How to Eat Healthy During Finals

Stressed out about finals?  I think I know something that can help make your experience a little easier.  With final exams coming up around the corner, I thought I’d share some tips on how to eat healthy during this stressful time.  For me, it’s always hard to eat anything healthy when I’m in the library all day and studying until 3 am.  I know it’s much easier and convenient to simply order a pizza, but eating a balanced diet during this stressful time will actually help you study and and get better grades.  In addition, you will not  feel bad about yourself after you eat these snacks.  Follow these tips for an easier and healthier road to finals.  Another added bonus?  These foods and tips will help you stay alert and focused while studying.

Student reading a book

Photo taken from google images

1.)  Make sure you don’t skip meals!  I know you’ve all heard this, but it is extremely unhealthy to skip meals.  When you skip a meal your body does two things: 1.) It reduces your metabolism, which causes your body to slow down and then transform the next meal you eat into almost all fat.  2.) Skipping a meal just leaves you hungry and can add to your weight gain over time.

2.) Load up on fruits and veggies for your “munchies.”  Even though it’s easy to grab M&Ms or a bag of chips from the vending machine (especially late at night) when you just need something small, try your hardest not to fall into this habit.  Instead of choosing candy or chips, bring an apple with you or even carrots and ranch.  Most of the time, I’m not even hungry during the late hours of the night, I just want something to munch on and keep myself busy.  Another good idea for a healthy snack is Greek yogurt with granola, bananas or a granola bar.  All of these snacks are filling and will satisfy your craving to “munch.”

3.) Eat a healthy breakfast and make sure it’s sufficient and filling!  According to Sharon Palmer, the author of The Plant-Powered Diet, walnuts and berries will help your brain focus.

4.) Don’t forget to drink water.  Steer clear of energy drinks or excessive amounts of drinks with caffeine   These sugary drinks may help you stay awake, but they’re very bad for you and can do a lot of damage in the long run.

5.)  Check out pinterest for healthy snack and meal ideas!  It sounds silly, but I did this last semester before finals and the website provided me with so many delicious and healthy food ideas.  It’s hard when you’re so busy, but sometimes cooking or creating the food is a good study break and gives you something fun to do for an hour or so.

I hope these tips help you get through your finals week!  Do you have any suggestions for eating healthier during finals week?  If so, what are they?  Feel free to share ideas–I’m always looking for new ones.

What’s Sizzlin’?

It’s almost that time of year again! The sun is shining, the weather is warm and the smell of cooking out is in the air.  One of my favorite things to do in the summer is have a cook out with friends and family. Who doesn’t love a good barbecue? When I think of a barbecue I think of burgers, creamy salads, chips and plenty of other delicious (and unfortunately unhealthy) foods. But, did you know cooking out can actually be extremely healthy? And delicious?  With summer just around the corner, I wanted to share a few recipes that would be perfect for a cook out. Now, for all of you “grill-less” college students, don’t stop reading just yet! You can make all of these meals off the grill as well. If you don’t own a grill pan, just use a regular pan! The food will be just as tasty, I promise!

Chicken, brats and vegetables on the grill

Photo taken from google images

Turkey Burger

Lets be honest, you can’t have a cookout without a burger, but you can make it healthy.  A turkey burger is a great substitute and I think it tastes just as good.  Take a look at this recipe–I am definitely a fan.

Ingredients: (makes 6-8 burgers)

  • 2 pounds of ground turkey 
  • 1/8 cup of seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/8 cup of diced white onion
  • 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 1/8 cup of chopped parsley
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 370 degrees
  • Combine all ingredients and form into 6-8 patties 
  • Cook patties in skillet on medium heat until cooked all the way through

**If you’re completely against the turkey burger, try a regular hamburger with no bun!

Asparagus: 

Asparagus is one of those veggies that reminds me of summer.  This asparagus is so simple, but so yummy!  This is my moms recipe that everyone raves about.

Ingredients: (serves 4-5 people)

  • 1 bunch of fresh, trimmed asparagus 
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Coat baking sheet with cooking spray
  • Bake asparagus for about 10-13 minutes (depending on your oven)
  • In a bowl, melt butter, soy sauce and balsamic vinegar and pour over asparagus
  • Add salt and pepper to taste

The last recipe I’m going to share with you is my favorite–potato salad.  I just have to say my grandma makes the worlds best potato salad, but it’s not quite on the healthy side.  I’ll share that recipe with you all another time, but since I’m attempting to eat healthier I’ll share this one with you instead.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s still tasty, but it’s not as good as my grandmas!

Potato Salad:

Potato salad in bowl

Photo taken from eatingwell.com

Ingredients: (serves 8 people)

  • 2 pounds of potatoes 
  • 1 cup of chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup of chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh chives
  • 3/4 cup of nonfat buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon of canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 eggs (hardboiled, peeled and chopped)

Directions:

  • Place potatoes in large saucepan and cover with water on medium-high heat.  Cook until tender (15-20 minutes,) drain and cool for about 15 minutes. 
  • Peel potatoes and cut into bite-sized pieces.
  • Add celery, parsley and chives to the potatoes.  Toss, then add buttermilk, lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper.
  • Stir in chopped egg and serve at room temperature.

Do these recipes sound good to you?  If so, try them out and let me know what you think!  What are your favorite foods to eat at a cook out?  If you have any tips or suggestions feel free to let me know.

Eating Healthy on Spring Break

Who doesn’t love a vacation? I just got back from Panama City this past weekend and had the best time! This was my third  time vacationing at PCB  in the past four years. If I’ve learned one thing from these vacations, it’s knowing how to eat cheap and healthy(ish).  I don’t think I’m the only college student who finds it hard to eat healthy on vacation due to lack of funds. It’s so easy to eat lunch at a fast food restaurant and spend no more $7, but this option isn’t as cheap as it seems. If you eat three meals a day, you’re spending at least $20 on food each day. Not only does this money add up, but it’s awful for you. My friends and I made this mistake freshman year and we definitely paid for it. We didn’t feel good mentally or physically. The second time I went to PCB, I made wiser choices and went to the grocery store to buy food for the whole week. It turned out to be significantly cheaper and we all had fun cooking meals together. As it turns out, the girls who ate fast food all week admitted to being upset that they didn’t make a trip to the grocery store. For having a limited amount of money, I was proud of what I ate this past week in PCB so I thought I’d share some meal ideas for any future vacationers.

**Now, don’t forget you are on vacation! You should definitely splurge and go out to a nice dinner at least once throughout the week. 🙂

Limit The Number of Times You Eat Out:

I was on vacation for six days and only went out to eat three times because eating/cooking at home was a major money saver for me.  But, don’t forget that you’re on vacation so when you do eat out make sure it’s some place you can’t go in Ohio!  At the beginning of my trip I went to Wal-Mart with friends and bought food for the whole week.  I made sure to buy stuff for sandwiches and somewhat healthy snacks to eat throughout the day.  For dinner I bought whole wheat pasta to make spaghetti, chicken breast and some lean cuisines.  As a college student I was spending almost all of the money I’ve saved to go on spring break so the money I spent on food had to be very limited.  The good thing was that all of my friends were on the same page as me so we were able to cook for each other, which saved some money too.

Fruit, fruit, fruit!

I tried to eat at least three pieces of fruit a day because it was an easy and tasty way to ensure I was eating healthy.  I also found it convenient to take a piece of fruit with me to the beach for when I got a little hungry in between meals.

H2O:

I made sure to drink as much water as possible throughout the week.  First, I knew I wasn’t consuming empty calories from drinking soda or juice.  Second, it was important for me to stay hydrated throughout the day since I was in the heat and the sun.

Like I said, just a few small changes can make a difference.  I tried my hardest to eat at the condo and to eat something healthy every day.  For those of you going on vacation, feel free to take my advice for a healthier vacation!

Why Read my Blog in the First Place?

Thank you to all of those who have been reading my blog and trying out new recipes.  I started this blog because I wanted people (particularly college students) to reap the benefits of cooking from home rather than constantly going out to eat.  I did a little bit of research and realized that eating quick, simple and healthy is extremely beneficial for everyone who tries.

Quick:

I don’t think I need to explain too much about why cooking quick meals is beneficial.  As college students (or really, anyone) we don’t have a lot of time to do extra stuff.  I’ve said this before, but sometimes it’s hard enough to find the time to eat between classes, studying and extra-curricular activities.  Finding recipes that take 45 minutes or less to cook are definitely the most appealing, in my opinion.  I will make sure to always blog about quick recipes so you have the time to test it out.

Simple: 

I don’t know about you, but unless I’m cooking for a holiday or a special occasion I don’t want to spend the time making an extravagant meal.

Healthy: 

This is where the research kicks in.  According to Health Magazine, a case study that followed 131 students, showed that 70% of those students gained weight over their college careers.  While some of the students gained 12 pounds, some gained up to 37 pounds.  In order to beat the “freshman 15,” you must make sure you exercise and eat healthy.  Keep this in mind when eating…

myplate-400x400

According to myplate.gov, your plate should follow the portion sizes shown above.  This website gives a lot of great information and tips how to eat healthy.  It seems like a very simple concept, but I encourage everyone to check it out because you might learn something you didn’t know.

I’m going to make sure to incorporate everything I learned from my research when writing my blog and sharing recipes with you.  Make sure to check back in a couple of weeks for more recipes that are quick, simple and healthy!

Desserts, Desserts, Desserts!

As a public relations major I am constantly learning about social media and how it has made such an impact on the profession.  In fact, social media has affected how I blog.  Without social media I wouldn’t be able to quickly look at Pinterest or other websites and find recipes that I want to make for dinner and blog about.  I also wouldn’t have such easy access to the reviews on those recipes and what others recommend.  Although there’s something about an old handwritten recipe passed down from your family, social media provides such a convenience factor.  I know I’ve said this before, but convenience is extremely important for a college student.

Within the few weeks that I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve found a lot of cooking websites, but I have a couple of favorites for quick, simple and healthy cooking.  Pinterest is definitely one of them.  If you feel overwhelmed by all of the recipes they provide, you can use the search bar on the top, left to narrow your search.  Try typing in “healthy recipes” or “quick recipes.”  If you find a quick recipe that doesn’t seem to be healthy, try using healthy substitutes such as light butter, skim milk, light cream cheese or ground turkey instead of red meat.  Another one of my favorite websites is Skinnytaste.  I like this website because it provides users with step-by-step photos.  I think this is helpful when I’m making a meal I’ve never made before and I’m not exactly sure what it’s supposed to look like.  The photos can be reassuring…hopefully!  I also like how Skinnytaste provides Weight Watchers point values for all of the meals.  Users can also search for recipes on this website by the point value.

Now that you have a couple of great websites to visit when you’re deciding what to make, I am going to give you a couple of healthy dessert recipes!  My dad made up this first dessert, so it doesn’t have an actual name.  I’ll just call it…

Frozen Banana Dessert 

Peel a banana and spread natural peanut butter on one half, then drizzle light chocolate syrup on it.  Put it in the freezer for 20-30 minutes depending on your freezer.  When you take it out, spray some light whipped cream on top and then pour 1 or 2 tbsp. of almonds on top.  Enjoy!

This dessert is very good and as you can tell it’s extremely healthy.  The best part?  You most likely won’t even have to go to the store for the ingredients!

Healthy Puppy Chow

Who doesn’t love puppy chow?  I found a puppy chow recipe that is under 100 calories per serving!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of wheat chex
  • 4 tbsp. of light butter
  • 2 servings of Truvia
  • 2 tbsp. of creamy, reduced-fat peanut butter
  • 1 package of fat free vanilla pudding mix
  • 2 squares of reduced fat chocolate almond bark

Directions:

  • In a bowl, melt butter, peanut butter and chocolate
  • Pour the chex into the mixture and stir until it is all covered
  • Let the mixture cool for about 15-20 minutes
  • Pour mixture into plastic bag and add pudding mix, shake until all covered
  •  

Mouthwatering Garlic Brown Sugar Chicken

With spring break right around the corner, I’m trying to eat very healthy meals.  This week I made garlic brown sugar chicken with au gratin potatoes and green beans.  I found the recipe on the Spark Recipes app on my iPhone, which I would recommend for everyone to download.  This app is constantly updating and adding new recipes and they’re all fairly good for you.  It was a very well-balanced meal and might I add very tasty!  This meal took me less than 45 minutes to make and it was healthy.  Even the potatoes were low on calories!  I would recommend this meal to anyone, even the picky eaters out there.

I’m not sure about all of you, but sometimes I find it hard to cook chicken.  My dad (who happens to make the best grilled chicken) always tells me to not cook it too long, but I get so paranoid that I’m not cooking it enough.  It’s hard to find that happy medium.  Because of this I was a little nervous to try this recipe, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the chicken turned out great.  Plus, the kitchen smelled amazing when I was cooking the chicken.

Garlic brown sugar chicken with au gratin potatoes and green beans

Garlic Brown Sugar Chicken (serves 5)

  • Brown sugar, 5 tsp. unpacked
  • Chicken breast, no skin, one per person
  • Minced garlic, 1.5 tsp.
  • Light butter, 3 tbsp.
  • Pepper, black, 1 dash

In a skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Once the butter is melted, brown the minced garlic and then place the chicken breasts in the skillet.  Cook chicken thoroughly and add pepper as needed.  The recipe said to add one tsp. of brown sugar to each chicken breast once the chicken was thoroughly cooked, but I decided to add about one tsp. of brown sugar to the garlic and butter mix.  I thought it gave the chicken a little more of the brown sugar flavor.

I LOVED this chicken recipe!  If you try it, please let me know what you think and if you have any suggestions.

Au Gratin Potatoes (serves 5)

If you’re serving more than three people, make sure to buy two boxes therefore doubling the recipe!

Start off by preheating the oven to 450 degrees and boiling 4 1/2 cups of water.  Once the water is boiled, mix water, sauce packets, 1 cup of milk and 4 tbsp. of light butter in a bowl.  Pour the mixture over a casserole pan and mix in both packets of potatoes.  Simply place the casserole pan in the oven and cook for 25 minutes.  If you’re only making once package, cook for twenty minutes.

I just have to say that I couldn’t believe that these potatoes weren’t terrible for you!  Did you guys know this?

Green Beans (serves 5)

Although these are self-explanatory, I thought I’d share the complete meal with you.  I bought two cans of cut green beans, drained them and put them in a pot over low heat.  I added 1 tbsp. of light butter and mixed around.  Add salt as needed.

Dinner in Less Than 40 Minutes

One thing I’ve learned from my recent health kick is there’s always a substitute for the greasy foods we all love.  For instance, if you’re craving a hamburger, make a turkey burger!  They still taste great and are much healthier for you.  Another quick tip is to always use whole wheat or whole grain bread rather than white bread.  There are more nutrients and I personally think it tastes better.

So, since I was craving comfort food this week I decided to make healthy sloppy joes, mac n cheese and green beans.  This meal took me less than 40 minutes to make and it was very good.  I was surprised by the mac n cheese because I sometimes feel as if there is no healthy substitute that is as good as the unhealthy stuff.  This recipe proved me wrong!  I found the healthy sloppy joe recipe from the Raise Healthy Eaters website and the healthy mac n cheese recipe from Skinny Taste.  Skinny Taste is a great website with a lot of delicious recipes and also it provides Weight Watchers point values for those of you on that program.

Healthy Sloppy Joes (serves 8)  

  • 2 lb. ground turkey 
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 15 oz. tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp. ketchup
  • 8 whole wheat buns

Over medium heat, cook the ground turkey until it is browned.  Drain the excess liquid and add the vegetables to the skillet.  Make sure to sauté for a couple of minutes and then add the rest of the ingredients.  Bring the heat down to low and cook for 15-20 minutes.  See–I told you it was easy!

Lighter Baked Macaroni and Cheese (serves 8)

Baked Mac N Cheese

  • 12 oz whole wheat pasta
  • 2 tbsp light butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 1 cup fat free chicken broth
  • 8 oz reduced fat or fat free mild cheddar
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/8 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/4 cup seasoned whole wheat bread crumbs

Make sure sure you first preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bring water to a boil and cook the pasta.  In a skillet, whisk butter and flour while heat is on low. Add the onion for a couple of minutes and then add the milk and chicken broth while continuing to whist.  Turn the heat up to medium until it boils.  Season with salt and pepper as needed. Once the mixture is thick add the cheese until it melts and then add the pasta. Top it off with grated cheese and bread crumbs.  Enjoy!

If you try to make this meal, let me know what you think!

Three Healthy Recipes You’ll Crave!

I consider myself somewhat of a cooking “rookie” and therefore, was excited, yet a little doubtful to finally begin cooking.  Like I said, my roommates and I made a pact to each cook a meal once a week.  All of my roommates were successful in their attempts to cook dinner so I was just hoping my meals would turn out tasty too.  I learned two things about cooking at the beginning of last week.  I discovered that when it comes to cooking, Pinterest is my new best friend! I explored the food and drink category for about 15 minutes (I could have spent much longer) and found several recipes that I wanted to try.  The best part?  All of the recipes were healthy and simple to make.  I was only expecting to make one meal last week, but instead made three.  I attempted (and succeeded) at making mini omelets, a fruit smoothie and chicken tortilla soup.  All of the recipes meals were delicious and I definitely encourage you to try them.

Mini Omelets

Six mini omeletes

The best part about making the mini omelets was that I didn’t spend any extra money at the grocery store.  I already had all of the ingredients I needed at home.  I used eggs, mushrooms, onion and reduced-fat cheddar cheese.  One of the great parts about this recipe is you can put whatever vegetables or meat you want in the omelet.  I found these omelets are perfect for an on-the-go snack if you’re in a rush to get to class or work.

Directions (makes six mini omelets):

  • Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees and spray muffin pan with non-stick spray
  • Whisk six eggs (one egg per mini omelet) with skim milk in large bowl
  • Add whatever veggies and/or meat to the bowl and mix
  • Divide eggs and toppings evenly between muffin pan
  • Add cheese to each of the uncooked mini omelets
  • Bake in oven for about 20 minutes

Fruit SmoothieBlended berry and banana fruit smoothie

I think it’s fair to say that many of us crave a sweet snack at some point during the day.  Fruit smoothies are a great way to satisfy the sweet craving and they take less than 10 minutes to make.  I went to Wal-Mart and bought a bag of frozen fruit (mixed berry blend) , bananas, orange juice and acai berry juice.  I purchased the acai juice at Kent Natural Foods because I couldn’t find it at the regular grocery store.  Although I think the acai juice makes the smoothie taste better, you can opt out if you don’t want to go through the hassle of traveling to two different grocery stores.  Aside from the fruit smoothie being easy to make and delicious, it’s also a fulfilling snack.

Directions (makes two smoothies):

  •  Pour one bag of mixed berry frozen fruit into blender
  • Slice one banana (easier to blend) and put in blender
  • Add ¼ c. of orange juice in blender
  • Add ¼ c. of acai berry juice in blender
  • Blend until smoothie is at the desired consistency

Chicken Tortilla Soup

I found this recipe on Pinterest as well, but tweaked it a little bit to add more flavor.  It was my favorite meal I made all week and was absolutely delicious!  All of my roommates loved it as well.  In fact, I wanted to share a picture of this meal, but my roommates and I ate it too fast…whoops!  This soup is perfect to make on a day that you have a lot going on because it goes in the crock pot for a few hours and then it’s pretty much done.

Directions (serves 4-5 people):

  •  Cut 4 chicken breasts into small slices (you will shred later) and place in crock pot
  • In a separate bowl, combine: 1 tsp. of red cayenne pepper, 2 cloves of garlic (minced), ½ yellow onion, 2 15-ounce cans of diced tomatoes (including juice), 2 c. of chicken broth (99% fat free), 1 tsp. of cumin
  • Pour ingredients over chicken
  • Cook on high for 3 hours—once chicken is cooked; pull pieces apart with a fork and knife so it’s shredded
  • Add 1 can of yellow corn (untrained)
  • Add ½-1 bag of reduced fat shredded, cheddar cheese and cook for about 15-20 more minutes
  • Add salt and pepper to taste
  • Before serving, add 2 tsp. of limejuice and low sodium Frito’s to each bowl

Do any of these recipes sound good to you?  If so, which ones?  If you end up making any of them, let me know what you think.  I would love to hear.