Finals are the most stressful time of year for most students. The last couple days of class are filled with last minute questions and stacks of papers to study from the previous 4 months, and then you’re thrown into several days of constant studying, quizzing, flashcard making and hardly any sleep. In the meantime, meals and snacks are made as quickly as possible, as time is of the essence, and nutrition is thrown out the window. We say that we will be healthier after finals. We will get back into our habit of cooking at home rather than going through the Drive-Thru and creating more nutrient-dense snacks instead of vending machine goodies. This semester, let’s try something new; let’s not kick our healthy habits just yet, and let’s power through finals without a lapse in nutritious choices!
1. Avoid high fat and high-calorie snacks/meals late at night. Even though you may not be sleeping much, you are still just sitting in the library, not exerting enough energy to burn off these calories!
2. Switch to sugar-free drinks. These include Crystal Light and Propel packets to add to your water bottle. These are much better options compared to sodas and special coffees that are loaded with empty calories.
3. Plan Ahead. Build a schedule of your finals week to make sure you have time to study, rest, and prepare and eat good food. Maybe you have more time on the weekends, in which case you can meal prep for the week, including chopping up fruits and veggies for quick snacks and freezing pre-portioned meals for easy consumption on a busy night of studying.
Nuts about Trail Mix
Mixed nuts and trail mixes are a great alternative to a bag of chips or a side of French fries to munch on. Nuts are a great source of protein and provide satiety (fullness), but they are high in fat in large quantities. It is most important to remember portion sizes and keeping a limit on trail mix and nuts. A handful is about ¼ cup, and this amounts to roughly 400 calories! If making your own trail mix, try adding more dried fruit, sunflower seeds, or pretzels to avoid overloading on nuts.
Popcorn is a great idea for a snack, as it is low calorie, easy to make, and very portable. The only kicker is to watch what you load it up with… go easy on the salt and butter!
When grabbing your next cup of coffee to stay up a few more hours, think about what you’re adding to it. Creamers and sugar are where the calories are, not the black coffee itself. So, try sugar-substitutes and skim milk instead.
Additionally, the national moderate amount of caffeine per day for a healthy adult is 300-400 mg. To help visualize this, a medium (14 oz) regular brewed coffee from Dunkin Donuts contains 210 mg caffeine. So, just 2 cups of Dunkin will be more than a moderate amount of caffeine per day.
Brain Food, Please!
Alright, so you’ve heard to cut back on fat, sugar, calories, and caffeine, so what can you have? The following are great things to incorporate into your diet to help with concentration, stamina, and overall health during stressful finals.
1. Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA). Found in fish and dark, leafy green vegetables like spinach. These are unsaturated fats and are heart healthy!
2. Antioxidants (vitamin A, C, E). Found in fruits and vegetables, thus the importance of consuming 4-5 servings per day! Also, there’s no time for sickness during finals, so keep up on your antioxidant intake to boost your immune system!
3. Carbohydrates. Whole grains are key; they have many nutrients and fiber that your body needs. Try whole grain crackers with cheese, whole grain bread with peanut butter, etc.
4. Fluids. Let’s be clear, not just any fluids hydrate the brain! Water is always the best option, and dehydration will cause fatigue, and no one’s got time for that this week!
Need some ideas for healthier snack options? Here’s a few that can be made at home or in your dorm room!
Parfait– Greek yogurt, granola, strawberries, blueberries, or whatever else you may desire. These are even found pre-made on campus at Einstein Bagels in RoBA!
Olive Oil and Rosemary Popcorn– Rather than buying that buttery, artery-clogging stuff, try popping some plain kernels and flavoring them with olive oil and sea salt, and rosemary or any other spices you may prefer! This is much more heart healthy yet still tasty!
Homemade Potato Chips– Thinly slice white or red potatoes and season with sea salt, pepper, or any other spices you enjoy and pop them in the microwave (or oven if you have one) until they’re crispy or to your liking! Even drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil to help reach the perfect crispness.
Need a new idea for a quick and easy, yet still healthy meal during finals week? Well, here ya go!
Omelet in a Mug:
You just need 2 eggs, 1 tablespoon milk, and your choice of toppings (cheese, chopped turkey, veggies).
Crack eggs into a mug, add milk, beat with a fork. Microwave for 1 minute, add toppings, continue to microwave for 30-60 seconds or until egg is cooked through.
Running short on time and need to eat before an exam or study session? No stress! Stop by one of the several kiosks or Sam’s Place Mini Markets around campus for fresh, ready-to-eat food items, such as sandwiches, cheese, and fruit, and more! These are located in various buildings including Engineering, Human Sciences, Law, HSC, Library, and Petroleum Engineering. Visit the Campus Hospitality website for more information and other great dining spots when on the go.
Created by: Taylor Smith, TTU Graduate Student and Dietetic Intern
Prepared by Hospitality Dietitian Mindy Diller, MS, RDN, LD firstname.lastname@example.org