Winter break is right around the corner, but that also means it’s the season of finals. With that comes inevitable research papers, exams, late study hours—but also formals and parties to end the semester right. With everything on your plate right now, it’s no wonder that this is one of the most stressful times of the year. Instead of binging your way through comfort foods to get you to Winter Break, consider eating these healthier (and cheaper!) alternatives that you can find easily at your local Whole Foods to make studying a little easier.
The go-to: Deli sausage, egg and cheese on a bagel with a large ice coffee with sweetener (about $11)
What to eat: Oatmeal—unlike bagels and refined bread, these grains are complex carbs that deliver a boost of serotonin. Serotonin is the “happy hormone,” sending you into a good mood, which we all need when we’re super stressed ($2.99)
Why: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially during finals. So take the extra couple minutes to make yourself a good, filling breakfast instead of running for it later. While there is nothing more satisfying than a bagel from the deli, the combo will leave you bloated, tired and hungry for more. Coffee, while helpful to a point, will leave you jittery and unable to focus, which is a difficult balance from the sleepy state a huge bagel will leave you in.
The go to: Starbucks grande coffee and a pastry from the bar ($7)
What to eat: Bananas and/or blueberries ($.79-$4.49) and almonds ($6.59)
Why: Bananas are the perfect portable snack. The natural sugar in bananas offers clean energy so you don’t experience the crash that comes from refined sugar. They also have B vitamins, which naturally fight off anxiety—and they’re only $.79 per pound. Bananas also work great with peanut butter on toast, thrown in a parfait or blended in a healthy fruit smoothie.
Blueberries are another easy snack—and they’re filled with those fancy antioxidants that everyone talks about. The antioxidants in blueberries have been proven to boost memory and prevent colds since they’re filled with vitamin C. Vitamin C counteracts the effects of cortisol, which is a hormone that gets activated during stressful times, so these berries will help you keep your cool during finals.
Blueberries may also be effective at improving short-term memory, which makes them a perfect snack right before an exam. A quick parfait with fruit is an easy way to get your daily dose of this brain food. A homemade parfait—with blueberries ($4.49), Whole Foods granola ($5), raspberries ($3) and Fage Nonfat yogurt ($3.50) averages out to $5.33 per serving.
Another great option is almonds. Popping some almonds in the library is a great way to relax during your study sessions. They’re a huge source of magnesium, which works wonders on your nervous system and muscles—that naturally tense up during stressful situations. Besides having a calming effect on nerves, these nuts can also help reduce tension headaches and sore muscles—so pack a hearty dose of protein to perk you up before leaving your room in the morning. Almonds go great with dried cranberries (below), thrown in a salad or put in a trail mix.
The go to: A big, comforting burrito from Chipotle ($11)
What to eat: Salmon sushi ($8.50)
Why: People are crazy about salmon, and there are plenty of great reasons why. The Omega-3 fatty acids are a natural mood booster and offset the effects of cortisol. Cortisol is the stress hormone that goes nuts when you’re stressed, causing long-term effects such as damage to your immune system, weight gain and depression. Since salmon combats this naturally, it’s the perfect super food for finals—you can get the perfect dose in your sushi from Whole Foods.
The go to: Whatever is left in your fridge
What to eat: Spinach ($1.99)
Why: If you’re picking up a salad at Sweetgreen or making something quick at home, go for some spinach—which is also a great source of magnesium (benefits mentioned above). Using spinach in your dinner is the perfect way to lighten up your meal after a stressful day of studying.
The salad below is about $4.91 per serving. Throw some Whole Foods baby spinach ($1.99), 365 dried cranberries ($2.49), 365 almonds ($6.59) and add a handful of 365 Feta Crumbles ($2.99). Top it off with a seasonal pear ($.67) and you have a delicious dinner for the rest of the week. Check out these salad ideas from Whole Foods:
Want more study snack ideas? Check out Buzzfeed’s power snack article, this top ten brain foods list, and check out the social media pages for your local Whole Foods stores for great study break ideas/events like classes and tastings.
Thank you to Whole Foods Market for being a proud sponsor.