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Snacking on a budget: The best snack options for Duke students

food for thought

<p>Snacks are essential to the survival of any college student, but there are healthier ways to satisfy those cravings.</p>

Snacks are essential to the survival of any college student, but there are healthier ways to satisfy those cravings.

With COVID-19 precautions in mind, Duke encourages their on-campus students to only bring essential items. I consider snacks one of them. 

Food is a universal language with the power to bring people together. It can be difficult, however, to escape your own “snack bubble.” It’s easy to fall into the patterns of shopping at the same store, down the same aisle and selecting the same snack. The Durham area is flourishing with amazing restaurants, but due to COVID-19 limitations, it is nearly impossible to leave dorm rooms and shop at local food-stops. Students are relying more than ever on their snacks to get them through the day. 

First-year Adrianna Diaz mentioned that she has already visited local grocery stores, Whole Foods and Harris Teeter, three times for snacks in her first two weeks on campus. Clearly, students depend on snacks. The real question is this: Has COVID-19 hindered students' ability to chow down on their favorite snacks or has it expanded their creativity with snack choices?

The MicroFridge — a freezer of 0.7 cubic feet, a refrigerator of 2.1 cubic feet and a microwave of 0.6 cubic feet — is a very popular dorm appliance that students rent to store their food. There is only so much that can fit in this tiny space, so only the best of the best snacks can make it into the dorm. I made a Google Form asking students to share their insights into efficiently using this space for their special munchies.

For 3 a.m. and later

Before you know it, it’s 3 a.m. and you are yearning for something to fill your craving. You open your MicroFridge and find exactly what you are looking for: your go-to late night snack. According to my survey, ice cream is the most popular go-to late night snack. Whether you are lactose intolerant, vegan or dairy-friendly, Ben & Jerry’s has a wide array of options to fill your freezer. Want every bite filled with immense flavor? Ben & Jerry’s “Netflix & Chill’d,” consisting of peanut butter ice cream and hunky sweet-and-salty pretzel swirls and fudge brownies, will satisfy that late night sweet tooth and keep you cool during the humid Durham summer. Another easy late night snack is what I like to call a “mix.” Throw together a bunch of different pantry items you may have, such as chocolate, nuts and popcorn, and rather than eating a simple bowl of one item, you have a colorful array of snacks, each bite advancing (or revealing) a burst of flavors. I have to admit: I’m good for a “mix” snack at any hour of the day.

For Acing Your Exam

The brain can only take so much studying before it needs nourishment (a.k.a. “It’s snack time!”). For snacking while studying, you want something that is quick to set up and easy to eat. (Worst of all is when residue on your fingers leaves sticky spots on your laptop or discolors your crisp papers.) Popcorn is a sufficient study snack to keep you on a roll and satisfy your cravings. SkinnyPop and Boomchickapop are delicious popcorn brands with options ranging from slightly salted popcorn to sweet kettle corn. 

Another option is making a veggie assortment. Vegetables will help you stay focused and feed your brain. Spice things up by making a vegetable or fruit plate. For your veggie plate, use the colors of the rainbow and fill it with carrots, bell peppers, cucumbers and snap peas. These veggies are delicious, and you can easily pop them into your mouth and continue acing your research papers. For your fruit plate, a delicious option is a berry-and-grape medley or a sliced apple with a side of nut or seed butter. If you don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, a variety of dry vegetable and fruit snacks (Rhythm Kale Chips or Beet Chips, Bare Apples, Terra Chips and Veggie Straws are my favorites) are an easy option. 

For Energizing the Mind

It’s always important to have a quick pick-me-up on hand to nourish yourself whenever you are feeling lethargic. According to many Duke students, granola bars are their go-to energy snack. There are a plethora of granola bars that do the trick. For a pre-workout snack, Quest protein bars are filling and tasty. With a wide variety of flavors, ranging from Blueberry Muffin to Mint Chocolate Chip, Quest provides 20 mg of protein while also treating you to a delicious dessert. For an in-between class pick-me-up, Oatmega is a delicious option. Oatmega bars emphasize the perfect balance between flavor and nutrition to keep your brain working at its best. It’s nice to have a bar that is filling and flavorful, and both Quest and Oatmega do the trick. 

Besides ice cream as omnipresent late night snacks, Duke students are strategic about filling their fridge in a budget-friendly manner. Outside the obvious choice of ramen or peanut butter, an easy way to save money and still be able to eat delicious goods is to get extra food from Marketplace. With the swipe system in place, there is no hindrance on how much food Duke freshmen can purchase from Marketplace. Don’t be afraid to stash up on extra snacks for your dorm to fulfill those 1 a.m. late-night study session cravings. Although Whole Foods and Harris Teeter are viable options, Marketplace is a quick stroll and an easy (and much less expensive) alternative. So take your Marketplace-sponsored blue to-go bag and fill it up with a Marketplace food (from the yogurt to the salad bar), and you’ll have a healthy and inexpensive snack for any hour… day or night!

Even if you don’t have a refrigerator in your dorm, it’s easy to store the dried fruits, nuts and candies from Marketplace (or other eateries on campus) in a paper cup or plastic bag on your dorm shelf. When there’s a will to snack there’s a way!

Maddie Menkes is a Trinity first-year. Her column "Food for Thought" focuses on the culinary experiences of college students. 

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