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Reduce Stress During Finals Week with Campus Dietitian Laura Martorano

Campus Dietitian Laura Martorano, MS, RD, CDN created Strengthen Against Stress Brain Boxes for Finals Week, available for purchase at the East Side Emporium and Market at West Side.

The culmination of the semester can be a stressful time for students. In an effort to alleviate some stress many students experience during finals week, Campus Dining launched many wellness initiatives geared toward keeping students healthy to nurture their success.

Campus Dietitian Laura Martorano, MS, RD, CDN created Strengthen Against Stress Brain Boxes for Finals Week, available for purchase at the East Side Emporium and Market at West Side.
Campus Dietitian Laura Martorano created Strengthen Against Stress Brain Boxes for Finals Week, available for purchase at the East Side Emporium and Market at West Side.

The Brain Box is a wellness initiative that Campus Dietitian Laura Martorano developed for finals week. To combat the damage to our bodies that can come from stress, Martorano used the new trend of themed box kits to incorporate the awesome superfoods recipes and ingredients offered throughout the dining program.

I came up with the idea because I wanted to expand the Boost Your Brain Power initiative outside dine-in and to help students who may be living in the apartments and utilizing the campus convenience stores for their groceries and supplies,” explained Martorano. These boxes are a fun way to highlight healthy snacks that provide superfoods, antioxidants, polyphenols (micronutrients that naturally occur in plants), dietary fiber, protein and whole grain carbohydrates. 

Strengthen Against Stress Brain Boxes

Strengthen Against Stress Brain Boxes can be purchased at the East Side Emporium and Market at West Side retail locations while supplies last. These boxes include tea, gluten-free oatmeal with flax and seeds, roasted edamame, Blueberry Rx bar or Overnight Oats Bar, Luna Bar, dark chocolate covered almonds or graham crackers and an anti-inflammatory recipe. Students may have tighter schedules and limited time to break for meals, so a box that is dedicated to boosting brain power is helpful for a quick snack and provides the nutrients to support the stressful time of finals.

The Faculty Student Association (FSA) worked with dining services to make healthy snacks readily available, so it is easier for students to avoid junk foods and excessive caffeine. The convenience stores are stocked with water, seltzer, green tea and other healthy beverages to keep students hydrated. 

Health Benefits of Hummus

East Side and West Side dine-in offer specialty hummus for the salad bar with a new  flavor each day! “In addition to hummus being a great side, topping and snack, it can also provide a variety of nutrients that can help you strengthen against stress,” stated Martorano.

Power packed with protein: Chickpeas are the base of hummus and are able to provide ample amounts of plant-based protein. Consuming protein will keep you full during your tests and intense study sessions and repair any damage that stress has done to your muscles. 

More fiber: Getting adequate fiber will help regulate your gut, which will significantly improve how you handle stress. Hummus provides a specific type of fiber called raffinose — fiber that stimulates the growth of healthy bacteria.

Fight inflammation: Hummus is typically made with olive oil and tahini, which is power packed with antioxidants. These antioxidants significantly help support the reduction of overall inflammation and inflammatory markers such as interleukin-6 and C-reactive proteins. 

Help your overall blood sugar: Hummus has carbohydrates that contain glucose that last longer in the bloodstream. During the stress response, blood sugars tend to spike. Consuming a protein-dense and fibrous snack like hummus can help reduce the spike of blood sugar and will be effective in controlling the inflammatory response in the body. 

Drink Brewed Tea to Destress

Throughout the fall semester, students enjoyed “Wellness Wednesday” pop-up events to meet with the campus dietitian at dine-in and pick up a healthy snack. During finals week, a hot tea station is available all day at dine-in. “Drinking tea can be associated with a positive mood, feelings of relaxation, making the brain more alert and helping to recover from stress. Stress can lead to many complications, and it is important that students provide themselves with the proper nourishment to support their mental and physical health during finals,” Martorano concludes.

There are a variety of reasons to visit the campus dietitian such as overall nutrition and general recommendations, weight management, sports and performance needs, allergies and digestive issues, fad diets and diet trends or mindful eating. Students can request an appointment online for free nutrition counseling at any time throughout the year.  

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