Move over, Easy Mac

If you, like me, are in college and living off campus, you will likely find yourself at some point needing a convenient source of sustenance that does not require extensive preparation. It would be great if we all had the time, wherewithal, and skills to cook our meals from scratch all the time, but I concede that for many college students this is just not feasible. What I cannot accept, though, is this reliance on pseudo-foods like Easy Mac and instant ramen that I have witnessed of late. These things might stave off your hunger, but they are doing shit for your health (regardless of weight, in case you were thinking you can eat all the junk food you want because you’re thin). Thus, I have been inspired to come up with some more wholesome alternatives. Disclaimer: I am not yet a dietitian, so these suggestions aren’t backed by a certification, just my college and self-education up to this point.

Now, my go-to snack is always raw fruits and vegetables like apples, bananas, and baby carrots, which are tasty and ready-to-eat. I always say, “If you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, you’re not really hungry.” Usually I dip the carrots in hummus. Apples, carrots, and hummus will probably last you a couple weeks in the fridge at least, but ripe bananas will only last a few days before getting brown (at which point I mash them up in my oatmeal). Only buy them if you know you’ll eat them before they go bad.

In the completely ready-to-eat nonperishable snack category, I would recommend any kind of (unsweetened) dried fruits and/or nuts — hell, make your own trail mix! — as the most wholesome options. If you’ll eat a loaf of 100% whole grain bread before it gets stale or moldy, keep some natural nut butter and all-fruit jam around to make a fast sandwich. You can also freeze bread and just defrost or toast it when you want it. Crackers like Triscuits, which are made with only whole wheat and salt (and delicious, by the way) are also a solid choice in a pinch.

Now, for microwaveable hot food — please steer clear of the Cup-of-Noodles and other highly processed instant meals. Go for instant oatmeal (even better if you get the plain one and sweeten it yourself) or canned soup that is broth, tomato, or bean-based with lots of beans or vegetables—lentil and split pea soups are my favorites. I have also seen seasoned instant lentils and instant brown rice in microwaveable packets, which are way better than Easy Mac, even if it’s not quite as healthy or cheap as cooking it yourself. I also love popcorn, which by itself is a very healthy whole grain, but save microwave popcorn for those desperate situations because there can be some questionable chemicals and partially hydrogenated oils in the flavoring (which are probably safe in small amounts). Orville Redenbacher’s SmartPop has the least added fat of any variety I’ve seen and tastes great.

Yay for fast, healthier snacks. Comment if you have other suggestions.

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One thought on “Move over, Easy Mac

  1. I thought I had a corn allergy for a couple years because I would get an upset stomach and a rash every time I made microwave popcorn. I started making my own microwave popcorn (3 TBSP of corn kernels in a brown paper bag, fold the top over a few times and microwave for 1-2 minutes). Then add your own toppings. This doesn’t bother me at all. No preservatives, it’s cheaper (depending on the toppings you use) and it’s still quick.

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