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What are some healthy snacks to keep in the dorm?

Asked by Donnamarie H., Berlin, New Jersey

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What are some healthy snack choices that college students can store in their dorm room?

Expert Bio Picture

Diet and Fitness Expert Dr. Melina Jampolis Physician Nutrition Specialist

Expert answer

Hi, Donnamarie. I'm glad you asked this question, as healthy college snacking is important to prevent weight gain and stay healthy. Research shows that 25 percent of college students gain at least 5 pounds during their first two months of school; 70 percent are not eating enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains; and 50 percent eat fast food or fried food at least three times a week.

In general, it is important to try to choose snacks that follow the 35/10/35 guidelines set forth by several organizations, including the Clinton Alliance for a Healthier Generation in partnership with the American Heart Association. Snacks should contain less than 35 percent fat, less than 10 percent saturated fat and less than 35 percent sugar per 100 calories. For more specific healthy snacking nutrition criteria by food group, check out the alliance's guidelines.

I also like to try to include a little protein with most snacks to keep you fuller for longer and help keep blood sugar stable. This may also help keep you focused during class or at the library while you are studying.

Assuming that you have a mini-fridge, microwave or crock pot in your dorm room, here are some of my favorite healthy snacking suggestions. I have also tried to include a few options that don't require refrigeration or preparation.

Note that dried fruit can be substituted for fresh fruit but is much higher in calories, so you have to watch portions closely. Freeze-dried fruit is also a good option and much less calorie-dense than dried fruit so probably a better choice if you are watching your weight. Feel free to mix and match options. You can also combine two or three of these options instead of going out for fast food or ordering a pizza.

1. Baby carrots or snap peas + hummus or low-fat ranch dressing

2. Non-fat yogurt (plain or low sugar) + two tablespoons chopped nuts or ¼ to ½ cup high-fiber cereal (aim for at least 5 grams per serving)

3. Half or whole peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole-grain bread

4. String cheese + apple

5. Cereal bar (should contain 3 grams of fiber if possible) + ½ cup fat-free cottage cheese

6. 94 percent fat-free microwave popcorn (many people forget or don't know that popcorn is actually a whole grain!)

7. Mini tuna can (packed in water) + ½ whole-wheat pita bread + Dijon mustard

8. 1 serving whole-grain cereal + ½ cup of fat-free milk (cereal doesn't just have to be for breakfast; it can be a healthy whole grain snack, too)

9. Cup of minestrone soup; garbanzo beans provide fiber and protein

10. Protein bar; aim for a bar that contains at least 10 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber per serving and no more than 15 grams of sugar or 5 grams of fat.

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