30th April 2018 by Jess
This one's for all the school, college and university students who are looking for snacking inspiration to keep their brains fired up and their taste buds happy whilst you're swotting for your exams.
I know how tricky it can be to stay healthy when your stress levels are maxxed out, but staying healthy during exam time is totally doable and it can be made simple too, I promise. When our brain and our bodies have the fuel they need to retain, process and apply new information, revision is made more efficient and even enjoyable!
If you conquer your eating habits and develop some default healthy go-to ideas and recipes at this stage, not only will your body benefit now both mentally, physically and emotionally, but you’ll also create a solid foundation for a healthy lifestyle going forward when you are challenged with other periods of heightened stress, of which there will inevitably be one or two!
You may be in study-mode right now, or you may be a parent or loved one of someone approaching their exams in the near future - keep this guide on hand to help navigate the exam period with great nutritional support.
Expect the unexpected; timings change. If your class or study schedule changes and you have some snacks with you already, you’ll be far less likely to reach for whatever is in sight to fill the hunger spot. These foods typically live in vending machines, in the centre aisles of supermarkets and they are usually highly processed.
Real food is meant to nourish our bodies down to the cellular level to repair, rejuvenate, and make us live long at our optimal level. They’re meant to provide us with long lasting fuel to keep not only our bodies energised, but more importantly our minds (it's all about productivity!).
Not only are they energy and nutrient dense, but they’re also versatile so once you have them in your kitchen you’ll find you constantly use them in recipes. They’re so easy to sprinkle onto salads, to make your own nut milks, to add to desserts... the list is endless!
Flavour is key, even if I’m ‘just’ having nuts, I like to really enjoy them so I’ll sometimes sprinkle soy sauce or tamari on them and roast them in the oven, or crack some chilli salt and black pepper on the nuts to spice them up a little. Alternatively you can go for an already flavoured pack of mixed nuts such as graze's ‘sweet memphis bbq’ with salsa flavoured peanuts.
Is feeling exhausted a constant for you and is it causing you to be less efficient when you’re in study-mode?
Iron deficiency isn’t uncommon and it can be such a simple correction to make with so much to gain! Without healthy red blood cells, your body can't get enough oxygen round your body to your extremities; the consequence of not having sufficient oxygen in the body is constant fatigue.
This fatigue or exhaustion can affect everything from your ability to fight infections to your brain's ability to function.
Processed foods tend to be lacking in fibre, vitamins and minerals, which are of course essential to our very being. These nutrients keep us alive!
Many people over consume highly processed foods, as they provide little to no nourishment and don’t readily engage the satiety (‘I’m full’) centre in the brain. So to make sure you don’t overeat (which is very easy to do when you’re stressed or mindlessly filling up your time whilst studying) eat fibre-rich foods such as nuts, seeds, wholegrains, pulses, legumes and leafy vegetables.fibre snacks
Eating protein-rich foods assist dopamine production.
When we think of the neurotransmitters involved in happiness, we automatically think of serotonin, the main neurotransmitter associated with feeling happy and content. However, there is another hormone which is an essential component of health and happiness – dopamine.
Dopamine helps control the brain's pleasure and reward centre which is vital when we’re studying to keep us going through what feels like a study marathon at times! It also helps regulate movement and emotional responses, and it helps us to not only see rewards, but also to take action towards them.
Eggs, fish, poultry, nuts & seeds and red meat are all good sources of protein. This is a great link here for protein-containing snacks.shop protein snacks
Try avoiding foods that are too heavy on your digestive system (i.e. very high fat, processed, or containing lots of different types of foods).
Digestion already takes enough of your energy (which means there’s less for your brain) so give your digestive tract a small break by eating foods that are simple and quick to digest (fruits & veggies, both dried and fresh are the best).
I’ve saved my favourite tip until last and that’s to ensure you enjoy the foods you’re eating.
Food should be a pleasure and a joy and it should serve the body well at the same time. If you don’t like celery & cucumber sticks with hummus, then no problem, there are PLENTY of other options. Pick the ones that excite you the most out of the below list and let them be great accompaniments to your study sessions for all of the right reasons.
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By Jess, graze nutritionist.
Our nutritionist extraordinaire, Jess trained at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition and is a registered practitioner with the British Association for Applied Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She's the creator of our health badges, to help you choose the snacks and boxes that are right for you. Check out everything from Jess on our blog, with recipes and tricks to help you keep making better choices, or go to her website at jessntom.com for even more.
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