Pizza rolls, potato chips, and Hot Pockets washed down with Mountain Dew may silence that grumbling stomach, but these foods probably don’t do you any favors for your waistline (or your brain, for that matter). Instead, trade in the typical gamer grub with these healthier-but-still-delicious snack swaps.
The average gamer’s food choices would make any dietitian faint. In fact, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that subjects tended to eat more during video game sessions, regardless of hunger cues. The combination of mindlessly munching on excessive fats, carbs, and salt, along with the sedentary nature of videogaming simply does not bode well for your overall health. Now I’m not your mother, but you can at least make a few tweaks to your food choices while gaming.
The tricky part lies in figuring out what to nosh on while owning some poor sods online. There are a couple of key considerations for gaming-friendly food. The foods must be:
- Easy to grab and eaten with one hand
- Relatively grease-free to avoid oily and gunk-filled fingers
- Quick to make between loading times and bathrooms breaks
We’ve touched on this topic before briefly, but the following snack swaps should fit the bill for those long gaming sessions.
Kill: Potato Chips
Try: Toasted Pita Bread
Cut-up toasted pita bread is money.
Okay, before you knock it, try cutting up pita bread into triangles, quickly coating them in non-stick spray, adding spices (salt, maybe garlic powder or parmesan cheese) as desired, and then baking them in the oven for 12-15 minutes at 400-degrees Fahrenheit.
When you achieve desired crispiness, they assume the wonderfully addictive crunch of chips, and you can dip them in hummus or mashed avocadoes (or even guacamole if you’ve got the extra fixings) for that next-level flavor. Besides, the chickpeas in hummus provide a little something-something that nacho cheese-flavored chips don’t: extra nutrients and dietary fiber, which helps manage blood cholesterol levels. When you also consider the greater protein content and food volume (as compared to chips), you’ll likely feel more satisfied.
Try: Mixed Nuts With Dried Fruit
Cookies taste awesome, but offer zero nutritional value and probably cause some frustration when crumbs keep flaking off onto your keyboard or lap.
Opt for mixed nuts with dried fruits like figs, raisins or even dark chocolate chunks to get that sweet and savory combo. The nuts emulate the slight crunch of cookies (unless you prefer softer textures) and contain a similar fats macronutrient profile, albeit with mono- and polyunsaturated fats. While most nuts (insert nut joke here) appear to promote health,researchers at Tufts University found that walnuts especially can have beneficial effects on brain function and memory due to their higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
And hey, maybe those walnuts will help you remember where that dumb camper was!
Kill: Sour Patch Kids Candy
Try: Frozen Grapes
If you’ve never had frozen grapes, you’re in for a treat. Each itty-bitty fruit-sicle of sorts provides a sweet and cooling bite, and they’re super easy to make. Simply throw them into the freezer for at least two hours before game time and you’re ready to rock. Whether you like green, red, or the black variety, all grapes are delicious and are high in antioxidants. If you’re fiending for that tartness, green grapes offer that lip-puckering zing.
Put simply: grapes are a more nutritious and damn tasty alternative to Sour Patch Kids, by far.
Try: String Cheese and Beef Jerky
Gooey fake cheese smothered atop tortilla chips is nacho best bet (ha!) for a mess-free snack and gaming session, anyway. String cheese and beef jerky are less of a hassle, provide plenty of satisfying protein to keep you feeling full longer and help you power through clutch situations. If you go the extra mile, you can slightly melt the cheese on a piece of jerky to make the combination a lot more like high-protein nachos. There are lots of good, lean jerky options (I’ve even seen ostrich, turkey, buffalo, and salmon out there), although I’d probably skip the Slim Jim because of its ridiculously high fat to protein ratio and questionable protein sources.
Kill: Hot Pockets
Try: Hard Boiled Eggs
Based on really strong anecdotal evidence, Hot Pockets have caused many burnt tongues due to its molten hot filling (or is that just me?). For a satisfying snack that can still be eaten with one hand, try hard boiled eggs.
Although eggs get a bad rap for being associated with an increased risk for heart disease, eggs are generally healthy—as long as you are healthy. Research results from this study in Diabetes Care, however, caution those with metabolic disorders, such as type 2 diabetes, to be a bit more wary. For the most part, healthy individuals needn’t worry about the dietary cholesterol in egg yolks because there’s plenty of evidence that point to cholesterol benefits from eating eggs.
So eat the whole egg, including the yolk. The yolk contains tons of vitamins, and choline, an essential nutrient in the production of acetylcholine: a neurotransmitter involved in memory and overall brain function.
Simply boil many at a time and spend a couple of minutes peeling them to have these at the ready. You can spice up the flavor by adding your favorite seasonings—a dash of salt, a little pepper, smoked paprika or even a bit of ramen seasoning—or dunking them in marinara or my personal favorite, Sriracha sauce. The beauty is that they are as versatile as they are economical in calories, when compared to a Hot Pocket.
Kill: Pizza Rolls
Part of the appeal of pizza rolls is that you can eat them with one hand right? Well, you can also eat sushi with one hand. What a coincidence. (They even share a similar shape!)
Japanese cuisine may not be for everyone, but for the adventurous type sushi is a clear winner, especially if you dig salmon rolls. Salmon contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acidseicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA has been shown to help motor skills and even cognition-related conditions like ADHD and depression, probably due to the effect of omega-3 fats on neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine that regulate mood.
Not a fan of salmon or raw fish? There are always cooked sushi rolls. Sushi comes in more types, flavors, and styles than the typical frozen pizza rolls ever could. Explore the menu of the local takeout sushi joint and see what’ll tickle your palate and would keep well if you were to leave it out during intense marathon gaming sessions.
Remember: Calories Are Still Calories
While any of these foods are healthier alternatives to your traditional snacks, they can be just as calorically dense as any of the classic gaming snack staples, depending on what you get and how much you eat. Eat way more calories than you use in a day, and you will just counteract weight loss efforts even if the foods are generally healthier for you. As with all foods, you must still practice sensible eating habits—and while you’re at it, get off the couch once in awhile.
This post originally appeared on lifehacker.