tofu & crackers ftw