Need a quick snack before class? It’s awfully easy to make a poor choice when grabbing a bite from a vending machine or the grab-and-go spots on campus. Candy, pastries and other high sugar and high fat options seem to be everywhere. However, with a little guidance, making a nutritionally-sound decision is possible.
When snacking, it is important to look for a snack that provides a decent amount of fiber and some protein. Fiber, found in whole grains, expands during digestion. Consuming a snack with fiber will keep you much fuller than eating a fiber-empty snack, like a pastry. Fiber is also beneficial for your digestive system health, blood cholesterol levels, and the control of blood sugar levels. When looking for a “high-fiber” snack, look for the label to contain 5 grams or more.
Add protein to a fiber-full snack and you have a nutrition powerhouse. Protein provides the building blocks for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood. Like fiber, protein is digested slowly in the body. By combining the two, you’ve created a snack that will provide the sustained energy needed for a busy day.
When it comes to on-campus vending, most machines offer the standard unhealthy options. However, if you find yourself in the Student Center, you’re in for a treat. Right outside the Rathskeller you can find a “healthy” vending machine among the others. Popchips, Pirate’s Booty and multigrain chips fill the top row, providing all of the crunch, with fewer calories and more nutrition. Further down, you can find roasted edamame, which is filled with fiber and protein to keep you full, and a nice selection of protein bars — including Think Thin, which offer a whopping 20 grams of protein in a tasty, chocolate snack. Lastly, this machine always has a few trail mix options, which are packed with healthy fats, protein and fiber to keep you satiated throughout a long lecture.
If you are faced with a regular vending machine, however, there are some options. Choose baked chips, pretzel rods, beef jerky or an option with nuts like trail mix are the best go-tos for a regular vending machine.
Right around the corner from the healthy vending machine is the Student Center Convenience Store. Here, more healthy options are just a reach away. If you have a few extra minutes to spare, top a whole wheat or multigrain bagel with peanut butter. This will provide a great balance of carbohydrates, fiber, healthy fats and protein to keep you energized. Lower sugar cereal, including Bran Flakes and Cheerios, can be purchased here with a low-fat milk. This choice will also provide a nice ratio of fiber and protein.
As far as snack bars go, the store’s best options include Kind, Kit’s Organic, Luna protein and Special K protein.
Additionally, the store offers a variety of drinks. However, beware of the “health halo” around a Naked juice. These juices are labeled in a deceiving manner, often times containing two servings and a ton of sugar. Instead, reach for a real piece of fruit, located near the cash register. If you are looking to drink some energy, reach for a low fat milk or even a Core Power protein shake to pair with your fruit.
Both the Student Center Convenience Store and the other grab-and-go locations around campus, like University Hall Cafe, offer similar refrigerated options. One fantastic option, Greek yogurt, can be found at most locations. Greek yogurt is much higher in protein and lower in sugar than a regular yogurt. Pair your yogurt with a fresh piece of fruit or a fruit cup, which are also offered at all locations. Two seemingly healthy options, the Sabra hummus cups with pretzels and the carrots and celery package, can also be deceiving. Unfortunately, the hummus alone contains 260 calories and 19 grams of fat, much like the ranch dip for the veggies. To enjoy either of these snacks, simply aim to use half of the hummus or ranch — saving yourself some calories while still enjoying a healthy snack.
Finding a healthy snack in a pinch on campus may seem difficult, but it’s certainly possible. There are far more options than the one’s mentioned too. Don’t be afraid to read food labels, look for fiber and protein and make a conclusion yourself. A little bit of thinking can go a long way for your health.