As exam time is approaching, we all know that hard work is one of the most important things to help towards exam success. Also, enough sleep, regular study breaks, fresh air, regular physical activity and eating well can all help improve exam performance.
Eating well during exam time can help to improve concentration levels by providing your brain with the vital energy it needs. Ensuring a steady supply of glucose to the brain will help prevent loss of concentration during those study and exam hours.
Starting the day right: Breakfast
It is well said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and during exam time this statement could not be truer. Try to choose a breakfast which is high in fibre that will provide a slow release of glucose. This will increase the energy levels after the long over night fast. If you skip breakfast, this can hamper concentration levels.
Try one of the following breakfast suggestions;
Wholegrain breakfast cereal e.g. Weetabix, Fruit and Fibre, Branflakes topped with fresh or dried fruit; or
Porridge with dried fruit e.g. sultanas; or
Wholegrain toast topped with peanut butter and glass of fruit juice.
or if your nerves will not allow a full breakfast try;
Homemade smoothie with added porridge oats; or
Piece of fruit; or
Pot of yoghurt; or
Glass of fruit juice.
As many students will leave their homes early in the morning and it is quite a while before their exam, try to bring a snack with you to take just before or during the exam.
Regular Meals and Snacks
Eating regular meals and snacks during the day will also provide you with a steady supply of energy to feed your brain. Try to eat more wholegrain foods e.g. wholemeal breads, wholegrain pasta, brown rice and jacket potatoes. With most students sitting two exams each day it is important that lunch provides you with the fuel for staying power. Avoid the chips, pizza and sausage rolls as these will have you feeling sluggish for afternoon exams.
Healthy lunches and snacks ideas;
Jacket potato topped with baked beans/tuna or low fat cheese
Wholegrain pasta or brown rice with tuna/chicken or ham.
Vegetable soup with wholemeal bread/scone
Wholemeal bread sandwich with tuna/salmon/chicken/cheese/egg.
Fruit especially bananas
Dried Fruit and Nuts
Wholegrain cereal bars
Wholemeal bread topped with chopped banana
Keeping hydrated is vital to maintain concentration levels. Even slight dehydration can cause fatigue and affect concentration. Aim for 6 – 8 glasses of fluid each day e.g. water, fruit juice, milk; try to limit caffeine drinks such as tea and coffee to 1 – 2 cups per day. Limit energy drinks that contain too much caffeine. Caffeine has been shown to increases alertness, reaction times and ability to think clearly, but too much caffeine can make you irritable. Too much caffeine can also increase dehydration as caffeine is a diuretic, causing you to go to the toilet more.
Other vital elements: Try to get enough sleep, minimum of 8 hours each night and avoid caffeine drinks late at night as these may disturb your sleep. Being active is really important and is a great for reducing stress level, aim to have at least 30 mins of physical activity each day.
For more information on healthy eating around exam time or on healthy recipes for lunches and snacks visit www.safefood.eu or www.indi.ie.
For more information on any of the issues discussed above or for more information on diet and nutrition, please contact Maria at The Community Nutrition and Dietetic Service, HSE Dublin-Mid Leinster by telephone on (044) 9395518 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.