It’s test day - a time when your mind and body need to be working at their prime. A sharp mind is most important when taking a test, so eating the right food beforehand is vital. If you aren’t getting good nutrition out of the foods you are eating, your brain isn’t going to get the nutrition it really needs to think and function at its best.
The main fuel your brain uses is sugar. However, not all sugars are made equal. Simple sugar, like those found in processed snacks, candy and sweetened beverages, burns up very quickly, doesn’t provide consistent energy and can cause your body and brain to rise and crash quickly. The sugar we want to focus on getting are those from complex carbohydrates that are rich in fiber and nutrients to keep our energy levels consistent, prevent crashes and keep us full and satisfied. Great choices include apples, oats, blueberries, whole grains and bananas.
Omega-3 fatty acids are known to boost brain function, making you alert and better able to concentrate. It also helps keep a steady heart rate which is very important when the stress and anxiety of test-taking hits. By including these in your meal prior to a test it can help your concentration and will also keep you satisfied and full throughout the testing period preventing a grumbling belly from distracting you. The best sources come from fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel, avocados, nuts and seeds.
Maintaining a high antioxidant level is important for cognition and memory. Incorporating dark fruits and vegetables can drastically improve memory during an exam. Vitamins like B-6 and B-12 are associated with improved memory and alertness. Green leafy vegetables can provide these vitamins and deep-colored berries are rich in antioxidants and can be the perfect addition to a meal prior to an exam.
Protein is another important macronutrient to include in a meal prior to a test. Protein contains amino acids, which are precursors to neurotransmitters in your brain. This helps promote mental comprehension and clarity which is vital. Protein is a macronutrient that your body metabolizes more slowly than carbohydrates, which can help with satiation during exams. It is important to focus on lean proteins such as eggs, lean meats, beans and nuts.
Last but not least, WATER! Hydration is extremely important prior to an exam because the brain needs consistent hydration in order to perform at its best. Get ahead of the game by drinking plenty of water the night before an exam and the morning of. If you are feeling thirsty, your body is signaling that it is already dehydrated, so try to stay ahead of that feeling.
There is no “one” perfect food that fits all of the criteria but here are a few combination meals that include one item from each important category!
- Omelette with veggies, piece of whole-grain toast and a side of berries
- Oatmeal with nut butter and berries
- Salmon with brown rice and a colorful side salad
- Avocado spread on whole-grain toast sprinkled with sesame seeds and a side of fruit
- Trail mix with nuts, seeds and dried fruits
- Blueberry almond butter smoothie
- Mixed Berry Flaxseed Muffins
Try one of these ideas out for your student’s next test and watch them confidently walk into that classroom!
The Balance 360 Nutrition System is our one-of-a-kind proprietary nutritional plan that is one piece of our comprehensive approach to helping kids gain better focus, improved behavior, strengthened social confidence and elevated academic performance. Based on years of working with over 30,000 children who face challenges, we are confident that the Brain Balance program can make a difference in helping your child reach his/her potential. Just ask our parents!
- Ariana Kulinczenko, RD, LDN