Did you know that what you eat and drink can affect your test performance? Is there a diet to follow on your test day? In our increasingly health-conscious world, parents and students are seeking the answers to these important questions.
We all hope that healthy pre-exam nutrition will give us an added edge during that crucial time, and in fact, it can.
Nutritionists emphasize the importance of healthy eating habits at this stressful time. The right food and drink can energize your system, improve your alertness and sustain you through the long exam hours. Meanwhile, the wrong dietary choices can make you feel sluggish, jittery, or burned out. EHC lists out what will help you perform at your best on your test day.
Do not skip food
Your brain needs the energy from food to work efficiently. You need to keep your mental focus on your exam and not on your hunger. It would be a shame to study intensively before your exam and then be too fatigued physically to do your best on exam day. You may try having a protein shake or smoothie if the normal food doesn’t work.
Many studies have shown that concentration, performance and memory are improved if you eat in the morning. Try cereal with milk or toast with spread or if your kids can manage more than this, add some fruit (fresh or canned) and some protein, e.g., yoghurt, eggs or baked beans.
Food for brain
This includes protein-rich foods which can lead to greater mental alertness. Healthy food choices on exam day include eggs, nuts, yogurt, and cottage cheese. Good breakfast combinations might be whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk, eggs and toast with jam, porridge, oatmeal, or sugar-free muesli. Other dietary choices considered to be brain foods are fish, walnuts, blueberries, sunflower seeds, flaxseed, dried fruits, figs, and prunes.
Foods to avoid
On exam day, stay away from foods made of white flour, such as cookies, cakes, and muffins, which require added time and energy to digest. Also avoid foods that are high in refined sugar, such as chocolates, desserts, and candies. Do not have turkey before an exam as it contains L-tryptophan, an essential amino acid which makes you feel sleepy. Also carbs such as rice or potatoes, eaten in large quantities, can make you feel heavy and sleepy.
Plenty of fluids
Make sure you drink enough water before and during your exam. Tea also works, though without a lot of sugar. Dehydration can make you lose your concentration, feel faint, and sap your energy. Don’t wait till you are thirsty to drink a glass of water. If you wait till you are thirsty, it means your body is already a little dehydrated.
Beverages to avoid
Avoid alcohol completely on exam day. Obviously, you cannot do well on an exam if you are drunk, have a headache, or are feeling nauseous. In general, reduce your drinking around exam time to avoid hangovers, dullness, or excessive fatigue. Avoid sugary sodas and colas. Avoid caffeine, as it can increase your nervousness.
Eat enough to feel satisfied but not so much as to feel full. If you eat a big breakfast or lunch before an exam, you will feel drowsy and heavy. Your body’s energy will be focused on the digestive process rather than on providing your brain with the energy it needs to function efficiently. Instead, try a light lunch such as a salad with chicken or salmon.
Most students do not eat a healthy balanced diet. When you survive on pizza, junk food, and coffee, your body ends up with a lack of essential vitamins and minerals. A multivitamin can help. The B vitamins especially strengthen brain functioning. Iron, calcium, and zinc can boost your body’s ability to handle stress.
In some countries, you are given a five- to ten-minute break in the middle of a long exam. Carry healthy snacks, such as protein bars, trail mix, energy bars, granola bars, almonds, walnuts, or fruit for such times, to keep your energy high. Avoid chocolates or sweet treats as the energy high could be followed by an energy crash during your exam.
Get enough sleep
Many students get into the habit of studying late into the night, hoping to cram in a little more information into their already exhausted brains. Instead, on the night before the exam, stop studying in the early evening. After that, take it easy, eat your dinner, lay out your clothes for the next day, pack your bag, take a shower, set a couple of alarms and head to bed early. To function at your best on exam day, you need not only the energy that comes from healthy nutrition, but also the energy that comes from adequate, restful sleep.
Your most productive time
Some people work better at the beginning of the day, while others work best in the night. Whichever it is, schedule intense revision at the peak of your productivity.
Red meat 3 to 4 times a week helps to prevent low levels of iron which can affect concentration, memory and learning abilities and also provides other essential nutrients such as protein, zinc, omega-3 and B vitamins.
Workouts, especially outdoors, can help students cope with mental stress and recharge. Take a 30-minute walk outside, jump with a skipping rope, hit the gym or take the dog for a walk in the park.
Eat with family
You should aim to sit down as a family to enjoy meals together. It is the perfect opportunity to offer emotional support.