Although it is incredibly easy to fall into eating sugary food during exam period, after a while you can get kind of sick of it so it pays off to have some healthy options within reach. But this doesn’t mean that cooking prep needs time!
Here are a few super easy, filling meals or snack that I’ve chosen eventually from trial and error.
A fast, standard breakfast
Granola or oatmeal with yoghurt and maybe some honey and fruit like figs, apples, or bananas (if you want, of course). If you don’t always have a lot of time in the morning, prepare this in a jar the day before and grab it out of the fridge before you leave for work or lectures.
- Granola/oatmeal: averts dips in concentration and brain power because it contains slow-release carbohydrates to keep the blood-sugar level stable.
- Yoghurt: proven to improve memory retention, mental alterness, and increase energy levels thanks to being rich in protein.
- Honey & fruit: good for energy! And, in the long term, a study concluded that honey can improve memory loss and cognitive decline as you get older.
Take a break and make a brownie
First, making time for breaks it important to studying, and second, it fills the house with good smells and can be perfect brain-stimulating, feel-good snack to eat later!
- Dark chocolate: aside from helping to diminish the negative effects of stress through stimulating the release of endorpines, dark chocolate is also said to help improve brain function, attention span, and even problem-solving skills, while also reducing risks of heart disease, inflammation, and insulin resistance because it’s filled with antioxidant and minerals.
- Eggs: supposedly helps with retaining memory and communication among brain cells as it’s packed with choline, which is a precursor for acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter. And besides being a very nutritious low-calorie yet filling food that are jam-packed with vitamins D, B6, B12 and minerals such as zinc and iron, eggs have bethane, a chemical that churns out hormones related to happiness so will help with stress!
- Nuts & seeds: great as a sustaining source of energy without the sugar spikes since nuts and seeds slow digestion and the release of glucose into the blood stream. In doing so, they also satisfy hunger and reduce appetite.
- Raspberries (frozen): cause energy to be released into the body more slowly because they contain fibre which slows down digestion. They also have B vitamins which our bodies need for energy.
- Mashed banana (optional): supports concentration, according to studies, since they have vitamin B6 which promotes the production of serotonin, neorepinephrine and dopamine.
Coffee is good!
Honestly, don’t skimp out on getting good coffee, even if it’s instant coffee.
- Caffeine not only reduces fatigue and promotes alterness, but it also actually aids the STM in the ability to retain information.
- Milk: If it’s 3 hours before you sleep, then sometimes a warm glass of milk with 1/2 a tsp can be better!
- Green tea: boosts concentration as well as providing antioxidants and not being too high in caffeine.
Snacks for studying
Your brainfood…and pleasure food…
- Almonds: curbs hunger so they’re good for weight loss, and reduces blood sugar levels and blood pressure.
- Dark chocolate: improves brain function (more in brownie section above).
- Popcorn: improves digestion since it’s 100% whole grain and is filled with fiber. Stock up and microwave packets whenever you want!
- Fruit salad: paticularly bananas as they apparently support concentation (more in brownie section above).
- Frozen grapes: reduce inflammation due to their antioxidant properties (resveratrol). They’re also said to help protect against diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
- Veggies (with hummus or miso paste): hummus is a source of plant-based protein which is good for the optimal health of the immune system. It also fights inflammation, is high in fiber which improves digestive health, and controls blood sugar levels. Miso paste is rich in essential minerals and vitamins like vitamin B. It is also a fermented food which is good for gut bacteria and ultimately can be linked to overall mental and physcial well-being.
- Homemade trail mix (with some sweets): nuts are a great sustaining source of energy and useful for satisfying hunger and reducing appetite (more in brownie section above).
- Apples with peanut butter: an ideal low-calorie post-workout snack, apples have carbs and fiber, while peanut butter has additional fibre with other fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, etc.
- Soaked, crunchy chickpeas: as well as being a brilliant meat substitute, chickpeas improve digestion and aid in weight management since there is a lot of protein, fibre, and vitamins.
- Cottage cheese: has been shown to aid in fat-burning process and regulate blood pressure as it is a dairy product and so, high in calcium.
Put on a hot pot and just go to study. This is the ideal, healthy, minimal energy study meal which can cover more than one meal.
- Red meat (optional): cuts the risk of anemia which staves off fatigue since heme iron and vitamin B12 in red meat keeps the blood healthy. In addition, the protein improves muscle growth, maintainance, and performance, and the zinc encourages the good function of the immune system. (Of course, there are studies which show red meat to not always be that essential to our diet.)
- Veggies (potato, carrot, onion, garlic, pepper): (self-explanatory)
- Veg stock & tomato sauce
- Red wine (optional): it just enhances the taste of the meat.
- Pasta shells (optional): an essential for a balanced diet, pasta is a high wholegrain food with fiber and a number of benefits like keeping our heart and digestive system healthy and keeping to control blood sugar levels and weight.
Feeling nervous before the test?
When your tummy’s all over the place, it’s a good idea to go easy on it. Reach for the fish, brush it with pesto, wrap it in foil, and slow cook it in the oven. Eat it with greens and some pasta or rice.
If not, sardines on toast can cut it!
- Fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel): bolster communication among brain cells in charge of mental focus and memory boosting thanks to the docosahexaenoic acids (DHA), omega-3 fatty acids and protein they contain.
- Greens (broccoli, chard, spinach, kale, parsley): perk up your cognitive funtion and brain power as they have high level of glucosinolates and are good sources of iron and vitamins B, C, and K. They also have naturally occurring nitrates and antioxidants!
- Rice or pasta (optional): (more in hotpot section above.)
And, lastly, drink water!
Drink, drink, drink… Water and not fizzy/energy drinks, which are high in sugar, since they lead to energy peaks and troughs.
- One of the best ways to maximise your focus is to stay hydrated. Even mild dehydration can lead to tiredness, headaches, reduced alertness and diminished concentration.
Grab the opportunity to take a bottle of water in with you to the exam. A study of university students found that those who did so performed on average 5% better than those who didn’t.
Recommended further reading :
Featured image : ChameleonsEye / shutterstock
- ‘What can I eat to improve my memory and concentration’ in Forbes, (3 March 2017)
- Katie Paterson, ‘Save money, student cooking basics’ in SaveTheStudent, (16 Sep 2019)
- ‘What to eat the night before a test’ in UOPeople