I don't need to tell you that it can be hard to stay healthy during finals week. Between staying up late (or pulling all-nighters) and stress eating your way through writing your twelve page final paper, all you want to do is curl up in the fetal position in a groutfit with as many chips and cookies as you can get your hands on. But while eating healthy can be a challenge during this week, it doesn't have to be impossible. The following five tips can you stay on track while saving time (and unnecessary calories) in the process.
Prepare study snacks in advance
If you stock up on easy snacks to take the library in advance, you’ll not only save time, but you’ll also avoid having to resort to the junk in the vending machine.
- Fruit (my favorites are bananas, berries, grapes, and pomegranate seeds)
- Cut-up vegetables (cucumbers, carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes)
- Nuts and dried fruit
- Chickpeas (roasted or regular)
- Greek yogurt
- Kale chips
- Bars (I like Luna bars and LARABAR)
- Healthy baked goods (like the chocolate peanut butter balls below or these oatmeal cups)
My housemates and I had a holiday potluck on Friday night and I made these chocolate peanut butter balls. At only 41 calories apiece, these balls are a tasty, healthy way to get your chocolate fix as a snack or dessert. I put the leftovers in plastic baggies and have been taking 2-3 balls to the library for a late-night study snack.
For the potluck, I made a Greek yogurt dipping sauce to go with the balls. I just mixed one six-ounce container of plain Greek yogurt with about a tablespoon of honey, a tablespoon of almond butter, and cinnamon. It made for a great flavor and texture combo!
Cook in bulk
During finals week, it can be hard to find the time to even shower, let alone cook yourself three meals a day. So, when you do have any spare time to spend in the kitchen, whether it’s before finals start or the early morning hours before you hit the library, cook in bulk so that you have food to last you a couple of days.
For example, I made a big batch of farro (a chewy, fiber-rich ancient grain with a nutty flavor) with grilled corn, green onion, and crumbled goat cheese. Then, throughout the week I added different proteins, such as shrimp and chicken sausage, to a portion of it (about a one cup serving) for an easy lunch or dinner. You could do this with other grains like quinoa, brown rice, or pasta to save time throughout the week—not just during finals, but throughout the year too!
Find healthy options at cafes/restaurants
If you’re out studying, you likely won’t have the time (or desire) to make the trek back home for every meal. So, seek out healthy options at the cafes or restaurants in your study area. If the place you’re eating at is a chain, you can find the nutrition info online, so look in advance or while you’re deciding what to get so that you can make an informed choice.
I spent a day studying at Starbucks and got the Perfect Oatmeal for breakfast. I added fresh blueberries and the fruit, nut and seed medley as toppings. I also sprinkled some cinnamon on top for added flavor. I hadn’t had oatmeal at Starbucks in a while, but it was better than I remembered. For lunch, I got a Chicken and Hummus Bistro Box and a banana.
Don’t drink your calories
When you’re on that study grind, you’re probably relying on coffee and energy drinks more than usual. But the calories in those drinks can really add up. When it comes to coffee, your best bet is to stick with it straight up, rather than a flavored concoction that is probably loaded with sugar. Add skim or soy milk and Splenda or Stevia. Or, a cappuccino is also a good pick. Check out our article on healthy drinks to order at Starbucks for more options.
Green or black tea is another healthy way to get your caffeine boost. When you’re studying, sip on water or seltzer instead of soda or fruit juices to stay hydrated for zero calories.
Use cooking as a study break
While you may feel too stressed to make yourself anything, taking a half hour (or less if you find a quick recipe!) can be nice, almost therapeutic study break. Last night, I made salmon with roasted Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and mashed cauliflower.
I had bought frozen salmon a while ago, so I just let it thaw and then cooked it according to the package instructions (about 20 minutes in the oven) and then seasoned it with salt and pepper. For the Brussels sprouts, I coated them in a little bit of olive oil and then seasoned with salt and pepper and cooked them at 350 degrees for about thirty minutes. For the asparagus, I just sautéed them in a pan with olive oil and minced garlic until tender, about five minutes. I followed this recipe for the cauliflower and used garlic powder instead of roasted garlic cloves. The whole meal took me about forty minutes to make, but it helped calm me down and rest my brain in between studying for two different subjects. And if you eat a satisfying, healthy meal it’ll be easier to stay focused throughout the night (I learned that the hard way after eating a greasy hamburger one night and falling into a food coma at the library).
Don’t beat yourself up if your healthy eating habits do slip a bit during finals week (it is just one week, after all), but hopefully these tips help you get through it alive and well!