It’s 10 p.m., you’ve been up studying for three hours straight and you’re starting to go cross-eyed. The words “snack break” are repeated again and again until you cave and eat an entire bag of chips. Snacks are about as much a part of college as homework, but the constant worry of the freshman (or sophomore, junior or senior) fifteen only adds unnecessary stress.
Have no fear, though, because we hunted down the absolute best healthy snacks to munch happily on, whether you’re in-between classes, taking a study break or looking for something to pair with your latest Netflix binge. So instead of reaching for the potato Oreos, try one of these delicious and nutritious substitutes, no matter what craving you have.
If you’re craving chips…
If potato chips, tortilla chips or Doritos are on your mind, then you’re in the mood for something salty. These snacks contain tons of unnecessary fats and actually way more salt than you need, so instead try:
Pumpkin Seeds/Sunflower Seeds
Both of these crunchy seeds are super snackable, and you’ll still get to feel like you’re munching away without getting all of the unnecessary fats that come with chips. Plus they’re filled with plenty fiber, so you’ll fill up quicker and avoid overeating. Just keep in mind that they are calorie-packed, so put a serving into a bowl to avoid over-eating. Pumpkin seeds are a personal favorite of Sarah Madaus, a sophomore at Temple University, who says that she loves them because “they’re a complete protein (all 8 amino acids), they're full of good fats and they're a delicious way to curb the salty craving.”
Tequila Shot Cucumbers
This snack is similar to a tequila-less tequila shot. Instead of tequila though, cut up some cucumbers, sprinkle some salt on them and squeeze a little lime juice on top. The result is a perfectly crunchy and salty snack that is completely addicting. Madeline Frisk, a senior at Oregon State University, says these are her go-to snack. “My roommate made these freshman year and I didn't think I would like them at first but I absolutely love them,” she says. “Once you start snacking on these it's hard to stop. My roommate also added chili powder so if you like spicy food that's definitely a great way to spice these up.”
This is a classic Netflix pairing, but instead of munching on a bag of microwave popcorn that can be over 400 calories and loaded with bad fats, try making your own by popping some kernels in a pot with a bit of oil on the stove. Just make sure to put a lid on top! Then, coat it in hot sauce, which actually has zero calories. Or, if you don’t feel like making it yourself, there are tons of low-cal premade options. “I love love love munching on Boom Chicka Pop or Skinny Pop when I need a study snack or something to eat while I'm on a Netflix binge,” says Sarah M.
If you’re craving anything chocolate…
This one is tricky because chocolate is irreplaceable…but there are healthy alternatives, including the following:
If you absolutely cannot settle for anything less than chocolate, then switch out milk chocolate for some dark chocolate. Go for 70 percent dark chocolate, but make sure not to eat too much. One ounce, which is about one square of chocolate can be around 170 calories, so this works well for an unexpected craving—but won’t fill you up too much.
This is basically the love child of trail mix and granola. There are tons of flavors, but if you’re looking for something especially chocolaty, Sammi Burke, Siena College Alum, recommends their Dark Chocolate & Red Berries flavor. “It's a granola mixed with dark chocolate chunks and dried berries,” she says “It’s sweet, chocolaty and crunchy.”
These are mega-addictive bars that you can eat without feeling guilty. Sometimes snack bars are loaded with sugar and are pretty much a glorified candy bar, but these are made with natural ingredients, fruits, nuts and spices. Plus, they’re gluten free, non-GMO and have vegan, dairy-free and soy-free options, so anyone can enjoy them. Elizabeth Lloyd, a senior at Minnesota State University loves the Lärabar bites. “They are like brownies!” she says. If you can’t decide which flavor to get, you can also try their Variety Box, which has everything from peanut butter cookie, to apple pie, to chocolate chip cookie dough flavors.
If you’re craving ice cream…
Who doesn’t love ice cream? It’s cold, creamy and so good that sometimes you don’t even notice that you’ve eaten an entire pint—oops. It’s definitely great as a dessert, but it’s not the healthiest choice out there, so try one of these cool snacks instead:
Nice Cream (Banana soft serve)
The name, “nice cream,” says it all when it comes to this ice cream substitute. It has all of your favorite things about ice cream without making you feel guilty for eating the entire thing. To make your own nice cream, blend frozen bananas with a little milk and then add toppings. Sammi Caramela, a senior at Rowan University says, “try toppings like dark chocolate, coconut shavings, granola, or other fruit!” You won’t even believe you’re not eating actual ice cream.
If you aren’t much of a do-it-yourselfer, then Halo Top is a great ice cream substitute. The low-cal ice cream is less than 300 calories a pint—yes, an ENTIRE pint. Chances are you won’t even be able to finish the whole thing anyways, and the texture and flavors are exactly like ice cream. Sarah Westbrook loves Halo Top becuase it's so close to the real thing. "This summer I tried working on a "summer bod" but what is summer without ice cream?" she says. "I finally found a store that had halo top and was hooked...I can eat a pint in one sitting. But the best is when you mix the birthday cake with the chocolate flavor." Also make sure to check out their strawberry flavor!
The creamy texture of yogurt is a close trade with ice cream for way less sugar and fat. Plus, it will keep you full while still acting as a treat. Emily Luc, a senior at UNH[spell out] says this is one of her favorite snacks. “The Chobani Flip yogurts are one of my favorites because there is wide variety of flavors, you can eat it on the go and they’re delicious.” If you’re craving something a little sweeter, you can also add plenty of toppings, which is what Madaus [first name] does to treat herself. “My go-to snack right now is Oikos Greek yogurt Banana Peanut Butter Crunch,” she says. “I usually treat it like a desert, because there are more calories and sugars than plain yogurt because of the chocolate and peanut butter bits. The yogurt is sweet, and in addition to the chocolate/pb bits there's a bit of a crumble of something in there which gives it the crunch.”
If you’re craving cookies…
It’s so tempting to stash a sleeve of Oreos in your cabinet and grab a few (or six) without even thinking. But three Oreos hold 160 calories and 14 grams of sugar–so, instead, make the calories count:
Apples and Peanut Butter
Switch out the cookies for this sweet and crunchy snack. The apples will fill in for the sweetness of the cookie, and adding some PB makes everything taste better. Plus, the protein in the peanut butter and the fiber in the apple will fill you up. Madeline loves the convenience of this substitute. “I love this snack because it's a quick and easy snack that I can throw in my backpack if needed,” she says. “All I have to do is slice up an apple, grab some peanut butter and start dipping.”
Sarah M. also loves the peanut butter and apple combo—but with a twist. “For dessert sometimes I like to cut up fresh apples into bite sized pieces, pour over two tablespoons of melted natural peanut butter, and sprinkle a few dark chocolate chips on top,” she says. “So yum!”
OK, so this doesn’t fit in with the crunchy aspect of a cookie, but it definitely replaces the sweetness. Basically, they’re the grownup equivalent of Fruit Rollups, so they have to be good. Sarah M. says this is perfect for a sweet tooth. “All natural fruit leather is a perfect chewy snack, and it's super easy to make too!” she says. “My favorite kind is strawberry or raspberry.” There are tons of healthy options to snag at the grocery store, but if you happen to have an affinity for homemade snacks, try making them on your own—it’s super easy!
It you’re craving a (very) late night snack…
After a long night of studying or going out, sometimes you need something filling. No amounts of mini-snacks will work and you want something that feels like a real meal, without actually being one.
Faux PB&J Sandwich
This has everything you love about the classic PB&J, without the excessive amount of sugar. Instead of regular PB, try almond butter. Sarah Zaghi, a sophomore at UCLA even has a genius replacement for the “J.” “Instead of jelly I use fresh fruit… like strawberries or apples,” she says. “The almond butter is salty and crunchy, the fruit is sweet and together it is perfect.” This spin on an old classic will keep you full and works as a much more substantial snack.
Not only are these the most portable snack ever, but also an excellent source of protein so you won’t be reaching for the bag of chips ten minutes post-snack. Madeline says these are perfect for when you’re on-the-go: “I constantly put a cheese stick in my backpack or even with me to parties because they are so easy to transport and when I have a few are a good way to fuel up.”
This is essentially the healthy equivalent of buffalo wings. Instead of chicken, though, use cauliflower. It’s a great way to get in some extra veggies while still feeling like you’re eating bar food. Sarah M. is a big fan of this healthy alternative. “They're delicious,” she says. “They're like buffalo wings, but way lower cal, not fried, and [they’re] vegetables, not meat.” Try this recipe from delish make your own!
Hummus and Veggies
This might not seem very filling, but hummus is absolutely packed with protein, which is exactly what you want when you’re looking for something to fill you up. Instead of the tortilla chips that you usually dip, try carrots, celery, cucumbers or pretty much any veggie that you love. Emily loves this snack because of the low prep time and the fact that it’s just plain delicious. “It's a perfect snack to not feel guilty about indulging in, and it's quick to make,” she says.
It’s time to stop giving snacking such a bad rap! With this go-to guide, you’ll be sure to curb every craving that comes along. So as long as you keep it healthy and reach for the good stuff, snack away.