Healthy Diet for Students During Exam

During exam time, having higher than usual stress levels seems to be the new norm amongst students. In fact, many students admit to feeling anxious and overwhelmed as they feel the pressure to succeed and meet their own personal expectations. Examination stress among college students has been a topic of interest for many years. College students experience high stress due to various reasons such as lack of preparation, style of their study and lack of needed information. When stress is perceived negatively or becomes excessive, it leads to anxiety before and during examinations and ultimately affects their academic achievement. The present study was conducted to know the examinations stress felt by college students under Arts, Science and Commerce stream of education.
Exam anxiety is one of the most important problems among moderate and low average students. In the time of examination, many students and parents approach counsellors and psychologists which show the existence of the severity of this problem. It prompted the researcher to make an in-depth study of this subject. Besides examination anxiety, students are facing problems like loneliness, learning disabilities, physical changes, emotional problems, peer group pressures, rebellious behaviours etc.

What are the effects of exam stress?

While you are feeling stressed, your brain is not in its best state to accumulate information. This can lead to a vicious cycle – the more you stress, the less work you do, the more you panic about stressing and not working and the greater the feeling of panic becomes, resulting in even less work being done – and so it goes on.

Experiencing panic or stress during an exam can make you forget the information you learned. This is less likely to happen if you have put in the hours and prepared well, although sometimes over-preparing can also lead to problems.

Eating Healthy During Exam

For our brains to function at their most efficient they need the best nutritional fuel. Feeding our brains with junk food will only lead to poorly functioning brains, not the greatest scenario for doing well in exams, helping with stress and enabling concentration and memory.

Brains require a high proportion of energy to function so missing meals and surviving on high caffeine drinks will not help exam preparation and exam success.

Tips for Healthy Eating

  1. Regular Meals, Especially Breakfast - try to include wholegrain carbohydrate at each meal rather than high sugar food and drinks to maintain a stable blood sugar level during the day. High sugar foods give an initial boost of energy but this is not maintained and can lead to subsequent low energy, lethargy and low mood. Wholegrain carbohydrates include porridge oats, wholemeal bread, wholegrain pasta, brown rice, potatoes, beans and pulses also help to provide stable blood sugar levels.
  2. Healthy Snacks- Try to avoid high sugar, high-fat snacks and eat healthy options that will maintain stable blood sugar levels. Fresh, dried fruits, nuts, seeds such as pumpkin and sunflower would be good options. Snacks such as peanut butter or cottage cheese on celery sticks, cheese and oat or rice cakes, toast and marmite or peanut butter, popcorn, yoghurt, raw vegetables- carrots, peppers, fennel, tomatoes.
  3. Good Omega 3 Fat Intake- Omega 3 has been shown to help brain function and increase concentration. It also helps to improve your immune system when your body and mind are stressed. The best source of omega 3 in oily fish such as mackerel, sardines, salmon, trout, and herrings. A great lunch would be tinned or smoked mackerel or sardines on wholemeal toast. Try to have oily fish twice a week. If you are vegetarian then seeds and nuts can also provide omega 3.
  4. Keep Well Hydrated- Remember that is recommended having 1.2-1.5 litres of fluid/day. Dehydration can cause listlessness and irritability and difficulty with concentration.
    avoid HIGH sugar/caffeine drinks if possible as they can have the opposite effect, causing dehydration, giving low energy/low mood after an initial energy boost. Coffee is the best drunk in the day rather than the evening and can give a lift to our alertness provided intake is not excessive as it can then cause jitteriness and problems with sleep deprivation.
    a milky drink or herbal drink such as chamomile tea can help sleep at night and be calming. Try to drink water by preference and take some into your exam.
  5. Pre Exam Eating- try to have a light meal before your exam, enough to give you energy through the exam- hence a meal including wholegrain carbohydrate but not too much that you feel sleepy and lethargic.

    Ideas for Breakfast

- Porridge and dried or fresh fruits
- Weetabix, shredded wheat, muesli or similar whole grain cereal and fresh or dried fruit
- Egg(boiled, poached, scrambled, fried) with wholemeal or toast
- Yoghurt with seed, nuts and fruits
- Low sugar cereal bar and a glass of milk.

Ideas for Lunch
- Oatcakes, cheese and fruit
- Baked beans on wholemeal toast
- Tinned or smoked mackerel/sardines on wholemeal toast

- Baked Potato (Including Skin) With Grated Baked Beans, Tuna or Other Favored Filling

- Wholemeal bread/roll/wrap with cold meat, cheese or peanut butter and salad
- Omelette with cheese, ham, mushrooms or tomatoes and wholemeal bread.

During the exam period try to have as a stock of healthy foods, drink and snacks that you have pre-planned so when those moments of boredom, weariness, panic or times of just needing a break from your revision to come along you are well prepared. Pre-plan your meals during your exams so that you give your brains and bodies the best possible fuel for maximum efficiency and therefore greatest success. Some exercise alongside will only enhance a healthy appetite and refresh those overworked brain cells.


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