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[Photograph: Andrea Hernandez]

Raisins, peanuts, almonds, and chocolate thrown together in a bag: to many of us, that's just called trail mix.

But in Europe, this combination, with many slight variations in derivation and ingredients, is usually referred to as "Student Food." In Germany, it's studentenfutter ("student feed"), in Denmark, studenterhavre ("student oats") and to the Poles it's diákcsemege ("student delicacy"). All these names convey the same idea, though: dried fruits and nuts are a great food for students and young people.

"Student Food" might seem like a curious name for this popular snack, and there are a number of different thoughts about how it came to be:

  • It's brain food: Hikers and campers aren't the only ones looking for nutritious snacks. The combination of protein, fiber, and healthy fats in trail mix (particularly coming from nuts) provides a sustained energy boost, rather than a spike and crash. That makes for smart snacking during marathon study sessions or evenings spent essay-writing.
  • It's affordable: Particularly if you buy your nuts and dried fruit in bulk, you can save money and make multiple servings of "student mix," even on the typical college student's shoestring budget.
  • It's easy to store: No need to take up space in the mini-fridge for this snack, since it can go weeks without refrigeration and won't spoil.
  • It's easy to prepare and eat on the go: For students with hectic class schedules or limited kitchen supplies, stashing a bag of trail mix in a backpack is just about the easiest way to prepare a quick meal to go. And it's by far a more wholesome, nutrient-rich option than other quick foods, like cookies or chips from a vending machine.

What are your favorite nut/dried fruit combinations?

About the author: Lee Zalben was a PB&J-loving kid that grew up to be the founder and president of Peanut Butter & Co. which began as a Greenwich Village sandwich shop serving nothing but peanut butter sandwiches and expanded to include the now-famous line of all natural flavored peanut butter. Lee is a graduate of Vassar College and enjoys traveling the world in search of interesting foods made with peanuts, tree nuts, and seeds. When he's not working, eating, flying, or writing, he enjoys scuba diving and training elephants.

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