Medically reviewed by R Sindhu Vas, Masters of Food Science and Nutrition
Exam season is always a hectic season for everyone involved; the kids, parents, and even the teachers!
But the most stressed out could be the parents because long studying hours mean skewed diet and ultimately ill-health of your children!
Table of Contents
- Tips for Diet During Exams
- Foods to eat when studying for exams
- Exams diet by Nutrition experts
- What should you eat before a test
- Tips To Be Active During Exams
Don’t worry, the health experts at Possible have come together to suggest a good diet for exams, the one that will help your little one fly and score high!
Tips for Diet During Exams
1. Eat smaller, frequent meals
Yes, the age-old weight loss advice holds true for preparing for exams too. Small meals will provide a steady supply of energy to the exam fatigued brain.
If you feed your child a large meal, then he/she will experience a dip in energy and also the alertness to study for hours on end.
2. Have a healthy, wholesome breakfast
While we do suggest small meals to be eaten frequently, breakfast doesn’t feature in that list!
Your budding expert has to sustain through the periods of study and even rigorous periods of writing the exam. Hence, a combination breakfast of whole grains and protein will do the trick.
3. Pay attention to snacks
Snacks take on a whole new meaning when catering to someone cramming away their woes! It is best to steer clear of high fat and high sugar snacks. This will help in maintaining a stable blood sugar.
Try to provide snacks which are the right combination of protein, complex carbs, omega-3 fats, and micronutrients.
For example, sprouts chat, yogurt with fruits and granola, fruit- yogurt smoothie, vegetable and cheese sandwich, nuts and seeds mix trail.
4. Make the exam diet plan rich in omega-3 fatty acids
While you may have heard the mention of Omega-3 fats as heart-protective. However, they also play an important role in memory, concentration, even relieving depression.
Studies have found omega-3 fatty acids, especially docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), has shown to increase the brain volume .
The sad fact is that our body can’t make any of the omega-3 fats and hence it has to be derived from the diet. So what better time than providing it to your child during exams!
Sources of omega-3 fats in the diet: Oily fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, halibut, trout; seeds like flax, chia, melon seeds, sunflower also provide omega-3 fats.
You can make a powder of the seeds and nuts and drizzle them over soups, dals, salads, chapati flour, and almost anything you can think of.
5. Water is your best friend
Do you recollect how you feel when you were thirsty? You are irritable, listless, and can’t concentrate.
Now, these aren’t the virtues you would want in a student preparing for exams. Hence, it is important to stay hydrated. Ideally drinking 1.5 liters of water a day is recommended.
Coconut water, buttermilk, milky drinks, some special teas like chamomile tea can not only help meet the recommended fluid intake but also help in providing nutrients and provide a sense of calm.
Foods that are good for memory
Wondering what foods stimulate the brain? Think colour to boost memory! If you could imagine a rainbow but made of foods then what would they be?
Think of berries (every colour and type), whole eggs (especially the yellow or yolk), green leafy veggies and colourful fruits, the pink of salmon, and the earthy colours from nuts and seeds!
Notice how these foods provide every nutrient: vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants, healthy carbs, even water! These act as brain foods for memory.
Recommended foods to eat when studying for exams
Remember the saying, ‘you are what you eat’? So if your child feeds on easily available junk food, then their brains will perform poorly.
Not really the best scenario for exams that are looming close. Instead, it would be wise to chart a good diet for exams with the following food groups incorporated wisely!
- High-protein foods like lean meat, fish, eggs, dairy, pulses, sprouts, nuts etc
- Fruits and vegetables.
- Whole grains like oats, brown rice, quinoa among others
- Nuts and seeds
- Ample water
While these may seem uninteresting to a student, the trick lies in adding them in innovative recipes. More on that later in the article.
Diet for exams by Nutrition experts at Possible
We asked the head of nutrition in Possible Mrs. Suhasini Mudraganam to help us with a general diet plan for exams that will help the students in need.
Remember this is just a general guideline and shouldn’t be used as a replacement for a proper nutritionist consultation.
Early morning: 3-4 soaked almonds with the skin and 3 walnuts.
Breakfast: 1 glass of milk / Fruit milkshake without added sugar + 2 Whole grain bread and egg omelette sandwiches / 2 mixed veg and paneer parantha with a bowl of low-fat curd / 1-2 whole grain or multigrain wrap (chapati will do fine as well) with baked beans and veggie saute / 1 bowl of savoury (with chopped veggies and masala) or jaggery sweetened oats with seeds, fruits and nuts.
Mid-morning snack: A colourful fruit platter / 3-4 Flaxseed and till laddoos or dry fruit laddoos + 1 glass of whey protein shake.
Lunch: It would be wise to include oily fish twice a week in lunch.
3 phulkas + 1 bowl fish curry + 1 bowl sprout salad / 1 bowl brown or red rice + 1 bowl of palak dal with Possible Seeds Cocktail
Half an hour after lunch: 1 glass spiced buttermilk.
Either make spicy curries or make a smoked salmon sandwich for lunch. Make a powder of the seeds and nuts and drizzle them over soups, dals, salads, chapati flour, and almost anything you can think of.
Mid-evening snacks: 1 bowl of fruit and nut muesli with milk / 1 plate of moong sprout veg red rice poha + 1 glass of fruit milkshake / 1 plate multi-grain upma + 1 glass of whey protein shake
Dinner: 1 bowl grilled chicken or fish preparation + 1 bowl brown rice pulao + 1 small bowl mixed veg raita / 2 Whole grain Chicken veg sandwich + 1 glass of skimmed milk.
Post dinner snack if needed: Trail mix containing nuts, seeds, and fruits / puffed quinoa and pulse snacks; healthy khakras; flaxseed and til laddoos; healthy cookies made from jowar, oats, and other whole grains.
What should you eat before a test?
So what to eat right before reporting to the examination hall? Well, the key point is to eat light and healthy.
Hence whole grain meals are definitely in but not so much to make the student feel lethargic or sleepy.
A tuna or a paneer sandwich; Chapati and paneer subji or egg vegetable bhurji with seeds and buttermilk;
Whole grain bread roll stuffed with chicken and vegetables are some good options for a pre-exam time diet.
Did you know?
The psychological and physiological aspects of examinations!
Exams are always accompanied with stress. And this increased stress, in turn, places an increased demand for certain water-soluble vitamins like Vit. C and B-complex.
The levels of vitamin C in the body varies greatly with the physical and emotional stress. It dips when subjected to a lot of stress.
A study found that students experiencing exam stress may have an increased craving for high fat and high sugar snacks.
At the same time, the physiological demand of certain nutrients like vit. C, B5, B6, zinc, magnesium, potassium, and the protein tyrosine shoots up.
These are the nutrients required for the generation of adrenal hormones or the stress-fighting hormones.
Maintain your activity level with the following tips
While the focus during exams is entirely on studies and a good exam time diet, the one neglected part is being physically active.
Waste of time? Oh definitely no! It will increase the rush of oxygen to your fatigued brain and will make you study better!
We can already sense ‘ifs and buts’ forming on your lips! Let us give you some easy tips on how to incorporate a sport or just be physically active while preparing for exams.
1. Take small breaks
Pouring over the books or on the computer may be a common sight but taking small breaks like a walk to the nearby store can refresh you greatly to return to studies and also make you active.
2. Know your study schedule
Some people prefer studying in the morning while some others in the night.
Know what works for you and get some outdoor time when you know you won’t be able to study! Remember not to do any stimulating activity just before you hit the bed as sleep will evade you.
3. Have a study and activity schedule
You could try to catch some sunshine or outdoor time on every alternate day. A schedule will help you keep track.
4. Walk to the exam center
Is it somewhere close? Then rather walk it because it will help you relax for the marathon to follow.
5. Get good sleep during exams
Getting a good night’s rest is equally important to ace the exams! It not just helps beat the stress but also helps to study better.
Its a well-established fact that sound sleep improves your mental efficiency with reduced stress and better performance . We provide you with some simple tips so that your child has a sound sleep during exams:
a) Put it in the schedule:
If you are a schedule person, you would surely have one for studies. Make time for SLEEP.
b) Watch what you eat and at what time:
If you eat a heavy dinner or are almost starving too close to the sleep time, then your sleep quality is affected. Rather, eat an early dinner by 8 or 9 and just supplement that small hunger with light healthy snacks.
c) Banish coffee, teas, cola:
That is because of the caffeine content. It is better avoided very close to bedtime.
Coffee seems like a favourite answer to ‘ how to avoid sleep during exams’ however, it is seriously not recommended for students.
Not only is it dehydrating, the initial boost can be followed by a serious low. It is definitely not a good beverage to be drunk in the night.
Instead, if coffee is drunk during the morning and that too in moderate amounts can actually help in alertness and not cause issues with sleep deprivation. Also, remember that too much tea or coffee can cause heartburn and acidity.
d) Consecrate bedroom as the peace room:
Which means no laptops, books for revision before sleep, TV or even the smartphone is not allowed. Your brain should lull you to sleep the minute you enter the bedroom.
So there you go, some handy tips to beat the exam time stress and ensure you bring your A-game to the examination hall!!