Updated: Feb 10
What's Up Young Minds
As a student, your brain is your most important asset. Proper nutrition can help to keep your brain functioning at peak performance, so planning out healthy (and delicious) snacks will not only leave you satisfied, but also improve your cognitive function. One study on first-year college students found that eating breakfast was associated with improved immediate recall and spatial memory (Benton & Sargent, 1992). In layman’s terms: being well-fed = better grades!
In addition, adding more plant-based proteins into your diet is not only good for your body, but a more environmentally sustainable choice. A systematic review from 2019 concluded that a reduction of animal foods in the diet can result in significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions (Chai et al., 2019). This might not be top of mind (unless you’re an environmental science student), but why not help the planet while fueling your body?
To give you some inspiration, here are my top three favourite plant-based snacks to prepare that are tasty, easy to make, and inexpensive.
1. No-Sugar Added Peanut Butter + Chocolate Smoothie
This smoothie combines the satiating and delicious flavours of peanut butter and chocolate with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids from flaxseeds. It’s my go-to for a quick and filling snack when all I have time to do is toss things into a blender. Pro tip: pre-peel and freeze your bananas ahead of time for a thicker, creamier smoothie.
1-2 tbsp peanut butter
1 banana (frozen if possible)
2 tbsp ground flaxseeds
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 cup soy milk (see note)*
Optional: A few ice cubes (if using fresh banana)
Optional: ½ cup plant-based yogurt
Add all ingredients into your blender and blend on high until smooth. Enjoy!
Freestyle: Turn this snack into a smoothie bowl with some sliced banana, shredded coconut, a handful of fresh berries, a sprinkling of chocolate chips, and/or your favourite granola. Mix it up to suit your taste!
*Note: If you don’t like soy milk, use any milk you prefer (e.g. almond, cashew, oat, etc).
2. Upgraded High-Protein Avocado Toast
Millennial or not, almost everyone can agree that avocado toast is delicious. Why not upgrade it to this tastier & more nutritious version? This avocado toast barely takes more time than the classic snack, but includes extra protein from added beans and the cheesy flavour of nutritional yeast (which contains vitamin B12 - an important nutrient for the nervous system).
⅓ cup canned cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 avocado, pitted and mashed
Juice of ½ lime
½ tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1 roma tomato, sliced (or a handful of halved cherry tomatoes)
2 slices of your favourite whole grain bread, toasted
Nutritional yeast (for topping)
Optional: hemp hearts (for topping)
Add the beans into a bowl and mash with a fork. Combine with avocado, lime juice, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Spread onto your toasted bread and top with tomato slices. Top generously with nutritional yeast (and hemp hearts, if using). Enjoy!
Freestyle: Use any type of bean or legume you have on hand in place of the cannellini beans - for example, try white kidney beans or chickpeas. You can also shake up the toppings - some things to try include chili flakes, cumin, cilantro, or toasted sesame seeds.
3. DIY Starbucks Lunchbox
If you’re a Starbucks fan, you’ve probably seen those lunch boxes with a selection of high protein snacks. Here is a homemade version that is far less expensive, but that packs a nutritional punch with its variety of plant-based protein sources and healthy fats to keep you full and focused through your next all-nighter.
1 apple, cored & sliced
1 tsp cinnamon
Juice of ½ lemon (see note)**
1-2 tbsp nut butter
2 tbsp hummus
Assorted sliced veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, celery, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, etc.)
1 serving of whole grain crackers
Instructions: Toss your apple slices with the cinnamon to coat; place in a bowl with a dollop of nut butter for dipping. Arrange your veggies and crackers on a separate plate, with a dollop of hummus in the middle. Enjoy!
Freestyle: Choose any fruits, veggies, and dips that you enjoy. For example, switch out the apple for banana & peanut butter, or orange slices & a handful of almonds. Get creative with it!
**Note: Lemon juice helps to prevent the apple slices from browning. If you’re preparing this snack in advance, squeeze the lemon juice onto the apples and toss to coat before adding the cinnamon.
As a fellow busy student, I hope these recipes give you some inspiration to create yummy and satisfying snacks to get you through the semester. Make sure to plan your meals in advance so you always have something healthy and convenient on hand. Good luck!