As collegiettes, we lead crazy-busy lives. Between classes, jobs, internships, and that tiny little thing known as a social life, you may leave your room at 7am and not come back until 10pm when you’re ready to pass out. This kind of lifestyle can wreak all sorts of havoc on your eating schedule and habits. When you’re always on the go, it seems easier to eat one huge meal instead of having to continuously buy food, especially junk that keeps you full for all of ten minutes.
Well, put down that massive burrito and start packing yourself some snacks, collegiettes! No, not chips, but real, healthy food. “Snacks should be thought of as mini-meals, which means they should be just as nutritious and contribute towards your health goals,” says Melissa Jatsek, a registered dietician and author of Healthy U, a quick reference guide to eating healthy on campus and beating the freshman 15. “Snacks should contain [20-25 grams] of carbohydrates and a [couple of grams] of protein to keep you satisfied until your next meal,” and should be around 150 calories each.
With that in mind, here are 15 options for you to pack for your next busy day on the go.
1. A SoyJoy bar
Lisa Dorfman, the director of the Masters in Nutrition for Health and Human Performance Program at the University of Miami, highly recommends whole food bars, and SoyJoy is at the top of her list. “I recommend the more natural bars because there are so many unnatural foods college students consume,” she says. “These are wholesome and nutritious, and leave you satisfied so you’re not grazing.”
SoyJoy has seven different fruit flavors to choose from, all of which are made with real fruit and ground whole soybeans. They’re healthy, fill you up, and couldn’t be more convenient to just throw in your bag on your way out the door.
2. Greek yogurt
Greek yogurt is not only tangier and creamier than its less exotic counterpart, but it also delivers double the protein and half the sugar. For an even healthier option, stick to low-fat or fat-free; 7 ounces of full-fat Greek yogurt can contain 16 grams of saturated fat (yikes!) while 6 ounces of low-fat yogurt is only 2 grams. Plain yogurt is also a better option than fruit flavors, which have much more added sugar.
To jazz it up a little bit, top your yogurt off with chopped almonds, fruit or a drizzle of honey… or all three. Dee-lish!
3. Homemade trail mix
Trail mix is a great snack option, especially when you make your own. “Homemade [trail mix] is a lot [smarter] than stopping at a convenience store and picking up something that’ll probably be really high in sodium and sulfates and sugars,” says Dorfman. You can come up with your own concoction and tailor it to your personal tastes (maybe even throw in a few chocolate chips to nip that sweet craving in the bud!). You can make a big batch and then portion it into little Ziploc baggies for easy on-the-go snacking. Stick to a 1/4-1/2 cup serving per snack because although nuts and dried fruit are nutritious, the calories do add up. And if you don’t feel like making your own, health food stores like Trader Joe’s carry various mixes that are better for you than the ones sold in convenience stores or vending machines. Look for ones that come in prepackaged portions to prevent over-indulging.
4. Fruit smoothies
Smoothies at major chains can pack some serious calories. “The problem is that the smalls look so small that you end up going for a medium or large,” says Dorfman. “And many [places] don’t use whole fruit.” However, if you drink a portion-appropriate amount (8-10 ounces) of a smoothie containing real fruit, “smoothies are just wonderful.” Sweet! (Pun intended.) Some companies like Hamilton Beach even sell blenders that are only big enough for a single serving, so if you’re a smoothie freak, there’s no danger of making too much and drinking it all at once. And get this: the jar detaches and comes with a travel lid.
There are thousands of smoothie recipes out there on the Internet, but here’s one for a single-serving blender: Mix a cup of milk, ¾ cup of any flavor yogurt, and a cup of frozen berries. Voila! If you’re worried about a smoothie keeping you full, try adding protein powder or peanut butter.
5. Vegetable smoothies
Though less popular than their fruit counterpart, vegetable smoothies should not be ignored as they’re equally as tasty and nutrient-packed. Don’t let the green color freak you out—you can barely even taste the veggies when they’re mixed with fruit and juice! Interested in trying one? Here’s a recipe (for a full-sized blender) called the Green Julius:
- 1 ½ cups orange juice
- 2 large mangoes
- 2 cups fresh parsley or spinach
- 2 cups of ice
- Honey, to taste (optional)
Blend well, and enjoy!
6. Apple & peanut butter
“But wait, isn’t peanut butter really fattening?” you ask? Yes, but it’s the good stuff. Most of the fat in peanut butter isn’t saturated fat, and unsaturated fat is something your body needs to increase its levels of good cholesterol and reduce inflammation.
Indulge in some apple slices spread thinly with natural peanut butter (which has less sugar, salt, and additives than the regular stuff) for Jatsek’s ideal mix of carbs and protein. Your joints (and appetite) will thank you.
7. A Kashi bar
“I LOVE Kashi bars!,” says Jatsek. “They are portable and nutritious. My favorite is the Kashi Honey Almond Flax bar. It’s the perfect blend of carbohydrate, protein and healthy fat… all for only 140 calories!”
Kashi gives you tons of flavors to choose from, from Dark Chocolate Coconut to Cherry Vanilla, and they’re all made from whole ingredients. They also contain a nice hint of sweetness to keep you reaching for that after-lunch cookie.
8. Hard-boiled egg and Triscuit crackers
An egg provides 13 essential vitamins and minerals, 31 grams of protein and tons of antioxidants, all for about 70 calories. Triscuit has 15 different flavors and varieties of crackers, so munch away on a serving of whatever strikes your fancy to add some low glycemic carbs (they’re better for you and keep you satisfied longer than high glycemic carbs) to your snack.
9. Edamame & fruit
Edamame (otherwise known as soybeans) is ridiculously good for you. A half cup of shelled edamame contains just 125 calories and 12.1 grams of protein, plus calcium and iron and several vitamins. Pair ¼ cup serving with the fruit of your choice – Jatsek recommends an apple, as that plus ¼ cup of edamame is only 140 calories – and you’re good to go.
10. Mozzarella cheese and cherry tomatoes
There’s a reason they put this combo on Margherita pizza: it’s delicious. Stick to light cheese to cut down on the fat and calories but keep the calcium. Cheese sticks are a great way to make this an even more portable snack. Tomatoes are a fantastic source of lycopene and antioxidants. Lycopene has recently been linked to bone health, and consuming tomatoes has long been linked to heart health. Drizzle some olive oil on top if you’re feeling fancy, but otherwise, munch away!
11. Tuna & celery sticks
Fish is often touted as a “superfood,” so why not include some in a midday snack? Tuna is incredibly nutrient-dense and contains high-quality protein, selenium, magnesium, potassium, the B vitamin complex, and the omega-3 essential fatty acids. If you’re consuming tuna salad as opposed to tuna straight from the can, make sure it’s easy on the mayo. Celery contains tons of Vitamin C to give your immune system a boost and can also reduce your blood pressure and cholesterol, so try filling the groove of a celery stick with some tuna for a crunchy and delicious combo.
12. Hummus and veggies
Though it masquerades as a dip, which are usually never considered healthy, hummus is really just a bunch of nutritious ingredients ground down into a paste. Its primary ingredient is chickpeas, which are high in protein and contain no cholesterol or saturated fat. Overall, hummus contains omega-3 fatty acids, iron, vitamin B6, and a whole laundry list of other great nutrients. You can pair hummus with carrots, celery, peppers, cucumber… pretty much any dip-able vegetable. It’ll feel like a healthy alternative to chips and dip! One serving of hummus (two tablespoons) contains about 70 calories, so stick to one or two servings.
13. Air-popped popcorn
“You want some kind of whole grain source [in your snack],” says Dorfman. Luckily for all of us, popcorn meets that criterion. Popcorn actually has more antioxidant substances called polyphenols than many fruits and vegetables. Polyphenols can reduce your risk for heart disease and cancer. Popcorn is also a great source of fiber, with 5 grams in a 4-cup portion. The key, however, is popping it without any oil, which means prepackaged popcorn is out. If you don’t have an air popper, you can pour several tablespoons of kernels (which can be bought at Whole Foods and most other grocery stores) into a paper bag, fold the top over to seal it closed, and microwave it. Take a bag of this with you and you won’t feel guilty about munching on it all day. If air popping your own kernels isn’t an option for you, pick unsalted bags of the prepackaged brands.
Jatsek says that snacks should be like mini meals, so why not pack a breakfast food to get you through that afternoon slump? It’s loaded with fiber, boosts your immune system, and contains antioxidants. If this doesn’t convince you, and the blandness still turns you off, there are a million ways to jazz up a bowl of oatmeal and make it even healthier. You can throw in your favorite fruits and nuts, sprinkle it with some cinnamon, or even add a spoonful of almond butter.
15. Guacamole hummus with crackers or veggies
If you’ve never heard of guacamole hummus (or guacamummus), you’re seriously missing out. It’s all the healthy deliciousness of hummus PLUS all the healthy deliciousness of avocado! Add an avocado to your favorite hummus recipe, and that’s really all there is to it. As those Subway commercials say, avocado is a “superfood,” and your diet will be far better off if you include it in your snacking.
“Snacks can be a great nutritional contributor to an overall diet. It’s really hard to stop sometimes and have a quiet decent meal,” says Dorfman. If you’re snacking several times a day on appropriate portions and you feel satisfied afterwards, consider that a snack well done. Happy snacking!