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Finals snacks can be easy, nutritious, and tasty. Image: Shutterstock.

Need snacks for late-night study sessions? We’ve got you covered

Fun fact: one of the most-viewed stories on the Fulcrum ever is “Five Foods to Avoid During Exams” by Lindsay MacMillan. Nearly every week this piece comes up in our website’s list of top ten most popular stories. It’s a great article, don’t get me wrong, but it fails to answer the following: what should we eat during the exam season?

This is a tough time of year, and not necessarily one when we’re trying to be particularly healthy. Here are five guilt-free foods we recommend you enjoy while you cram for your finals.

1-Is it toffee? Is it a cookie? We don’t know, but you should make it

One of my favourite homemade snacks is the salty-sweet deliciousness I call “Christmas Crack.” It’s super easy to make, requires very few ingredients, and tastes divine. You’ll need:

  • A sleeve of saltine crackers (approximately 50).
  • Half a block of butter.
  • A cup of brown sugar, white sugar works too.
  • A bag of chocolate chips.
  • A baking sheet.
  • Parchment paper or foil (or just grease your baking sheet. We won’t tell if you won’t.)

Preheat your oven to 325 F. Arrange the crackers in a layer on your baking sheet.

Boil the sugar and butter in a small saucepan, and stir until it’s nice and caramel-y. This recipe doesn’t care about temperature or crystallization: if it’s gooey and falls off your spoon in ribbons while you’re stirring, it’s probably done.

Pour the caramel over the crackers. Try to cover them evenly.

Put the crackers in your preheated oven for about seven minutes. 

Take them out. Empty your bag of chocolate chips and spread them as they melt with a wooden spoon.

Put the whole thing in the fridge for a while, or the freezer if you’re impatient like me, and then cut it into squares. 

Share with friends, or don’t. 

You can shake this up with toppings, too. Nuts, M&Ms, candy canes, whatever — these babies are a blank canvas, and they never disappoint.

2-Get inventive with toast

Toast is one of my favourite foods. Seriously. It’s versatile, and can be as complicated or as simple as you want it to be. It’s great brain food.

First: start with the perfect bread. We like supporting local bakeries: I usually go for a baguette from Art Is In Bakery. I like my toast crunchy, but not too burnt.

Then, have at it with toppings: think beyond the avocado.

Here’s some ideas:

  • Fig-infused goat cheese with sun-dried tomato jam (my personal go-to, yum).
  • Nutella with raspberries.
  • Sautéed spinach with feta (add a thin layer of butter to your toast, give the spinach a quick run in a frying pan with some olive oil and garlic, and then top with crumbled feta).
  • Cream cheese and strawberries (it tastes like cheesecake and is so. Damn. Good.)
  • Got a toaster oven? Coat your toast with a spoonful of pasta sauce, sprinkle with cheese, and chop up some lunch meat to put on top. Boom: pizza.

3-Rekindle your love affair with peanut butter sandwiches

Throwback to Kindergarten, right?

Wrong.

Peanut butter sandwiches have a bad rap, but they definitely don’t have to. You’ve grown up, and so has your favourite sticky sandwich.

Here’s how you can make this quick staple into a gourmet pick-me-up:

  • Rethink your bread. Raisin bread is a beautiful thing, and pairs gorgeously with peanut butter.
  • While you’re at it — who says you need to include jelly at all? It’s gooey and usually too sweet. Why not sub out the jelly with, say, apple slices? Banana slices? Slivered celery, if that’s your thing?
  • Break into your spice rack and get creative. Missing the beginning of Fall? Why not try some allspice, or a sprinkle of cinnamon? These spices pair well with peanut butter, and will bring some excitement back to an old exam-time favourite.

4-We know you know, but fruit really is good for you

Not to sound like your mom, but you really should be eating more fruit. It’s important for digestion (gross, yeah, but pooping is important), and is a crucial part to a balanced diet.

We know: boring. But it doesn’t have to be!

Blueberries are great for memory retention, and are a good quick snack while you’re hitting the books.

We know that fruit can get a little expensive here in frigid Ontario, but some things are in season (and by default cheaper) in the wintertime, like apples, pears, and clementines.

Keeping with the “things that are helpful for your digestive system” theme, sweet potatoes are also in season, and are super easy and tasty to roast. Chop them into bite-size pieces, toss them in some olive oil and everything bagel seasoning (maybe some rosemary, too, if you’re feeling fancy) and toss them in the oven for fifteen minutes. Easy, nutritious, and oh-so-tasty. Great exam snack with some honey mustard or ketchup (just try it!).

5-Support local businesses

Taking a break from studying can be one of the best things you can do for short-term memory retention.

Grab your mask, take a walk to your favourite café or bakery, and get yourself a little treat to go. You’ve earned it, and it’s a great way to support the local economy as it recovers from the impact of COVID-19.

Enjoy your croissant, oat bar, scone, or cookie as you prep for the crazy workload of the coming weeks: local businesses will thank you!