Student SOS: Fuel for Exam Season
By Danielle Collins, Nutrition Intern
May is a stressful month for high school students. Countless test acronyms buzz around the school building: AP, IB, SAT, and ACT. As students devote themselves to studying, cramming, and taking practice tests in preparation for standardized exams, nutrition is not in the forefront of their minds. Some students come to exams with prepackaged breakfast cookies or grab a family-sized bag of pretzels to munch on instead of eating a real dinner. These foods are not testing fuel. They provide little nutritional value and may cause sugar spikes and crashes that will not help maximize test performance potential.
Here are some tips that will fuel exam-season performance:
Consume Low-Glycemic Carbs
- Low-glycemic index carbohydrates provide sustained energy without spiking your blood sugar. Consuming a diet rich in these foods will help prevent the “crash” that can occur after a high carbohydrate meal. Beans, quinoa, and brown rice are some good options. Quinoa, in particular, contains high levels of complex carbs, protein, and fiber.
- Fruits and Vegetables are great sources of healthy carbs, fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals. Consuming produce with high amounts of fiber may also help stabilize blood sugar levels and keep students feeling satiated during those long cramming and exam sessions.
Consume Healthy Fats
- Omega-3 fats are excellent for brain function. Sources of omega-3 include flaxseeds [as flax meal], walnuts, chia seeds, and avocado. Salmon is also a great source.
- Eating breakfast is absolutely essential for sustained energy and brain function during exams.
- Here are a couple of quick and easy breakfast recipes students can enjoy:
- Greek yogurt or dairy-free yogurt with chia or flax meal, dark chocolate chips, 1 cup fresh berries, and a drizzle of honey
- Chia seed pudding (1/2 cup nut milk, 2 T chia seeds, vanilla, and touch of sweetener such as maple syrup or stevia mixed together and then stored overnight.) Healthy toppings such as cocoa powder, nut butter, and sliced banana can be added in the morning for an extra nutritional punch