Exam years are busy and stressful times – you have a lot going on from studying, constant class tests to extra after school classes. This is all on top of trying to maintain some kind of hobby base and social life! With all of this going on, nutrition can fall to the bottom of your priority list! However, good nutrition can be one of the most important factors in helping you maintain a work life balance and help you do your best in all exams you face over the year. Nutrition can help boost brain health, aid concentration and assist in managing stress. So here is a plan you can apply over the course of the exam year to help you get the best results you can get!
It is important to have a strong and healthy body heading into exams so that you can be at your best mentally and physically. Similar to exam content -you can’t cram it all in the night before the exam! When it comes to nutrition consistently eating healthy over time, is really important so you have a strong and healthy brain to call on when you need it for the exam period. Also, work for the exam doesn’t just happen on the day. Therefore, it is important you use healthy nutrition to help you perform at your best for all your classes and studying throughout the year. Don’t forget to get enough sleep and exercise as both of these are essential in getting the body and mind in peek health for exams.
So what is eating healthy?
Eat 3 solid meals a day with nutritious snacks in between. This means a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. Make sure all meals are balanced and contain the correct proportions of carbs, protein and healthy fat as well as a portion of fruit and vegetables to supply essential brain boosting vitamins and minerals. Here is an example of a portion plate for meals – it shows roughly how much of your plate carbohydrate, protein and vegetables should take up.
Plan your breakfasts and prepare your own lunch because then you have control over what goes into what you eat. Canteen or shop lunches might not always be the healthiest but it will depend on the school. Have healthy snacks prepped to avoid the vending machine. It is recommended we consume fish at least twice a week. Oily fish is brilliant for our brain. Dinner is a great meal to incorporate fish. Plate it up alongside 2 portions of veg and a portion of carbohydrates in the form of rice or gluten free pasta or potatoes. Fish can be added to lunches and breakfasts too – see meal ideas. Other meats such as beef, chicken etc. are great for protein and naturally gluten free.
For ideas and recipes, see our teen/exam themed meal plans and recipes.
6 Months Before
Time to start plan. Have a look over our guides and ideas and try to make small changes to fit the plans and ideas to your lifestyle as best you can.
6 Weeks Before
Getting to crunch time now. Be sure to keep up your healthy eating to keep the brain in top health. It is worth thinking ahead now for the exam period – plan your meals and when you will get all ingredients you need. Plan your nutrition plan like you would plan your study plan.
Week Before Exams
Continue with healthy eating – eating healthy will also help manage exam stress that may arise
Morning Of Exam
Again a healthy, well-balanced breakfast is key – a slow-release energy breakfast accompanied by fruit and a protein source – see some of our breakfast ideas. This is important to power you through your morning exam and right through lunch.
Lunch (During or if evening exam)
As it is every single day, a healthy, well balanced lunch is essential to top up on lost energy from the day and keep you going for whatever you have facing you in the afternoon. This is especially if you have a morning exam, you will feel quite drained. That is why it is important to pack a well balanced lunch to recover –– see some of our lunch ideas.
Did you know in state exams like Leaving and Junior Cert you can bring snacks in with you? Thank goodness as some exams can be up to 3 and a half hours long!! Many students may choose to nibble on sweets and chocolates but during a long and intense exam you are best to choose something that doesn’t spike your blood sugars and will instead give you brain fuel. Nuts and fruit are especially handy to bring into exams when allowed as they are convenient and give a great brain boost. Nuts, especially walnuts are great for the brain as they contain healthy fats needed for brain health. Just a handful is enough (approx. 7 nuts).
Overall Top Tips
- Make sure all meals are balanced – see the food plate
- Choose the healthy options as much as you can
- Make/prep your own food – healthier and cheaper
- Be prepared – batch cook, use leftover chicken/meat for sandwiches, make sure you have supply of all you need, prep what you can for lunches etc. the night before