Eating for Exams Tips

When you're studying for exams it can be easy to fall into bad nutritional habits. It's often easier to start guzzling down endless cups of coffee or energy drinks, and eat take-away instead of taking the time to prepare food. During exams we're much more likely to snack mindlessly on sugary foods or drinks to try and keep our energy levels up.

Sugar may give you an instant hit of energy, but when it wears off you'll crash and find yourself reaching for the next hit to keep you awake while studying.

Your brain uses more than 20% of your daily energy intake to function, despite only being 2% of your body's weight. Because the energy demand from the brain is so high, the foods we consume significantly affect all aspects of brain function, from memory to mood. Eating proper food will provide sustained energy and make you more productive.

Don't Skip Breakfast

When you wake in the morning you are in a fasted state. You haven't eaten for several hours and your energy-hungry brain needs food to be able to concentrate. Make sure to have a balanced breakfast incorporating plenty of wholegrains for sustained energy and protein for regulation of memory.

Follow the Healthy Eating Pyramid

Eat plenty of vegetables, fruit and wholegrains, choose healthy meats (fish, chicken and lean red meat) and healthy oils. Look for antioxidant-rich fruits, especially berries, citrus fruits and nutrient rich vegetables such as spinach, capsicum, broccoli and sweet potatoes.

Eat Foods that Assist Your Brain and Immune Function

During exam times high stress levels can take a toll on your body's immune system. Adding immune- and brain- boosting foods can help you stay ahead.

Foods that can assist immune function are natural yoghurt, fish, citrus fruits, garlic, ginger, green tea, as well as omega-3-rich foods such as flaxseed, salmon, walnuts or chia.

Foods that can help brain function include whole grains, oily fish, pumpkin seeds, nuts, broccoli, blueberries, blackberries, flaxseed and eggs.

Staying active during periods of high stress is important to not only reduce your stress levels but also helps to increase your body's immune system so you should plan your study days with some exercise breaks.

Avoid Stimulants

Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and heightens emotions. If you're already stressed and anxious it's a good idea to cut back on these. Alcohol and nicotine are also ranked as stimulants, and while they may calm your nerves momentarily they tend to increase anxiety. Alcohol is also an amnesiac, and may prevent you from remembering what you've been studying.

Stay Hydrated

Water assists in many of the chemical reactions in our body, including our brain, which is over 70% water. If we get dehydrated we can become sluggish and simple tasks can seem insurmountable. Drink plenty of water while studying and avoid drinking large amounts of caffeine such as coffee and energy drinks as while you may think they will keep you alert, they dehydrate you, make you jittery or anxious and can have an energy zapping effect.

Examples Meal and Snack Ideas

Breakfast: Whole grain cereal and milk, scrambled eggs and spinach with toast, oatmeal with berries, smoothie

Lunch: Chicken Skewers and Vegetables, Tuna Salad, sweet chilli and chicken noodle salad, homemade burger packed with grated veggies on a wholemeal bun

Dinner: Teriyaki Salmon with asian greens and brown rice, grilled steak with beans and mashed sweet potato, vegetable and cheese frittata

Snacks: Low fat natural yoghurt, fruit, raw nuts, air popped popcorn, smoothie, hommus and carrot