Snack For Success: Healthy Suggestions That Aren’t As Boring As Grapefruit

joggingAs an avid runner, hardcore foodie, and a full-time student, I find it frustrating when people tell me that healthy food is difficult to prepare, or that healthy food can’t ever taste as good as a Big Mac or stuffed donut. I understand where they’re coming from, though; until college, I often thought the same thing. My study food stash was mostly comprised of Cheetos, chocolate-covered bananas, and criminally over-sweetened coffee.

I’ve loved cooking since I was little, but these days I rarely have time to spend more than 30 minutes at a time in the kitchen. I’ve also switched over to a healthier diet in order to fuel my running habits. The transition to my current lifestyle intimidated me at first, but I was surprised to find that I loved it—today, I’m more alert, more focused, and less tired throughout the day, and I’ve mastered the art of preparing speedy, healthy, tasty meals. The biggest difference I noticed was in my study performance: I paid more attention in class, needed less coffee (often, none at all) to get through the day, and was able to learn and retain information much more quickly and thoroughly. Today, my study food stash looks more like this.

 

Butternut Squash Chips – my favorite snack, study or otherwise, on the planet.

Prep time: Less than 15 minutes, but it depends on how strong you are. (Butternut squashes can be a little difficult to cut.)
Instructions: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut a butternut squash lengthwise into 4 quarters (no need to skin it.) Slice it crosswise into chips, about 3 millimeters thick. Spread them on a foil-covered baking tray, and rub them all with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake until golden and crispy on the edges.
Notes: Baking time varies by oven type and personal crispiness preference. Try it once, checking it every 5-10 minutes, to figure out the baking time that works best for you.

 

Peach Caprese – refreshing, tasty, colorful, and oh-so-easy.

Prep time: Less than 10 minutes. With practice, 5.
Instructions: Slice a ball of fresh mozzarella into discs about 3/8 of an inch thick. Slice a peach into about 12 wedges. Arrange it with fresh basil. Garnish with salt, pepper, olive oil, and—if you’re feeling fancy—some sliced-up basil and some balsamic vinegar.
Notes: Get creative with the arrangement. Personally, I like to stack the slices (peach, mozzarella, 2 basil leaves, repeat), so that they look like a row of dominoes that have been tipped over, and add garnish around and over the stack. You can add sliced tomatoes if you like.

 

Egg Drop Soup – something a little more substantial.

Prep time: 15 minutes, if you include water-boiling time.
Instructions: Bring 4 cups of chicken broth to a low boil. Add a handful of vegetables—peas, diced carrots, green onions, sliced mushrooms, and spinach all work well. Add 1 tablespoon (or less—up to you) of cornstarch. Crack 3 eggs into a bowl or pitcher, beat them lightly, and pour them slowly into the soup while stirring. (It should take you at least 30 seconds to pour the whole thing in.) Add salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce.
Notes: The best thing about this soup is that all of the ingredients except the egg and the broth are optional. This is my go-to dish when I’m too busy to hit the grocery store, or when I want something warm and comforting but not too filling.

 

A small pile of your favorite fruit (or vegetable).

We’ve all heard people complain about not liking fruits or vegetables, but I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like at least one. Pick your favorite, buy a box, and churn through it, preferably raw or boiled/steamed.

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Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.