Exam Survival

Posted on Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

Written by Lindzie O'Reilly

Exam season is just around the corner (don't worry, so is summer vacation!). Aim to make the most of your final two weeks on campus by making sound food choices that will support energy levels, concentration, focus, and retention of all that information you've been trying to cram into your brain!

  1. Eat often

    Energy levels, concentration and mood are affected by your blood sugar. Low blood sugar results in fatigue, irritability and poor concentration. Meals and snacks should be every 2-4 hours, beginning within 30 minutes of waking, to prevent low blood sugar. Each meal and snack should contain some carbohydrate (grains, fruit, starchy vegetables) for quick energy and some protein (milk, eggs, meat, nuts, legumes) for energy that lasts.
  2. Front load your day

    Many students go long periods of time without eating and then eat the bulk of their food during the evening hours. This pattern of eating means that you have minimal fuel during the day when your body and brain need to be awake and active and then you consume the most fuel when you are trying to get your body to wind down and go to sleep. A good place to start is to aim to make breakfast, lunch and dinner similar in size.
  3. Choose whole grain more often

    Both white bread and whole grain bread are carbohydrates and both turn to sugar eventually. White bread, however, is easier for your body to digest so it turns to sugar very quickly resulting in a blood sugar (and energy) spike followed by a crash. Whole grain products give you more stable energy, concentration and mood. To determine if the products you regularly choose are whole grain, read the ingredient list. The first ingredient should be “whole grain” NOT “enriched” or “unbleached”.
  4. Stock up

    Grocery shop regularly to ensure you have lots of quick meal and snack options that will provide you with lasting energy. Try:
    • Veggies and hummus
    • Yogurt and granola
    • Cheese (try pre-packaged cheese string) and apple
    • Sandwich or wrap
    • Cottage cheese and fruit
    • Hard boiled egg (boil many a head of time) and whole grain crackers
    • Trail mix (mixture of your favourite nuts, dried fruit, and cereal)
    • Almonds and a granola bar (look for ≥4g fibre and ≤8g sugar)
    • Low sodium soup
    • Whole grain toast and peanut butter
    • Oatmeal and milk
  5. Drink all day

    Carry a water bottle with you all day and drink small amounts frequently.  You’ll be amazed how much better you feel when you’re well hydrated!
  6. Include high sugar foods and caffeinated beverages as part of balanced meals and snacks

    For many students, intake of sugary foods and caffeinated beverages increases drastically during stressful times. While these items may provide you with quick energy, they generally result in an energy crash that leaves you feeling even worse off. There is no need to avoid these foods and beverages all together, but try including them as part of a balanced meal or snack (with carbohydrate and protein) to prevent the spike and crash. For example:
    • Fruit, yogurt and a cookie
    • A muffin and a handful of nuts
    • A sandwich with meat, cheese and veggies with a coffee on the side
    • Cheese, crackers and a hot chocolate

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