With midterms on the horizon, it can feel as if you’re in a daily race to get everything done. Work, studying, and caring for your family often take precedence over making sure you’re eating well. Fast food, quick snacks, and loads of caffeine replace getting the well-balanced nutrition your body and brain need, especially at times of high stress.
Never fear! We’ve got some quick, healthy recipes that you can whip up and take with you in your bag wherever you need to be during this busy season.
Getting your day off on the right foot is important to your ability to focus, study effectively, and perform well on exams. A simple cup of coffee or donut isn’t going to cut it; you need a balance of fat, carbohydrates, and proteins to keep you full until lunch and feed your brain.
Yogurt & Granola
This breakfast can be customized to suit your tastes. Plain, vanilla, or fruit-flavored yogurt add a protein boost to the whole grain granola that gives your breakfast an added crunch. If you’re taking this on the go, keep your granola in a separate baggie or container so it doesn’t get soggy before you’re ready to eat. Splitting up a bag of granola into smaller containers and buying single-serve yogurt cups means you invest very little prep time and get a large number of healthy breakfasts in return.
Eggs are great brain food, but some preparations aren’t very portable. Bust out your muffin tin, a carton of eggs, and your favourite mix-ins and you’ve got a week’s worth of breakfasts in no time flat.
Spray your muffin tin with cooking spray. Beat a dozen eggs in a bowl, and add in a couple splashes of milk if you wish. Carefully pour the egg mixture into the muffin tin cups until they’re about three-quarters full. Then add in your favorite omelette fixings – cheese, ham, bacon, chopped peppers – and bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the eggs are set.
You can make a dozen egg muffins all of the same flavor, or mix things up for some variety. Once they’re baked, allow the egg muffins to cool before storing in an air-tight container in the fridge. You can even make larger batches and freeze them. When you’re ready to eat, just wrap two egg muffin cups in a paper towel and microwave (45 seconds if refrigerated, 90 seconds if frozen).
Although it often gets overlooked for desk salads and takeout containers eaten in the car, lunch is an especially important part of a productive day. If you’ve ever felt your energy begin to flag around 11 a.m., you know that getting some food in your system can make or break the rest of your afternoon. Rather than a burger and fries, try these healthy, delicious options that boost your energy levels and lead to greater focus until dinner.
Salad in a Jar
Gone are the days of toting around a giant plastic container of bagged salad and pouring on heavy dressing. The Pinterest decorating staple mason jars can be repurposed into the perfect portable, portion-controlled salad. With proper layering, you can make a batch of mason jar salads on the weekend to keep in the refrigerator for when you need a quick to-go lunch during the week.
Feel free to mix up the ingredients to create any salad type you like, but follow these basic layering rules to keep vegetables from getting soggy and preserve your vegetables for a few days:
- Layer 1: Dressing
- Layer 2: Sturdy vegetables such as tomatoes, onion, or carrots
- Layer 3: Lighter vegetables such as mushrooms, corn, or peas
- Layer 4: Boiled eggs, cheese, and cooked proteins such as ham or chicken
- Layer 5: Grains such as rice, pasta, or quinoa
- Layer 6: Greens
- Layer 7: Garnishes such as lo mein noodles, wonton strips, or sliced almonds
When you’re ready to eat, make sure the lid is on tight and shake everything up! You can eat straight out of the jar, or put the jar’s contents onto a plate or in a bowl.
This Mexican takeout and freezer-section favourite can be made healthier and more substantial based on what you choose to add into it. Store burritos wrapped tightly in foil in the refrigerator for use within the next few days, or wrap them in plastic wrap and aluminum foil to store in the freezer. Making one big batch of burritos can give you quick, filling lunches for days.
Cook up a big batch of your favorite grain, whether that’s brown rice, quinoa, or white rice. Add in some beans, either from a can or cooked from dry. Layer the grains and beans onto burrito-sized tortillas, along with cooked shredded chicken or ground beef or turkey. Top with a sprinkle of cheese, your favorite salsa, and a little cooked corn, then wrap them up tightly. For an added veggie boost, you can add in sliced sauteed bell peppers and onions, or fresh spinach, before wrapping.
When you’re ready to eat, either warm in the oven still wrapped in foil, or unwrap and microwave for 90 seconds if refrigerated and 3 minutes if frozen.
No matter how well balanced your meals are, you’re bound to get hungry for a snack, whether that’s in the late morning, between lunch and dinner, or during a late-night study session. Keeping a stash of healthy, filling snacks in your bag helps keep you from the temptation of the vending machines and their snacks full of sugar, salt and fat.
Popcorn is a great whole grain snack and, if you find the air-popped, lightly-salted variety, it’s even healthy too! You can prepare a large batch and portion into smaller baggies for taking on the go, or purchase larger bags of popcorn at the store and portion them at home.
While some trail mixes are more candy than anything, a well-balanced trail mix can be a delicious snack that keeps you going. Make sure you balance healthy carbs such as popcorn or pretzels with protein from nuts or seeds, and toss in something sweet for a little treat. It’s OK to mix in that small portion of chocolate chips as long as the rest of your trail mix is on point!
Apples & Nut Butter
Balancing salty and sweet is one of the classic snack combos. Get some essential vitamins and minerals, as well as healthy fats, by pairing a crisp sliced apple with your favorite nut butter. Portion out your own nut butter, or buy pre-portioned packs in the store.
A tip: Keep your apple from browning by sprinkling a little lemon juice on it after you’ve sliced.
Keep your energy and focus high, and those hunger pangs at bay, with one of our healthy options that you can take with you to work, to the library, or in the car on your commute. You’ll be so full you won’t even want to think about stopping at that drive-thru!
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