12 Dec Brain Power
I love a CoGro bagel just as much as the next Queen’s student, but I can’t help but notice that my bagel-eating habits drastically escalate during exam time. I’m not sure if it’s the sleep deprivation, the stress, or just pure laziness – but as soon as a heavy workload hits, I suddenly think that it’s totally acceptable to binge eat whatever the heck I want, whenever I want. Usually, this behavior is justified by a voice in my head convincing me that “I deserve it.”
Now, I’m a big believer in “treating yo’self,” but just this past week, I found myself—on mulitiple occasions!—purchasing rather large bags of assorted gummies from the ARC grocery store as a “snack.” For humility purposes, I cannot disclose the exact size/price of said bags, but let’s just say that this was a breaking point for me. I decided to call in a professional (and then write an article about it because I’m under the assumption that everyone else is eating just as much sh*t as I am).
So, for all my friends whose eating habits have admittedly fallen by the wayside due to sleep deprevation, stress, or pure laziness (or maybe all the above): Meet Abigail Keeso. Abigail is a Registered Nurse and the co-founder of That Clean Life, a website that makes eating healthy simple and delicious. Aside from a kicka** blog that features amazing recipes and other health advice from Abigail herself, the website offers clean eating challenges for those interested in revamping their lifestyle. I personally participated in one of Abigail’s clean eating challenges over the summer, and was blown away at how much healthier and happier I felt through eating clean. Abigail is the picture of health (seriously, she has the instagram account to prove it), so I knew she would be the perfect person to help me figure out how to balance healthy eating with my university lifestyle. Just in time for exams—the ultimate dietary nightmare— I chatted with Abigail about nutritional eating, de-stressing, and clean, student-friendly recipes.
1. We’re in the midst of exams, which for some students (myself included) means lots of on-the-go, unhealthy eating—and lots of snacking. What nutritional advice do you have for busy, studying students?
My best advice would be garbage in, garbage out! Eating crappy food can make you feel distracted, tired and like you just can’t retain anything. Proper nutrition has been scientifically proven to provide you with sharper focus, increased memory, and sustained energy. And I mean, who doesn’t want that during exams?
2. What’s your favorite healthy, on-the-go snack?
I love mixing a baggie of grapes and nuts. I also love organic popcorn. But my ultimate go-to snack has to be a sliced banana with almond butter.
3. What are your pantry/refrigerator staples?
In my fridge, you will always find a big box of spinach, apples, lemons, cherry tomatoes, eggs and my most favourite condiment – mustard! My pantry staples are quinoa, lentils, beans, hemp seeds, and mixed nuts.
4. Alright, let’s talk energy levels. Students are constantly guzzling coffee this time of year, because we’re stressed and sleep-deprived, but there’s got to be a healthier way to get some energy (that doesn’t involve sleeping or caffeine). What are your favorite energy boosting foods or drinks?
Yup, I’ve been there. The trouble with coffee (and any caffeinated beverage for that matter) is that it is a stimulant. You drink it and feel like superman for one or two hours. But what goes up, must come down, and as you come down, your body craves more. This is a vicious cycle you don’t want to get stuck in.
Instead, I recommend starting your study session with a nutrient-dense, homemade smoothie. This will still give you something delicious to sip on but will help you avoid that horrible crash. Think of throwing in things like spinach, apples, and flax seed. It will help you keep sharp, focused and full for hours. Check out my favourite recipe here.
PS: If you must drink coffee, at least skip the sugar!
5. I think that a lot of students shy away from “clean,” or “organic” eating because it’s considered to be a more expensive lifestyle. Do you have any tips for students who are on a budget, but still really want to approach clean eating?
Here are the facts. It is true that eating healthy is slightly more expensive. But people who eat healthy only spend about $1.50 more per day than those who eat unhealthy. For just $1.50 per day, you too can have better focus, better energy, better sleep, better skin, better mood. This list goes on and on.
Fuelling your body with real food on a tight budget is totally doable. Make a list. Look for sales. Only buy what you need. And try not to eat out when you have perfectly good food in your fridge. When I was a student, I saved money by going meatless. There are tons of cheap protein sources likes nuts, quinoa, lentils and beans.
6. Do you have any other healthful tips for students looking to manage their stress?
It sounds cliché but take deep breaths. It calms your nervous system, improves digestion, and detoxifies your body of all that pent up stress. Exercise is also an amazing stress reliever and it makes for a highly efficient study break.
7. Can you share with us a recipe for one of your favorite, quick and easy dinners?
Absolutely! Below is the recipe for my Roasted Vegetable, Quinoa & Goat Cheese Salad. It’s easy, delicious, packed with nutrients, and makes about 4 servings so you can have easy grab-and-go meals for days to come.
Roasted Vegetable, Quinoa & Goat Cheese salad
Makes: 4 servings
- 1 sweet potato, cubed
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 red onion, diced
- 1 bunch leeks, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- ½ cup quinoa, uncooked
- 2 cups arugula
- ¼ cup goat cheese, crumbled
- 1 lemon, juiced
- sea salt and black pepper (to taste)
- Preheat oven to 415. Combine sweet potato, red bell pepper, red onion, leeks and garlic cloves in a large mixing bowl. Toss well with red pepper flakes and olive oil. Place veggies on a foil-lined baking sheet and cook for about 30 minutes or until golden.
- In the mean time, cook your quinoa by putting ½ cup quinoa and 1 cup water in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover pot and reduce heat to a simmer. Let simmer for 12 minutes. Remove from heat and fluff with fork.
- When your veggies are finished roasting, put them in a large mixing bowl. Add quinoa, mint, feta and arugula. Sprinkle with the juice of 1 lemon and season with salt and pepper. Serve alone or with an oven-baked salmon fillet on the side. Enjoy!
8. So, you were a university student not long ago. If you could give your university self one piece of advice (food related, or otherwise) what would it be?
Don’t let yourself get run down. Learn how to balance your school and social life with nutrition, exercise and sleep. Life is so much more beautiful when you are healthy and never take your health for granted.
Abigail Keeso is a Registered Nurse who believes in a healthier you through healthier food. She is the co-founder of ThatCleanLife.com, which makes eating healthy simple and delicious so you can feel incredible inside and out. You can say hi to Abigail on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
Abigail Conners, Creative Director
Photography: Abigail Keeso