Smarter Snacks for Healthier Students

Let's face it - with our hectic college schedules running between classes, meetings, and office hours, it's difficult to carve out the time to sit down for a proper meal - which is where being prepared with healthy snacks can be a savior.

It's a smart idea to carry snacks around with you to ensure you never reach the state of being "hangry," becoming so ravenous that you end up eating anything and everything you can get your hands on. Not being prepared can easily derail our healthy eating goals, so to ensure a healthy and successful semester, keep your dorm room and school bag stocked with some of these nutritious, filling snacks.

1. Nut butters: The value of nut butters extends far beyond the traditional PB&J. Packed with healthy fats, protein, and fiber to help you stay fuller for longer, nut butters can make nutritious and convenient snacks. Pair them with a sliced apple, banana, or a few stalks of celery, and you've got yourself a hearty snack or even a mini meal. And now, with many companies offering nut butters in portion-sized snack packs, it's easy to grab-and-go and not have to worry about eating more than a single serving or carrying around an awkward peanut butter jar. Try different varieties to liven things up - peanut butter, almond butter, even sunflower seed butter (delicious!).

2. Yogurt: Like the different peanut butter varieties, there are many yogurt types to choose from, so you're sure to find one that appeals to you. Yogurt is often touted for its probiotic goodness that keeps our digestive systems healthy and happy, but if you go for the Greek kind, you'll also be getting a good dose of protein. To avoid high sugar counts from many flavored yogurts, stick with the plain varieties and add in your own fresh or frozen fruit. My favorite trick is to let some frozen berries thaw for a few minutes before adding them to yogurt - this way they're nice and juicy.

3. Dried fruit & nuts: DIY trail mix is easy to tailor to your preferences and can be much healthier than ones you find lining grocery store shelves. Try different combinations, mix 'em up in a big bowl, portion them into ¼ cup amounts into snack size zip lock bags, and you're set for the week (or month!). My favorite combination is roasted and lightly salted cashews and dried cranberries, and maybe... a few semi-sweet chocolate chips.

4. Fresh fruits & veggies: Having fruits and vegetables around can come in handy especially when we're eating for reasons not related to hunger - stress, boredom, anxiety, etc. Instead of mindlessly reaching into a bag of pretzels or box of cookies that seems to be staring straight at you, make a healthier choice that you and your body will thank you for later. Fruits and veggies are full of antioxidants that keep your skin hydrated and help minimize stress-induced breakouts that those papers and interviews may cause. My go-tos are fruit leather, canned pineapple (in natural juice - not in heavy syrup!), and cucumbers and peppers dipped in salsa or low-fat hummus.

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