Healthy eating habits/Eat to succeed: A guide to healthy eating during university exams
Exams are a very stressful time for all students. Late night studying and last minute cramming can leave you feeling tired and anxious. During exam periods students often tend to overlook the types and amount of food they are consuming. Eating food high in saturated fat and sugar such as biscuits, lollies and chocolate can negatively affect exam performance and leave you feeling restless. Eating healthy is not as hard as you may think, and this is a simple guide to show you how!
Why is Eating Healthy Important During Exams?
Eating healthy is an important key to success. Eating food high in saturated fat, sugar and salt such as chips, biscuits and energy drinks can leave you feeling fatigued. When you snack on food such as these whilst studying you may feel a short energy burst however this is usually followed by a quick decrease in energy because of the drop in blood sugar levels. When a drop in blood sugar levels occurs you are left feeling low in energy and unmotivated to study. In order to avoid this its best to consume to foods high in fibre, vitamins and protein such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and meats.
How to Eat smart
Breakfast is an essential part of your day, especially when tackling exams. Breakfast provides energy and improves concentration because it breaks the overnight fasting period and provides your body with the fuel needed to concentrate. By eating breakfast it reduces your hunger in the morning and lowers the chances of you snacking on food high in fat and sugar throughout the day. Eating a breakfast high in fibre will also aid in reducing tiredness. Choose foods such as wholemeal breads and cereals that are labelled as high fibre.
The main nutrients needed for studying are iron and vitamin B. Foods high in iron include red meat, spinach and cereals. Foods high in vitamin B include food such as eggs and nuts. And don’t forget that fruit is your friend! Blueberries and bananas are a great snacking idea because they are full protein and fibre which will help you concentrate and keep you fuller for longer.
Coffee: Good or Bad?
Caffeine and sugar should be kept to a minimum; it does not mean you cannot drink any coffee it just means that it’s best to drink only moderate amounts. Two to two and a half cups per day (standard small take away cup size) is the recommended amount of caffeine that can be consumed daily. Drinking too much caffeine can trigger insomnia, nervousness and irritability. It can also upset your stomach and cause an increase in your heartbeat. If you are sensitive to caffeine it is best to be aware of the time of day you consume coffee. Drinking coffee close to bedtime can affect sleeping patterns and leave you feeling tired and restless the next day. A great idea is to swap coffee for a different beverage such as water, juice or even green tea.
Carbohydrates: Good or Bad?
Unfortunately many teenagers and young adults believe that carbohydrates are bad for you, however this is not true! Carbohydrates provide the body with glucose that is converted into energy needed for productive studying and physical activity. Healthy sources of carbohydrates include vegetables, fruits, beans and wholegrain foods. Unhealthy sources of carbohydrates are pastries, soft drinks and highly processed foods. These types of carbohydrates will provide you with only a short amount of energy and can contribute to weight gain.
Stress Busting Snack Ideas
Great sources of good carbohydrate foods for optimal studying include:
- Air popped popcorn- Which is a fantastic alternative to chips.
- Almonds- Almonds contain healthy fats and proteins which are essential nutrients in a balanced diet. It is recommended to eat approximately 28 grams of almonds per day which is the amount that can fit in the palm of your hand.
- Vegetables- Cutting up vegetables such as carrots, celery, and cucumber is an easy and convenient snack to eat whilst studying. It’s a good idea to cut up an extra amount of vegetables and keep them in the fridge so you can snack on them over 2-3 days.
- Oatmeal- Adding water and low-fat milk will help you stay fuller for longer and provide you with long lasting energy that will reduce hunger and snacking.
- Fruit salad – Fruit such as apples, bananas and oranges are some options you can include in your fruit salad. Snacking on fruit will satisfy sweet tooth cravings and is a fresh alternative to chips and lollies. Fruit will also provide you with essential vitamins needed for a healthy balanced diet.
- Low- Fat Greek yoghurt- Eating Greek yoghurt is an excellent source of calcium as well as being 30 percent protein. This means that it will leave you feeling satisfied and is an alternative option to ice-cream if you’re looking for a cool snack.
1.Bloomberg School of Public Health. (2014). Breakfast. Retrieved from http://www.jhsph.edu/offices-and-services/student-affairs/_documents/Breakfast
2.Centre For Science of Public Interest. (2014). Caffeine Content of Food and Drugs. Retrieved from http://www.cspinet.org/new/cafchart.htm
3.Choose Smart. (2014). Easy Ways to Eat More Fruit and Vegetables. Retrieved from http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/wp-content/uploads/UserFiles/File/pdf/resources/cdc/ChooseSmart_Womens_Brochure(1).pdf
4.Department of Health Education and Wellness. (2014). Healthy Eating During Exams. Retrieved from http://www.health.msstate.edu/health/resources/healthy_eating_during_exams.pdf
5.Global News. (2014). Why are nuts good for us and how many should we eat? Retrieved from http://globalnews.ca/news/1003078/why-are-nuts-good-for-us-and-how-much-should-we-be-eating-daily/