Exams are some of the most stressful times as a student. Last-minute cramming, late-night sessions, or even all-nighters (many students spend the full night studying). When you’re adding extra stress and lack of sleep into your routine, what you are fueling your body with becomes even more important. Making sure you eat healthy, nutrient-packed foods can give you an extra edge at this time. What you’re eating affects your overall cognitive focus and energy. You need to maintain a healthy diet even during exams, so you’re always healthy and energized, and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Planning ahead can make sure that you have snacks on hand, whether you’re hungry or are just walking around the kitchen to stretch your legs. Rather than thinking about what to eat, you can quickly pull something already prepared or quick to make that will actually leave you feeling full, focused, and energized.
Tips For Eating Healthy During Exams
You need to make sure that you start your day off filled with foods that help you focus. Skipping breakfast is going to set you up to feel hungry and want to grab unhealthy meals by mid-morning. One of the best tips for healthy eating is to try not to skip meals even if you feel like you’re too busy to eat. Instead, build eating habits that will sustain you by planning out some easy breakfasts. They could be on-the-go options or meals that you prepare in advance.
One note, there is a lot of research currently being done on intermittent fasting. This is not the same as skipping breakfast because you’re too busy or you forget. It’s also not for everyone. If you don’t feel hungry in the mornings, then setting yourself up to only eat in an eight-hour window, and fasting for the other sixteen hours a day (the classic 16:8 intermittent fasting structure) could be for you.
Make a Meal Plan
Being prepared with healthy food for studying on hand will help you eat the best fuel while you’re studying. It’s those last-minute dashes to the convenience store or cafeteria as our energy levels drop that can really knock us off our plans. Creating a plan, including healthy snacks and going to the grocery store can make sure you have a supply of healthy food for the whole exam period.
Eat a Variety of Foods
Make sure you eat the rainbow. Not the skittles one, nature’s one. Different colored foods have different health properties, so ensuring we eat a wide variety of foods can help ensure we’re getting all the vitamins and minerals we need.
Have Snacks on Hand
We know you’re going to get hungry when you’re studying. Think of all the extra work your brain is doing! You need food for concentration during exam time to make sure your brain can absorb and process all that information. Healthy snacking options don’t have to be boring, try these brain snacks. If you want to maintain a healthy lifestyle, snacking on healthy foods is important!
PEANUTS OR PEANUT BUTTER
Throw them in a baggie, or opt for readily-made single-serving packs – roasted & salted is generally fine by me. Choose a variety of nuts to get all the benefits – no one nut is better than another. Nuts are also great for your blood sugar.
This can be great food for studying to have on hand. Being dried, it will last longer, doesn’t create a mess or waste, and gives you a sugar hit. Make sure you’re included this as part of a balanced diet as they are high in sugar.
Look for ones with the least amount of added sugar and the most whole ingredients – but that are still tasty! Here’s a list of my faves.
I do NOT mean potato chips that are in the shape and color of veggies here. I mean true, vegetable chips! These can give you a great crunch, but are very low calorie and have more fiber. Stick with non-starchy vegetable options like:
Look at the ingredients panel to make sure there’s no flour or other strange ingredients. A little seasoning and salt is ok! Here are some of my faves.
Brain Food for Exam Day
There are certain foods that are memory boosting, great for your brain activity, great for your immune system, and foods to improve your concentration. Make sure you include these options in your meal plan, as you want your brain activity to be at its full potential for the exam, especially since you most likely didn’t get a good night of sleep the night before the exam, and have been studying a full night.
Definitely one of the best breakfast drinks for energy! Coffee is not going to make you smarter, but caffeine can energize you. It is also a great food for concentration.
Want to include food and drink in your plan but not coffee? Green tea could be the answer for you. In one Swiss study, MRIs revealed that people who drank green tea had greater activity in the working-memory area of their brains.
This is a great source of protein as well as a healthy food providing omega-3 fatty acids which are key for long-term brain health, and brain activity, and good for blood sugar. You don’t want a diet that is filled with high-fat foods and heavy meals, but these healthy fats have been linked to lower dementia and stroke risks.