Exam Survival Guide
Sleepless nights, copious amounts of coffee, jelly sweets and maybe some more coffee – you guessed it, its exam time. Whether in school or in college, the importance of good food at exam time is crucial and can help improve alertness, increase stamina and keep you healthy for that celebratory night out at the end!
Add the following tips to your all important “to-do” list and watch success come your way.
Don’t Skip Meals
Did you know?
The brain uses up 20% of the energy we eat every day, even though it is one of the smallest organs in the body. Enjoying regular meals and snacks throughout the days provides the brain with a constant supply of energy, which can help you to maintain peak concentration levels as you study and sit through long exams.
Research has shown that eating breakfast is positively associated with academic performance. However, if you are studying in a library, you will be all too familiar with the daily struggle of finding a desk in the run up to exams. For many students this means leaving the house early and often skipping breakfast. Never fear – a little organising and planning can help you fit in, what is considered, the most important meal of the day.
Have you heard of Overnight Oats? Possibly one of the best “convenience” breakfasts there is! Before bed, place oats and milk (maybe some yogurt, fruit, nuts and seeds too?) in a container or jar. Leave in the fridge the next morning you have delicious creamy oats, ready to eat in the car or on the bus as you head off to school or college.
Let Your Snacks Be As Smart As You Are
The gap from breakfast to lunch can be long. Enjoying a light snack between meals can help keep blood sugars stable, helping you to remain focused and prevent overeating later on. Fresh and dried fruit, unsalted nuts, vegetable sticks, rice cakes and popcorn are ideal for munching on whilst studying. Including plenty of coloured fruit and veg is important to help keep the immune system in check this time of the year.
Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail
You spend hours preparing for exams. Why not spend a few minutes preparing meals for the days ahead. This is particularly important for college students who may be living away from home and can no longer rely on mammy to serve up homely dinners every evening. My favourite batch dinners from Drop Chef are Vegetable Biryani and Pork Noodle Stir-Fry.
Salads or soups are my top two choices for lunch. My favourite lunch box meal is Smoked Salmon & Quinoa Salad from Drop Chef. This perfect combination of salty and citrus works well as leftovers from dinner the night before.
When it comes to soup, I am a big fan of broths and Ramen. Drop Chef provide the ingredients and recipe for a very satisfying and warming Miso Broth with Rice Noodles. I like to add a pinch of chilli or a drizzle of hot sauce for some extra heat.
Poor intake of fluids can leave you feeling sleepy and grumpy making studying 100 times worse! Although some research suggests the caffeine (coffee) may improve alertness and productivity, it is likely that the vast quantity consumed during exam period will only lead to jitteriness, frequent trips to the loo and a coffee crash. Instead, keep hydrated with water (still or sparking), cordial or herbal teas. My new favourite herbal tea is Pukka Peppermint & Liquorice Tea – delicious with a slice of lemon.
Remember, the day the exams finish IS NOT the day to ditch the water – dehydration is a large contributing factor of a hangover!
In summary (we all love summaries during exam prep), don’t skip meals, snack smart, take breaks, keep hydrated and most importantly, when exam day arrives, trust yourself, you know more than you think you do!For more meal inspiration and ideas to keep you going during exam time, follow The Baking Nutritionist on Facebook and Instagram.
Amy Meegan, BSc (Hons) Human Nutrition, UCD
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