When you’re hungry after dinner and want to eat something during extended hours of studying, what are your best options?
College is notorious for late night study sessions after long days full of classes, sports practice, eating and hanging with friends. So what are your best food choices when you’re hungry after dinner and have some hours of studying to do?
First thing’s first. When it comes to brainpower, your body runs on glucose from carbohydrates for the brain to function. A snack of primarily protein and fat won’t lead to a productive night, so let’s discuss what the best food options are. Some foods are easy to make at home and others you can easily buy. Top Picks are suggestions for simple snacks you can make easily, digest easily before bed and won’t make you tired when studying.
Whole grains contain different vitamins and minerals. These minimally processed grains release glucose slowly in the body over time, whereas processed white breads, pasta, rice and cereal will give you a quick boost of energy and then rapidly drop resulting in feeling tired. Paired with more carbs from fruit or dairy (which also has protein to keep you full), you have a well-balanced snack.
- Tabbouleh + hummus + whole wheat pita chips or carrots + celery
- Quinoa salad with grilled chicken and vegetables
- Low sugar, whole grain cereal with fresh berries and low-fat milk or yogurt
- Lightly salted popcorn
Oily fish provides us with essential fatty acids the body cannot make on its own. Omega-3 contains anti-inflammatory properties that help athletes reduce muscle inflammation post exercise. Foods like salmon and trout are best, in addition to non-fish sources including ground flaxseed, soy beans, pumpkin and chia seeds and walnuts. In preparation, it’s important to grind flaxseed for easy vitamin and mineral absorption and to soak chia seeds for increased hydration benefits (see recipe below).
- Canned salmon spinach salad with extra virgin olive oil or low sodium soy sauce, shelled soy beans, chopped red onion, and shredded carrots
- Plain Greek yogurt with oats, ground flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and blueberries
- Chia seed pudding with shredded coconut and dried fruit.
Tomatoes are rich in a powerful antioxidant called lycopene that could potentially help protect against free radical cell damage, which occurs in the development of dementia, specifically Alzheimer’s disease.
- Tomato, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, basil, mozzarella and spinach salad
- Tomato, avocado toast with lemon, red pepper flakes and sea salt
- Tomato, cucumber, red onion salad with white vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, paired with whole grain pita chips
Nuts are high in vitamin E which according to some studies help prevent cognitive decline. Leafy green vegetables, asparagus, olives, seeds, eggs, brown rice and whole grains are also good sources.
Pumpkin seeds are rich in the mineral zinc which is important for enhancing memory and thinking skills. They contain magnesium, B vitamins and a compound that is linked to reducing stress.
- Plain Greek yogurt with pumpkin seeds, pumpkin puree, honey and cinnamon
- Spinach salad with grilled chicken, tomatoes, pumpkin seeds and nuts
- Trail mix with nuts, dried fruit, pumpkin and sunflower seeds
Blueberries may be effective in improving or delaying short term memory loss. They are in season during the summer but can be purchased frozen in bulk year-round to be used in smoothies, cereal, yogurt, and baked goods.
- Frozen blueberry, strawberry, banana smoothie with plain Greek yogurt, honey and cinnamon
- Whole grain toast with almond or peanut butter and fresh blueberries
- Fresh blueberries, sliced almonds and cottage cheese
Snacks before bed
So what about a snack right before bed? It’s best to consume your last snack at least one hour before sleeping to aid digestion. You’ll want to eat something that doesn’t keep you up all night. Evidence shows whole foods that are high in carbohydrate, specifically high glycemic index foods tend to cause the body to become more tired after eating. Adequate intake of total calories and a somewhat high protein intake of more than 20% of the total calories, has been shown to be beneficial.
- Pasta salad with vegetables and balsamic dressing
- Tuna sandwich with lettuce and tomato
- Rice and beans with avocado and salsa
- Yogurt with honey and dried fruit
Chia seed pudding recipe
50 g chia seeds
250 ml liquid: almond, coconut, cows or soy milk, water or 100% juice
50 g mixture of toppings:
Flavour: Cinnamon (can be added while chia is being infused), dark chocolate, cocoa powder, honey, coconut
Fresh fruit: raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, figs, peaches
Dried fruit: apricots, raisins, cranberries, blueberries, figs, strawberries
In a glass jar, pour chia seeds, then add liquid of choice. Cover jar with lid and shake for 30 seconds so chia seeds are equally dispersed in liquid. Store in fridge for at least 1 hour. Pour 1 cup of chia pudding in container and cover with toppings of your choice. Enjoy!