Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

10 Tips for Healthy Eating During Exams

posted in Lists and Leftovers by Jessica Howard

albert einstein

When you’re studying for finals, good nutrition often slides way down on the priority list. It’s easy to get into the habit of glugging coffee and gobbling take-out pizza, because you don’t want to waste time on food preparation. But, actually, good nutrition should be part of your study plan because it’s going to help you ace those tests. The better the fuel your brain gets, the better you’ll study. It’s a…well…no-brainer.

Here are 10 tips for eating right during exams:

  1. How do I eat smarter? Meeting daily vitamin and mineral requirements will make doing your best much easier. Iron and B vitamins are especially important to maintaining the physical and mental energy necessary to study well. Iron-containing foods include red meat, cereals and spinach; one good meal idea is chili because it contains ground beef and kidney beans. Foods that contain B vitamins include whole-grains, wheat germ, eggs and nuts. Fish and soy are other foods that are said to help boost your brain by providing the nutrients it needs.
  2. Dude, chewable Vitamin C is not a meal. Dietary supplements are good, but real food is better. An orange contains not only Vitamin C, but also fiber, beta carotene and other minerals — so it can’t be replaced by a pill. When you’re heading for the library, pack whole-food items like apples, bananas, clementines, carrot sticks or dried apricots.
  3. Eat at regular intervals. Eating regular meals helps keep nutrient and energy levels more stable, curbing the temptation of empty-calorie snacks in the vending machine.
  4. Big meals keep on turning … in your stomach. You might find that eating the standard three-big-meals-a-day slows you down mentally and physically. Consider 5 or 6 well-balanced, smaller meals, like toast spread with peanut butter, hummus or tuna, or a piece of cheese with fruit.
  5. Meet breakfast, your new study buddy. While much is said about the reasons to eat breakfast, less known are the best ways to eat smart in the morning. Coffee and a donut just don’t cut it. The idea is to get some protein, calcium, fibre and a piece of fruit or a vegetable in there. So, a bowl of cereal with milk and a piece of fruit would do the trick. Or try a cereal bar with milk. We have some additional quick breakfast ideas for you to enjoy!
  6. Going bananas? Good. Fruit ranks high among the best foods you can eat for your brain. Blueberries (which can be bought frozen in bags) get a lot of attention because they contain powerful antioxidants and other nutrients. The natural sugars in fruit offer clean energy, so you don’t experience the crash that follows consumption of refined sugar.
  7. Choose powerful vegetables. Not all vegetables are created equal. The darker the color, the higher the concentration of nutrients. For example, spinach has more to offer the mind and body than iceberg lettuce. Other great vegetable choices include bell peppers, broccoli and sweet potatoes.
  8. Smart snacking can enhance studying. Snack smart while studying and you may find that you retain more. Try to get two food groups into your snacks to balance the nutrients and keep your blood-sugar level stable. Some smart snack examples are banana with peanut butter, a small baked potato with cottage cheese, or an English muffin pizza.
  9. Gather simple recipes for nourishing foods. It’s easy to feed the brain well. No-fuss recipes let you eat to succeed, without taking too much time. Here are four ideas:
    • Combine scrambled eggs with toast, cheese or salsa
    • Spend 15 minutes preparing chili and continue studying while it simmers for two hours
    • Go Tex Mex with quesadillas, adding whatever veggies you’ve got on hand
    • A little chopping is all it takes to construct a hearty Chef’s Salad
  10. Stay well hydrated. Choose your beverages well, though. Caffeine and sugar should be kept to a minimum. Since too much caffeine can make you jittery, try to drink moderate amounts: 400 to 450 mg per day, the equivalent of 2/2.5 cups, (16 to 20 ounces or 500 to 625 ml). Better choices include water, fruit juice, milk, and anti-oxidant-rich green tea.

Good luck!

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84 Comments

Mark said:

Point No. five about breakfast is important, and it is also a major point in weight loss. Nutrient take in early in the day are spread out along your day (Calories taken generally will not end up as fat) so the idea you have given of having all food groups in your breakfast is fundamentally correct. . .and important

Villa Orlando said:

Wow, not only is this article full or great tips, but it has a ton of links to other articles out there on the net which I found thoroughly useful. Thanks for this.

robert said:

shame there is no mention of essential fatty acids such as omega 3′s etc. Easily the most important part of a diet that supports brain function.

Dann said:

My exam is going on and I really need these tips..thanx for sharing .

Serg said:

Nice article. Keep good stuff coming…

yarden said:

thank you very much

Michael Bergman said:

Great article. Too many students overlook how well they’re eating and how it corresponds with how they feel and function.

Jennifer said:

Small meals are also a great way to keep off the “freshman 15″!

Abbie said:

It is best to eat more small meals throughout the day than a few big meals. Good luck!

Kathy Maister said:

Thanks Everyone!

All of these tips are great for healthy eating during exams AND for any stressfull times in life! :)

Manoj Kadam said:

my exam is nearly, so i like you tips…………..

Thanks

Kathy Maister said:

I wish you all the best Manoj!

Health Nut said:

Great tips on what food to eat while taking exams. I wish I knew these tips when I was in college.

Hetal said:

Thank you for this wonderful article. It really drives home the importance of eating right before exams.

adil said:

Iv been eating soooooooo much during exams, i hope its just stress and not becoming a habit… i used to be heavy, and it was hard enough loosing weight to begin with, tomorrows my last exam,… i hope. Hopefully then i can go back to exercising… For me, that really cuts down a lot on cravings for food. You dont wanna see your efforts going to waste by eating junk!

Steve said:

Great tips and links thanks for the post I think most people would find these tips extremely useful especially with the constant growth of overweight people and health problems.

-Steve

Monavie said:

Thanks for these great tips. I am studying for a industry qualification and have found it difficult to eat healthy and remaining focused while doing exams.

Kathy Maister said:

The brain clearly functions better on a healthy diet. Nothing worse than a “junk food hang-over”!

gimmy said:

I think we need more than just ten tips for healthy eating during exams, we need an entire new education because we can’t remove all the bad habits that fast. I always find real help in taking vitamins during exams.

camelmunch18 said:

THANKS a bunch!!!

i have my major exams just around the corner and the article has certainly enlightened me on frequent small meal proportions versus less frequent but heavier ones.i was afraid my eating habits might have an adverse effect on my studies…but as exams are near,i find myself staying off the kitchen.I even forgo eating sometimes when i’m too absorbed in my studies.I know this is bad but since i’ve learnt all abt the healthy snacking, i might as well apply it…!

Thanks again!!

randy said:

Nice tips, thanks a lot

Kathy Maister said:

There is a direct correlation between healthy eating and doing well in school.

(Red bull and ring dings are great but they will not help you to get good grades!)

mancan said:

Ahhh.. my exams are going to start this week! Here comes the stress! Great tips, hopefully it’ll assist me through my hard times x(

Jessica said:

Hello Mancan,

Good luck with your exams! May the force be with you.

Jessica
Startcooking.com

Steve Martin said:

A good night sleep is an essential component of a healthy life style because it will relax your body and mind and enables you to perform your task more effectively during day time.

Max said:

Yep, I totally agree with this – when I was in college I really let my health go which I would not advise to any student

Max said:

It is indeed very important to have a good, long, healthy sleep. I don’t understand why many public schools are starting early. Pupils need to get a healthy sleep, as their body is still forming.

Max said:

Thanks for sharing these tips. They will come right in handy, as I’m having my first exam next week.

Bova said:

Eating healthy/smart is a very bright thing to do. I’ve noticed within my own self that not eating properly, missing meals, or the lack of eating a healthy meal affects the way I feel and how I perform.

Noname said:

I like to drink an acai berry juice that I purchased through a local discount store. I seems to be more alert and have greater ability to focus.

Max said:

While eating part is very important during exams, you should not forget about sleep. On average, student should sleep at least 7(!) hours per day. Otherwise, you can no stay concentrated for the whole day.

colon said:

“While eating part is very important during exams, you should not forget about sleep. On average, student should sleep at least 7(!) hours per day. Otherwise, you can no stay concentrated for the whole day.”

Good point

M2D said:

“Thanks for sharing these tips. They will come right in handy, as I’m having my first exam next week.”

Yeah most people are done but exams are still in full force here :( you dont even wanna know trust me.

Puviraj said:

These tips are really easy to be followed.

So that thank you.

ranjeet said:

the best way ……….
less eat , more study…….
take milk time to time….
or tea or coffy is enough

startcooking said:

Good luck everyone with your exams!

Jane said:

I’m working my way through college by selling phone cards and don’t always have time for breakfast but thank you very much for these tips. I miss my Mom!

FD said:

Thanks for providing these great tips.


James said:

I think we need more than just ten tips for healthy eating during exams, we need an entire new education because we can’t remove all the bad habits that fast.

kavitha said:

nice

ghds said:

The best way ……….

Eat less, study more…….

Drink milk…. and not too much tea or coffee.

BBF said:

Great Tips!

I’m sure these are all working with proper discipline!

I like the e=mc2 thing..

Jarrod said:

We all need to develop better eating habits. Its hard to find time to eat healthy sometimes. I’ve slowly learned over time where I can eat that has healthy options on the menu.

Bhakra said:

wow! great idea. I included your idea into my latest seminar about how to study smart. I hope you can publish more articles like this….Thanks.

startcooking said:

Thanks Everyone!

I think I should re-name this post to 10 Tips for a Healthy Life!

Liz said:

Interesting article. Well done and good luck with your very great work. I wish you have a luxury time to consider using benefits articles can offer. Thanks for sharing.

Eating healthy said:

Eating healthy be an exam is very important. You should be sure to take vitamins and herb supplements.

Inpred said:

I tried with some vitamins during this period. But I did not saw any major difference.

Alexis said:

I try to eat a balanced meal every chance I get. I really like when you say eat at regular intervals. This is so true because a lot of us eat at all kinds of times at it is bad for you.

Hochzeit said:

Ahhh.. my exams are going to start this week! Here comes the stress! Great tips, hopefully it’ll assist me through my hard times x(

livescore fotbal said:

great post!thanks

meciurile zilei said:

i like this post!

pariuri sigure said:

nice article!thanks for sharing

RB said:

Everyone needs to make it their priority that their meals is of adequate nutrients whether it be before an exam or not : Good Forum.

Moria said:

Great article! Comes exactly in the right moment – thanks a lot ;)

Myo said:

Antioxidants also help you to recover better from exercise… and that means you can build more muscle and burn more body fat in the long term!

Travis said:

There is definitely no substitute for whole grains, fruits, vegetables and the like, but having the proper vitamins and minerals, as well as supplements can be very beneficial for anyone looking to maintain a healthy diet, lose weight, or just be healthy in total. All around, nice article!

Cheyne said:

I think that this post is really cool, but I would suggest that we could call it just nutrition during busy times…

I especially like the point of making breakfast your new study buddy.. This makes perfect sense to me, I used to be the type to constantly skip breakfast. That certainly didn’t work well.

Queenest said:

Many diseases can be prevented if the body is well nourished. The defense mechanism or immune system is strong enough to defend the body. Unfortunately due to lack of time or laziness, many people prefer to take the easy way out by eating fast foods that do nothing for you but make you fat and unhealthy.

Graeme Thomas said:

I’ve always found that studying dramatically improves when you limit the amount of simple sugars and caffeine while studying. While both of these compounds provide a temporary boost, they also tend to come with a corresponding crash which can totally cripple concentration.

I like to suggest people try drinking green tea instead of coffee or energy drinks like Red Bull. You get a very little amount of caffeine, but with no crash and you find that it really helps stabilize energy levels during long study periods.

Jeanne said:

“I wrote a post titled “Proper Hydration is essential for good health” on my It’s All About Nutrition blog which talks about the importance of staying hydrated at all times and especially during hot summer months. Proper hydration is even more important during periods of heavy physical activity and stressful periods such as exam time.

Gary said:

With a MS behind me, I can say a good diet and sleep is most important to me. I’ve never been heavy into sugars, don’t like the sweetness, and perhaps that’s served me well. A healthy diet, I feel, is the most important of the two, because I generally get enough sleep. Eating properly, I’m a born Southerner, has been a problem. No, I’m not overweight, but it’s only because I try to live a healthy lifestyle. I think this is an situation that each of us, on our own, must figure out.

gurner said:

Proper hydration and diet and very big factors. Also adequate exercise will help concentration. I’m not sure coffee is a good thing.

I’ve been trying to follow an alkaline foods list for benefits of more mental clarity and energy. The first 10 days loosely following it worked well. I definitely felt less groggy when waking up which let me study more effectively. The simple breakfasts it provides are worthwhile too.

Steve said:

I couldn’t agree more with this article. There is NO substitute for getting your vitamins and minerals from the food that you eat, so diet is the most important factor.

However, it’s not always possible to eat a healthy well-balanced diet – especially if you’re revising. So that’s when supplements can help.

As one poster has pointed out, there’s no mention of essential fatty acids (EFAs) here, and they are REALLY important for brain function.

If you’d like to find out more about Omega 3 fish oils and how they could be of benefit to you, check out my web site.

Aaron said:

Heres a few extra tips that work well for me still today! Get a steamer for vegetables… then just keep it on the stove, throw a few veggies like asparagus or broccoli in it & let it steam for a few minutes. Top it with olive oil & garlic .. good to go! Oatmeal quick oats is great for breakfast to… just microwave water for a few minutes pour on quick oats… add some honey or blue berries & your good to go in a few minutes! Dont forget to drink more water & get more sleep!!

the food pyramid said:

I think if you follow the food pyramid guidelines you would be alright with that.

rnoel said:

Acidity in the body causes the alkalizing minerals to be leached from the other parts of the body to neutralize the acid which can definitely affect brain and body function.

Rick said:

I work at a college in South Florida. It’s not just during exams that students don’t eat properly, it’s all year long. Why isn’t nutrition and healthy eating taught in school?

Aldo Mc Bride said:

Thank’s for the information, now I know some of the best way to start healthy happy life style. I love it ;)

Noname said:

Nutrition is so vital to our health. We still don’t seem to realize that the majority of sickness and disease can be traced to two things: nutrient deficiency and toxicity. Great post!

Todd said:

As a nutritionist, I found your article refreshing. Thanks for sharing. Good stuff. :-)

GGG said:

Fantastic! I see so may people eating SO unhealthy during the exam I nearly get sick..
Lovely article!

Kelly said:

I like this post. This is a great site, full of wonderful information. Thanks for sharing!

Jeff said:

Eating healthy foods rather than taking pill is certainty the way to increase energy but also cost less. The same thing happens when you save electricity rather than putting some electronic to sleep just shut it off.

Mari said:

Great Piece!

I love it!

Very informative!

Thanks for sharing!

Very true!

In order to have a balance diet just take the recommended amount of vitamins and minerals everyday. Not too little, not too much!

Stay healthy!

Noname said:

Excellent reminder that we need to keep up healthy habits, and even improve upon them. during times of stress.

I speak from experience making it though several exam seasons on coke and potato chips. I can’t say that I aced the tests!

If I could do it over again, I would start with a good breakfast as recommended.

Bwin said:

Cool! Very very…Thanks for sharing these tips. They will come right in handy, as I’m having my first exam next week.

Dawood said:

Eating good is not just for muscle-heads. All the same avoid heavy, starchy foods when studying or going for an exam as these can make you sluggish and/or sleepy.

Tower said:

Healthy eating should not be done when there you are about to take an examination, but it should be done everyday to ensure that your brain is functioning properly as well as the rest of your body. When choosing the right food for you, you have to know what kind of food preparation is the cleanest – take kosher food as an example. There is a saying that “we are what we eat” and it would be great to be known as a healthy person instead of just going for the taste and ignoring the health implications.

Herb said:

YES!! And the main thing is don’t give into fast food… its so hard to say now because its so easy & fast!!

Tony said:

Great stuff. These exams can be tough if you don’t have the right energy. Thanks

Jimmy said:

Any edge helps in test taking and if you’re feeling good from what you’ve eaten, that is only a plus.

collin said:

These are valuable tips not only during exams but it can used regularly. Soluble fiber foods are always preferred over insoluble fiber foods although both are rich in nutrients they have a difference. Soluble fiber foods once had even a little doesn’t make us hungry for a long time. I think a proper diet is required during the exams, correct?

Thanks
Collin paul

Guy said:

Eating Healthy foods during exams can help our mind function well.
Healthy diet shouldn’t be only before or during exams.We should include it in our everyday diet .We should always be physically and mentally prepared.