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Rushed students can still be smart about snacks

Submitted by Sarah DeClerk on November 6, 2013 – 8:27 pmNo Comment

Illustration by Paige Mason

Busy students build up big appetites darting from class to class, but may not have time to sit down for a proper meal. Students have many options when they need a quick snack, but what is something they can choose that is nutritious and filling, as well as convenient?

Fruit seems to be a popular option for healthy snacking. Aliyah Joseph, a freshman speech pathology major, said she likes to munch on bananas and apples, while Corrigan Revels, a junior mass communication major, said he likes to eat grapes.

Donna Quimby, an associate professor with the Department of Health, Human Performance and Sport Management, teaches a nutrition class and she said one of her snacks for the day was a pear.

“I try to eat foods that are as close to natural as possible, so your fruits and vegetables and those kind of things,” she said.

Protein bars are another snack Quimby packed for the day. “When you’re snacking, you want to try to pick a snack that is going to be a combination of sugar, protein and fats,” she said. “Protein is the most satisfying of the three energy-supplying nutrients, so if you want to snack, make sure you have a snack that has some protein in it, not just sugar.”

Joseph said granola bars and nut bars are a convenient option. Students may want to check the label first, however, to make sure the bar will really satisfy them in the long run. “Look at it and see what’s on the label and that kind of gives you some idea of how the sugar level rises.”

Sandwiches are good on-the-go snacks, Revels said, adding that turkey and cheese is a favorite. “And tuna fish, because you can eat it by itself or on a tuna fish sandwich,” he added.

As long as people watch out for the fat content in condiments, sandwiches seem to be a good option because they combine a variety of food groups, which is important, Quimby said.

“Don’t leave out any of the major food groups. Don’t leave out the dairy products. Don’t leave out the grains,” she said, adding that dairy supplies calcium to the body, while grains are a good source of B vitamins.

Candy contains sugar, which gives the body a quick burst of energy that some students may rely on to make it through lectures. That short-lived energy boost could be followed by a sugar crash, however.

“When you have a real strong sugar increase in the blood then you have a larger-than-normal insulin response, which causes blood sugar to drop below normal levels. You become lethargic and want to eat again,” Quimby said.

Potato chips are another common snack, but some chips may have health drawbacks.

“I would stay away from processed foods as much as possible,” Quimby said, noting that processed foods like chips, canned food and individual packages of oatmeal can have high sodium levels, which can lead to high blood pressure.

“The salt we’re consuming so much is not coming from the saltshaker. It’s really already in the food you’re eating,” she said.

Fast food is another hunger fix students may turn to when they are low on time. Fast food may have received a lot of bad press in recent years, but Quimby said it is not always unhealthy.

“I think that in each one of those [fast food restaurants on campus], you can make healthy choices or healthier choices,” she said. “Within all fast foods, you have to be a little more diligent about the selection that you make or the amount of it that you consume or how often you eat there.”

“I am a believer that all food is good food. It’s just when and how it’s consumed and the quantity of it,” Quimby added.

Planning meals is very important, she said, because “If you wait until you’re hungry, you’re going to eat whatever you can get your hands on at that point, and it’s usually not something that’s very healthy for you.”

She also warned against skipping meals, which can lead to binge eating later in the day. It’s best to eat small, regular meals, she said.

Simply becoming conscious of snacking can help people make healthy decisions, she said.

“Become aware of what you’re putting in your mouth, because a lot of people eat and they’re not even conscious of eating. So if you’re snacking, pay attention to that; why are you snacking?”

Quimby recommended that people who are interested in understanding what they eat keep a food log for three days, and be honest about it. “That’s one of the best ways to look at what it is you’re really doing on a day-to-day basis,” she said.

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