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Top 9 healthy foods to snack on during exam time

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With exam term creeping up on upon us, metaphorically cracking its knuckles and humming the Jaws theme, revision becomes a more and more important, albeit unwelcome prospect.

Stress and anxiety over upcoming exams, marks and eventually the future tend to hit straight into our eating habits, and while frozen pizzas, garlic bread and chips dunked in mayo might sound like amazing dinner, they are depriving our bodies of vital nutrients while givings us empty calories. 

However, there are certain things we can do to avoid making that worse - it does require a bit of discipline, but once you get over the first hurdle, it's quite easy to incorporate healthy food in your diet.

1. Fish 

While it might not come as a surprise to many, fish - in particular oily types - is vital to providing us with important nutrients and you should be looking to incorporate that in your diet come exam time (and in general, really).

Salmon is the best choice since not only does it barely smell, but it's also jack full of healthy fats, in particular omega 3. If fish is not your thing, at least get fish oil (omega 3) tablets and take one daily - omega 3 is essential for helping the brain function better, and fish is the easiest way to obtain them from. For the vegetarians or for those who can't stomach fish for one reason or another, try chia or flaxseed, which are believed to be the best vegetarian source of omega-3.

2. Eggs (B12)

Eggs are full of protein (which by the way makes them a great breakfast before an exam) and a nutrient called choline, which is thought to boost cognitive performance and improve memory. And boy, do we need our memory on full performance during exam term!

But the cherry on top is that it contains the group of vitamins B, the MVPs of the vitamin world when it comes to the production of energy and keeping us alert. Eggs are the best and most sure-fire way to get a nice variety of those, from thiamin (vitamin B1, keeps the nervous system healthy) to vitamin B12, which helps break down food more effectively. 

3. Nuts 

Walnuts in particular are good, as they are considered brain food. They contain Vitamin E and zinc, which are thought to have a good impact on the brain. Don't count peanuts, because despite their name they are actually legumes, Peanut butter on the other hand, is a good choice of snack before an exam since, it keeps you full for a bit.

4. Fruit

Not all fruit are created equal, however, so make your picks carefully, while keeping in mind to have a varied diet. Apples are packed full with fast-acting antioxidants, which can help relieve stress. Blueberries are even better, so much so they have been called superfoods, giving us that dose of Vitamin C for that extra kick. If you need energy, bananas are a good, healthy snack.  

5. Dairy

Stock up on plain Greek yogurt (mix it with some blueberries for a nice snack ticking two things of this list!) or cottage cheese, rather than any of the more sugary variants. That's because these contain probiotics, which help sort out our digestive systems and keep them healthy and happy. No more stomach tying itself into knots!

6. Curry

Rather than the curry itself, the turmeric, which goes into quite a few curry recipes, is the key ingredient. The spice contains many anioxidants and has been widely recognised as a help for just about everything from fatigue to cancer. If you can find a way to incorporate it in your diet, got for it!

7. Vegetables 

You wouldn't think a list of healthy foods would miss out on vegetables, would you? Anyway, focus on dark, leafy greens, which are all full of vitamin K and nitrates, which help build pathways to the brain. Stuff like kale, spinach or broccoli isn't incredibly tasty, but it's incredibly healthy and it also gives us a good dose of vitamins B. It makes for a good snack to much away absent-mindedly while you study!

8. Chocolate 

Now onto nicer stuff: chocolate can in fact be good for you! However, forgo the milky, sugary concoctions of the likes of Cadbury and look for a dark chocolate of at least 68% cocoa content. Dark chocolate is proven to encourage the release of endorphins in the body, which make us happy, protect the brain and improve blood flow to it. All of that generally improves focus, learning and memory. 

9. Water 

A massive mistake we make is completely forget to keep ourselves hydrated, often putting all our efforts to be more healthy in jeaopardy. If you find it hard to drink one litre a day, as the NHS recommends, try to substitute some of it with green or herbal teas, which also have positive effects on their own. 

10. Get those Zzz's 

While it's not food, it's essential that you try to stick to your regime (or try to get a normal sleeping pattern) in order not to have a meltdown during exam season. Not only does your body benefit from it, but also a lot of mental health problems benefit from us sticking to a routine of healthy living. And at certain times, when stress is at its highest, we need any possible help.

When it comes down to studying itself, smaller, more regular portions are your friend, and snacking is actually encouraged since your brain needs its sustenance.

Before exams, take care not to eat too much or too little - exam stress has its way of twisting our digestive systems, so don't do anything that could potentially upset it. Look for healthy foods that release their energy rather slowly - eggs, nuts, bananas, dairy like yogurt and cottage cheese.

Finally, no matter the temptation, DON'T rely on processed food that's full of calories and has few nutrients; pills or too much caffeine. We tend to look for sugary, processed foods when we are studying, but those are far from your best friends. At the end of the day, looking for a balanced, healthy diet with minimal processed food is the best choice. 

Get all your cake ingredients at your local Co-op. Students get 10% off with an NUS extra card.

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