Massachusetts Daily Collegian

How to choose the perfect healthy snack

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(Niall Kennedy/Flickr)

(Niall Kennedy/Flickr)

Whether you are constantly on the run or turning to food due to stress, snacking can be an integral part of the college lifestyle.

For most of us, healthy snacking is difficult and unwanted at times. Others may not know what constitutes a healthy snack and a few may eat healthy all of time. From nuts to yogurt, there are a wide variety of snacks that meet nutritional standards.

So, what constitutes a healthy snack? Typically a snack should be from 100-300 calories and be high in nutritional value. This means that the snack should have high protein and fiber levels with the maximum amount of vitamins and minerals while also having low fat, sugar and sodium content.

Obvious healthy snack contenders are fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, these snacks can be expensive and inconvenient for many college students. However, buying a bag of baby carrots – which can be paired with a healthy vegetable or yogurt dip – or pre-cut slices of celery or broccoli florets can be a quick and easy way to get a nutritious, fibrous snack that will keep you full longer than unhealthy options, like potato chips or cookies.

Fruit is an easy on-the-go snack as well. Keep a stash of apples, bananas and oranges in your room to grab on the way out the door or for a healthy snack in. The dining halls across campus all encourage students to take a piece of fruit with them, so there is no excuse to not have fruit on hand.

Outside of fruits and vegetables, other healthy snacks include nuts and seeds, which pack a good amount of protein and fiber. Many nuts are high in calories but because of other aspects of their nutritional value are considered healthy. Since nuts are high in calories and fat, it is good to eat them in moderation, even though the fat in nuts are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are healthier than saturated, and trans fats. A small amount will go a long way in keeping you satisfied until your next meal.

Almonds, cashews, peanuts or a trail mix are good nuts to snack on. Different types of seeds can also provide similar benefits to nuts. Sunflower or pumpkin seeds, which each have an abundance of vitamins and minerals while adding a portion of protein, can keep you full and satisfied. Also adding chia, hemp or flax seeds to yogurt, oatmeal or salads adds some extra nutrition to a snack or meal.

For snacks in the room, keeping a stash of yogurt, particularly Greek yogurt, which has added protein that keeps you full, or a container of hummus or peanut butter can be the base for many healthy snacks. Hummus and vegetables or pretzels is a healthy and delicious snack while taking a break from homework. And a Greek yogurt gives a sufficient amount of protein for under 200 calories.

Buying yogurts that have less sugar and fewer processed ingredients will have more nutrition. Rice cakes, pretzels or vegetables with peanut butter can also be a fulfilling and nutritious snack in moderation.

Reminisce your childhood with ants on a log, also known as celery with peanut butter and raisins. Alternative nut butters can also be a way to switch up typical healthy snacks. Sunbutter, made with sunflower seeds, or almond butter are good alternatives to peanut butter, and may get rid of potential bloating caused by peanuts being a legume.

Most college students stock up on granola bars for on-the-go snacks in between classes or at the library. Although some granola bars can be a nutritious, it’s important to keep in mind a few facts when choosing granola bars.

Make sure to choose granola bars that are low in sugar, typically look for ones that have less than 35 percent of their calories from sugar. Also look for bars that are high in protein and fiber. Protein and fiber contents for granola bars should be three to five grams each.

Last but not least, the fewer processed ingredients in the granola bar, the more nutritious it is. Look at the ingredients list for those you do not recognize or cannot pronounce, and then look for a bar with ingredients you can pronounce. Even better, try making your own granola bars over break, and then bring them back to school for a healthy snack. Granola bars are easy to make, and you can tailor them to your tastes.

You must remember to allow yourself unhealthy snacks in moderation too. If you have a favorite kind of chips or cookies, allow yourself a few on special occasion. Perhaps dedicate a certain day of the week that you will have an unhealthy snack. Making your favorite unhealthy snacks a special occasion can help you enjoy this snack in moderation and also prevent mindless eating of snacks with little nutritional value

Next time you stock up snacks for your dorm room or apartment, surround yourself with healthy foods. It will make the choice between unhealthy and healthy foods easier at the dining hall if you are accustomed to eating healthy in your room and on the go, and keep your unhealthy food on standby for special occasions. Happy snacking.

Kelsey Hebert can be reached at [email protected]

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