Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Healthy swaps for college kids

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Here at the University of Massachusetts we are fortunate enough to have a variety of dining options available, but sometimes it’s not always easy to remember to eat healthy in the hustle and bustle of college life. In times of stress, trusty chocolate and a bag of chips are an easy go-to, especially in the busy realm of exams, parties and dining halls. The ominous smell of french fries and warm chocolate chip cookies require superhuman willpower to resist, particularly when you have an exam (or three) to cram for over the next few hours. There’s something about that sweet and salty bite of junk food that offers comfort, but seldom helps us ace that exam or feel well the next day. The question then becomes how to eat and feel satisfied without succumbing to the unhealthy allure of junk food.

Instead of reaching for that sugary cookie or bag of Cheetos and feeling guilty afterwards, try going for one of these healthier options:

Sweets

Feeling like dessert? Instead of buying that pint of Ben and Jerry’s Half-Baked ice cream, try some Yasso yogurt bars or Edy’s Outshine fruit bars. Both are satisfyingly sweet while still having nutritional value. What about a thick, creamy milkshake? Instead of hitting the drive-thru, all you need is a blender, two cups of chocolate almond milk, 10 ice cubes, a dash of cocoa powder, a teaspoon of vanilla extract and one banana for a healthy shake with no processed sugar. You can even make your own fudge pops with a cup of skim milk and a one-third cup of Nutella spread. Combine the two, pour the mixture into an ice cube tray and freeze overnight for a tasty on-the-go treat. If you’re craving something sweet before your morning class, skip the Pop Tarts and go for some fruit. Cut an apple, peach or nectarine in half, place a dollop of Greek yogurt in the center and sprinkle a package of instant oatmeal atop it. Microwave for a minute, and enjoy. No access to an oven or microwave? Kashi brownies or Fiber One chocolate bars are filled with protein and curb the sweet tooth just as well as a processed sugar snack.

Pasta

Pasta (or Ramen Noodles or Easy Mac) is a major component of any college student’s diet. It’s one of those foods that is available pretty much everywhere, and to an extent can be useful for providing energy. The downside is that processed pasta primarily gives only short spurts of energy due to the high amount of simple carbohydrates that are in most major brands. Although it tastes good with butter and high-calorie sauces, skip the classic white pasta and opt for whole grain pasta instead. Better yet, spaghetti squash is a natural vegetable option with complex carbohydrates that are healthier for you than the simple carbs in processed pasta. Cut the spaghetti squash in half, scoop the seeds out and bake for 30 minutes on 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Top it with a natural tomato sauce and you’ll think you’re tucking into a big bowl of Italian spaghetti. Packaged pre-cooked bowls of brown rice are also quick and healthy. You simply heat it up, add some peppers and onions or any other vegetables you fancy, top with some reduced sodium soy sauce and you have an instant stir-fry.

Sandwiches

The sandwich is an essential staple of any college student’s diet. All it takes is two slices of bread and some type of “meat” or spread in the middle and you’ve created a simple but effective meal. As far as staying cheap and nutritious goes, whole grain bread with peanut butter is a solid lunch, packed with complex carbohydrates, good fats and protein. But if you want a crunchy, salty delight, take slices of cucumber and layer them with some pesto spread, cherry tomatoes and some sliced mozzarella for a tasty twist on a caprese salad. Better yet, if pizza is your meal of choice, opt for an alternative using zucchini with crushed tomatoes and low fat mozzarella cheese. Cut the zucchini in half, add toppings and microwave for five minutes. Antonio’s is good, but this is a cheaper and guilt-free option.

Snacks

Instead of going for chips, choose some mixed nuts with added raisins, cranberries or dark chocolate chips to create a sweet and salty mixture. You’ll get more energy and more protein than you would from a bag of salty potato chips. Kale chips or carrot chips are another option, both available at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. A plain rice cake with a light peanut butter spread and a few raisins also does the trick to satisfy a snack craving. Hummus chips, lentil chips, and olive oil popped popcorn are other must-haves for the health minded. A handful of grapes, cherries or berries is always tasty, while baby carrots with hummus or cottage cheese, celery with peanut butter or cucumbers with Laughing Cow cheese never fail to satisfy. For breakfast, whole grain or chia seed-based cereals, as well as granolas, are preferred options to sugary cereals.

In the everyday chaos of college life, keep your health in mind by doing simple things like choosing green tea instead of soda, natural peanut butter instead of processed peanut butter, Sugar in the Raw or stevia in your coffee instead of processed sugar and avocado or plain Greek yogurt instead of butter. And for those crippling sweet cravings, go for dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate. But if you’re really craving that milk chocolate goodness, go ahead and indulge, in moderation.

The healthier options are endless, and surprisingly easy. Throw that family pack of Ramen out the window and give your taste buds, and body, a healthy treat.

 

 

 

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