When you’re studying for your degree online, it’s not just exam time when you need to work hard – the self-led, flexible nature of online learning is great for students who need to fit their studies around their busy lives, but it also takes a great deal of energy and self-motivation to ensure that you get everything done when it needs to be and avoid falling into patterns of procrastination.
Studying online means that the majority of your work will be done from home, which can pose its own set of problems when you’ve got a number of distractions around the home that could take away your focus. And, when you’re using up your spare time for studying, it can be all too easy to just order in take-out or get convenience foods in so that you’re not spending much time in front of the stove. However, poor eating habits as an online student can lead to a lack of energy and focus, making it harder for you to get the results that you need. These ‘brain-food’ recipes are quick and easy to make, plus absolutely delicious – great for when you need a quick, healthy meal that will taste great, fill you up and give you the physical and mental energy that you need to stay focussed.
#1. Lemon Chicken and Broccoli Pasta:
Pasta is one of the easiest foods to make which is why it’s such a firm favorite with students. Swap regular, white pasta for whole-wheat versions to make sure that your dish is as healthy as possible. You will need two cups of fusilli pasta (or another shape of your choice), one head of broccoli, one tablespoon parmesan flavored olive oil, two teaspoons regular olive oil, three chicken breasts on the bone, one teaspoon butter, two crushed garlic cloves, half a teaspoon of dried rosemary, the juice and zest of a large lemon, and ¼ cup Parmesan shavings.
Begin by cooking the pasta to the packet instructions. Once cooked, drizzle with a little of the olive oil. Then, add the broccoli to a pre-greased tray, add a drizzle of the Parmesan olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for around 20-30 minutes, or until slightly charred.
Then, remove the bones from the chicken breasts, leaving the skin intact. Score the skin, before seasoning with the salt, pepper and rosemary. Meanwhile, heat the butter and olive oil in a frying pan. Place the chicken breasts skin side down in the pan and fry until golden and crispy. Turn, place a lid on the pan, and cook on a medium heat for around five minutes. Then, remove the lid and turn up the heat to fry the chicken breasts skin down again to crisp them up. Remove from the pan and allow to cool for five minutes before slicing thinly.
In a large bowl or pot, toss the pasta, broccoli, chicken, garlic, Parmesan olive oil, and lemon juice together gently. Add the parmesan shavings and season once more to taste. This dish can be served warm or cold as a pasta salad.
#2. Mediterranean Tuna Salad:
Tuna is one of the best foods that you can eat for your brain health, as its rich in awesome omega-3 fatty acids. It’s not just great for your brain, too – it’s important for heart health, and can help keep your other organs in great condition too. This Mediterranean tuna salad is packed full of healthy ingredients and makes a perfect brain-boosting lunch for students.
You will need:
- Two 170g tins of tuna chunks in vegetable oil, drained
- 400g chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- One red and one orange bell sliced bell peppers
- 200g halved cherry or rosa tomatoes
- Two Mediterranean cucumbers or half an English cucumber, sliced and deseeded
- Three scallions, thinly sliced
- One tablespoon capers
- ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1/3 cup pitted olives
- A handful of sundried tomatoes
- A handful of fresh dill and flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
You can also make a dressing for your salad using:
- Two tablespoons lemon juice
- Three tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- One tablespoon honey
- Two tablespoons wholegrain mustard
- Salt and pepper to taste
And for the pickle, you’ll need:
- One red onion thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- ½ teaspoon sea salt flakes
- 2 teaspoons castor sugar
- A grinding of black pepper
Start with the pickle; combine the cider vinegar, salt, sugar and pepper in a non-metallic bowl. Once the sugar has dissolved, add the onions and set aside for around half an hour.
Then, start the salad – place all the ingredients except for the tuna in a large mixing bowl. Then make the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together until the oil and lemon juice have emulsified. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss together by hand. Lastly, add your tuna chunks and turn over in the salad lightly, avoiding letting the tuna break up too much. Transfer to your plate, bowl or serving platter then drain the vinegar from the onions and scatter over the salad, before serving immediately.
Quick Food Prep Tips:
Finding the time to make healthy food is one of the biggest obstacles for online students. The good news is that there are several things you can do to make it easier to make healthy meals for yourself whilst studying for your executive nurse leader program. Meal prepping is one of the best options; create healthy meals that will keep over the next few days when you have the time spare to do so; then you’ll have them available for you to grab and eat when you’re busy.
If you prefer eating your food fresh, you can save yourself plenty of time by doing all the preparation work in advance. If you have some spare time at the weekend, for example, you could spend it preparing all the ingredients that you’ll need for making fresh, healthy meals throughout the week – measure and weigh your ingredients and store them in ziplock bags or Tupperware in your fridge so that all you have to do is cook them.
Do you have any brain-boosting recipes of your own to share? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.