Image by Adelle & Justin, Flickr
Being a hungry student during exam period is hard – from personal experience I know the struggle: do I study, sleep, or eat? It’s also difficult to find the motivation to cook.
To maximize your mealtimes, include as much protein and complex carbohydrates as possible in your meal. While refined carbs (white bread) and sugars can be cheaper, they will not keep you satisfied for long, and you’ll either have to interrupt study time to eat again, or go to sleep hungry. Invest in your exam period meals. If you’re already paying a whopping tuition, instead of ordering in fast food, underwrite your existing investment by spending a couple bucks more on healthy alternatives, which will enhance your brain power and GPA. A protein-packed meal could give you the burst of energy needed to finish your final paper, or pull a final all-nighter.
Meat is the most obvious, easiest way to ingest protein. Note that protein can also be found in other foods such as nuts, seeds, legumes, etc. I’ve thrown in some vegetarian options for inclusivity, but all recipes below, including the vegetarian ones, contain at least one serving of protein.
Here are several healthy, protein-packed recipes you can cook that are designed to deliver a protein punch for a study time crunch. In case you’d like to make substitutions, the main protein component of each recipe is italicized:
Cook with Protein:Nutty fruit parfait
A variety of fruit
2 tablespoons walnuts and almonds, chopped
1 cup of yogurt (Greek yogurt is preferable)
1/3rd box of bran cereal
Put the nuts in a plastic Ziplock bag. Lay the bag of nuts flat, and using a blunt object (such as a mug or textbook) carefully crush the nuts without ripping the bag. Cut fruit into bite-sized pieces. Scoop one layer of yogurt into bowl. Layer fruit on top. Pour cereal and nuts on top. Repeat: yogurt, fruit, yogurt, cereal, nuts. End with fruit.
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 slice whole wheat bread
Toast bread if desired, spread peanut butter on top. Slice banana onto bread.
1 whole wheat pita
2/3rd cup marinara sauce
1 ounce cheddar cheese
2 ounces mozzarella
2 slices salami (or equivalent amount of pepperoni, chicken, any meat)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread marinara on pita, lay or grate cheese on top. Lay slices of salami on top. Bake until cheese is melted.
Tomato Spaghetti Carbonara
1 ½ cups spaghetti
½ cup marinara sauce
¼ cup parmesan, or any cheese
Boil water in a medium pot, follow instructions on pasta box. Drain pasta and return it back to the pot. Crack both eggs into the hot pasta and toss until the egg is worked into the pasta, and cooked by the residual heat. Stir in marinara sauce and parmesan.
Homemade Mac & Cheese
1 ½ cup pasta (whole wheat preferable)
1 can of tuna
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup skim milk
3 ounces cheddar, grated
Pinch of salt and pepper
Boil water in a medium pot, follow instructions on pasta box. Drain pasta when it is fully cooked, and return to the hot pot. Add butter, flour, milk, cheese. Stir until cheese is melted.
*1 uncooked chicken breast
2 slices white bread
Salt and pepper
*Always handle raw meat with great caution. Wash your hands thoroughly with warm, soapy water before and after handling, and any surface/tools the raw meat comes into contact with. Do not touch your face or any other objects between washings.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toast the bread slices until they can be easily crumbled into breadcrumbs. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs with salt and pepper. Whisk the egg in a bowl. Cut the chicken into pieces. Dip the pieces of chicken in the whisked egg. Roll the pieces of chicken in breadcrumbs. The egg and breadcrumbs should stick to all sides of the chicken pieces. Grease a baking tray with non-stick cooking spray, margarine, or butter. Place the pieces on the baking tray. Bake the chicken at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. After baked, cut the chicken to the centre, checking for pink parts. If the middle is white, it is cooked through.