Posted on August 1, 2020 at 1:38 am

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5 Healthy Recipes To Leave Students Feeling Empowered

This article was written by Aditi Sridhar, a a rising sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh studying film production, global studies, and psychology. 

Looking back on my freshman year of college, I indulged in SOOO many late-night snacks (c’mon who doesn’t love Flaming Hot Cheetos and Edible Cookie Dough), even though I knew it would eventually impact my health. And I was right – you don’t really realize it at the moment when your orange powdered fingers are placing just ONE more puff in your mouth.

Motivated to make a change to my snacking habits, I developed and searched for recipes that taste delicious but also make me feel good mentally and physically, especially during times of stress. I’ve found that I can feed my desires with absolutely delicious and crave-worthy snacks! 

As most of us know, eating healthy has amazing physical effects on the body. It reduces the risk of chronic illness and disease, including heart disease, stroke, and cancer. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you eat healthy foods, you can keep your cholesterol and blood pressure within a safe range. Additionally, it can help students with their stress, anxiety, and other mental health struggles. Complex carbs, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, actually increase the production of serotonin, commonly known as the “happy chemical,” in our brains.  

These 5 snacks will keep your mood up and leave you feeling EMPOWERED!

Keto Caprese Bites

This dairy-based snack is beyond simple, and will hardly take you five minutes to make! Perfect for late-night cravings or on the go snack sneak-ins right before class. These delicious, light bites blend the strong flavors of pesto and balsamic vinegar with the subtle yet appetizing mozzarella and tomato combination. The tasty mozzarella contains calcium and vitamins A and B-12.   

Ingredients (serves approx. 2-3 people)

  • 1 tomato
  • 1 ball of Mozzarella Cheese (Bel Gioso recommended)
  • Pesto Sauce
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Salt/Pepper


  1. Cut the tomato and mozzarella into circular shapes. 
  2. Layer the mozzarella slices on top of the tomato slices.
  3. If desired, add a few basil leaves between each set of layers.
  4. Add a small ½ teaspoon of pesto on top of the cheese.
  5. Drizzle some balsamic vinegar.
  6. Add salt and pepper and enjoy!
Caprese Salad | Credit: Unsplash

Vegan Smoothie Popsicles

I am a sucker for popsicles (ha get it?) Unfortunately, store-bought popsicles are typically filled with an abundance of sugar, even when they claim to be made from real fruit. Why not just get the real deal yourself? These vegan smoothie popsicles will chill you out on a hot day, or bring back the taste of summer in the winter. These ice treats are full of fruits with powerful antioxidants and vitamins

Ingredients (makes approx. 10 popsicles)

  • 1 ½ cup of frozen strawberries (or substitute any frozen fruit)
  • 1 cup of frozen pineapple or mango (or substitute any frozen fruit)
  • 1 banana (use frozen for more creaminess)
  • 1 ½ cup of coconut water/milk or orange juice


  1. Combine frozen fruit and banana into the blender. If possible, slowly add coconut water/milk or orange juice as it mixes. Blend until smooth consistency. 
  2. Pour the smoothie into popsicle molds. 
  3. If desired, add fresh fruits to popsicle molds for texture. 
  4. Freeze for at least 6-8 hours until firm. 

Plant-Based Lettuce Wraps

Now I know what you’re thinking- how can lettuce be substituted for noodles or rice? I guarantee you, with these Asian-fusion chicken lettuce wraps, you won’t even realize you’re eating lettuce! These protein-rich wraps can even satisfy a meal’s worth if you make enough. They are easy to meal-prep and make you feel so good after!

Ingredients (serves approx. 2-4 people)

  • Iceberg Lettuce
  • 1 pound Chicken (Ground or Finely Diced Chicken Breasts)
  • Substitute tofu if you would like to make it vegan!
  • Peanut Oil (or Avocado for those with allergies)
  • Tamari Sauce
  • Peanut Butter (or any nut butter for those with allergies)
  • Red and Green Pepper (diced)
  • Mushroom (diced) (can substitute with any vegetable)
  • Sauce Ingredients:
    • 3 tablespoons tamari (or soy) sauce
    • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
    • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon honey
    • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
    • ¼ teaspoon powdered ginger
    • 2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
    • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce *if available


  1. Wash large pieces of the iceberg lettuce and let them dry.
  2. Whisk together sauce ingredients until well combined. Microwave firmer peanut butter for 30 seconds to melt before mixing it in.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of peanut oil in a pan (preferably in a wok or cast-iron skillet). Once hot, add chicken.
  4. Cook chicken until some pieces start to brown. If chicken sticks together, be sure to break it up with your cooking utensil.
  5. Add a dash of tamari (or soy) sauce and cook for about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the peppers and mushrooms and cook until the peppers become soft.
  7. Add sauce and simmer on low heat until the chicken and veggies are evenly coated.
  8. Serve on top of the lettuce- add extra sauce as desired.
Fresh Lettuce | Credit: Unsplash

Mini Gluten-Free Veggie Pizzas

Stock up on the veggies for this guilt-free delight! Fulfill those pizza cravings with these gluten-free sweet potato pizzas topped with many vegetables of your choice! These simple, easy-to-find ingredients make this recipe super accessible. With an excellent nutrient density, this veggie adventure is definitely more fun than the average salad. 

Ingredients (serves approx. 6 people)

  • 3-4 medium/large sized sweet potatoes (thick slices)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons avocado oil
  • ¾ cup pizza sauce 
  • 1 ¾ cup grated cheese (mozzarella or pepper jack!)
  • Chopped Veggies (Green Peppers, Onions, Mushrooms, Spinach, etc)
  • If you want more protein, you can substitute meat for ½ of the veggies desired.
  • 2 Garlic Cloves (minced)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Red Pepper Flakes


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Toss the sweet potato slices with avocado oil, salt, and pepper. 
  4. Spread the slices evenly on the baking sheets.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes, flip, and then bake for 10-15 minutes until cooked through and slightly golden brown. 
  6. Depending on the size of the slices, top each slice with a normal spoon of pizza sauce, minced garlic, assorted chopped vegetables, and a sprinkle of cheese. 
  7. Bake for another 3-5 minutes until the cheese has melted. 
  8. Top with fresh basil and pepper flakes!

Low-Carb Energy Balls 

For all of you peanut butter fans, these yummy and SUPER easy-to-make energy balls are perfect if you’re in a hurry or want to have an accessible snack in your fridge at all times! Peanut butter reduces the risk of breast cancer and boosts heart health, while the grains in this recipe are a rich source of nutrients and minerals. 

Ingredients (makes approx. 25 bites)

  • 1 cup unsalted, natural creamy peanut butter
  • ½ cup coconut flour
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup


  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or wax paper.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, mix peanut butter, coconut flour, and maple syrup with a fork until smooth. 
  3. Use a silicone spatula to fold until well thickened.
  4. Using a small cookie scoop or hands to scoop and drop the peanut butter balls onto the baking sheet, spaced evenly apart.
  5. Store (in an airtight container) in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks- consume early on for a softer and more moist texture. 
  6. If desired, store in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Peanut Butter Energy Balls | Credit: Unsplash

Look, as easy as it is to pick something up quickly at your local convenience store to snack on, if you plan in advance, snacks like these can be ready in an instant. In fact, health psychologists have proven that preparing your own meals/snacks (even if it’s as simple as chopping a few ingredients and putting them together) can build a better relationship between you and food. When it comes to the ability to see the ingredients put into the snack that you have crafted compared to the unknown of a pre-packaged snack, the former wins. 

Enjoy these five recipes, either making them fresh or ahead of time for convenience! Guaranteed, you will feel healthy and certainly empowered after making and eating them!

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