The dictum followed by most children during exam time is ‘long study hours’ and ‘increased number of tuition classes’. An increase in activities like extra classes, assignments and group discussions during or before exams leads to lack of sleep, skipping meals, low energy and poor health. In the desperate bid to excel in exams and pass with flying colors, they generally forget to eat right.
Studies have found that most children either starve or lose their appetite while they are busy cramming. Many of them end up eating a lot of junk food and drink pots of coffee to stay awake and beat the stress of examinations. Sure, studying hard is necessary to score well in exams but so is good nutrition and a well balanced diet.
Ensuring a balanced diet for your child during exams enhances cognitive function, improves mental alertness and enables sustained concentration which helps them learn and remember the complex theorems, concepts or formulas. A healthy diet includes minerals, vitamins, proteins, carbohydrates, fats and dietary fibre.
Here are a few simple, practical and easy to follow diet guidelines to improve concentration, prevent lethargy and give your child the energy to crack the exams.
1.Start the day with a wholesome breakfast: Skipping breakfast has a direct effect on a child’s scholastic performance. If your child misses the first meal of the day, there is a lack of energy and this in turn affects concentration and ability to recall.
2.Go small and frequent: Brain requires a steady and consistent supply of blood sugar which can be obtained from foods rich in healthy nutrients such as whole grains, vegetables, bread, rice, cereal and potatoes. While large meals could make your child feel lethargic, small frequent meals helps them be awake and alert.
3.Protein power for the brain: Protein consumed from food sources provides the body with amino acids, or the building blocks, to produce key chemicals, such as neurotransmitters for the brain. Neurotransmitters are vital for brain cell-to-cell communication. Proteins help in the regulation of memory, learning and mood. A diet rich in protein (eggs, lentils, sesame, lean meat, beans, nuts etc) increases tyrosine (an amino acid) levels in the blood and brain which help nerve cells manufacture chemicals which keep your child attentive and active.
4.Hydration is the key: One common problem that many students face during studying for exams is dehydration as they don’t realize that they are thirsty and have to drink water. When there is so much of activity in the brain the body is prone to dehydration and body’s electrolyte balance gets disturbed, so the best option is to keep a water bottle next to the study table. In addition, water helps to digest all the food and leads to a high metabolic rate, which is beneficial for students. Keep their hydration levels up with beverages like buttermilk, lime juice and green tea.
5.Strike out caffeine: It’s a “no” for high energy foods like coffee, tea, aerated drinks and chocolate because they provide instant energy which soon wears out. Instead nuts like almonds and walnuts, boiled legumes (channa) get the thumbs up. In fact, too much caffeine can make your child jittery.
6.Complex carbs for sustained energy: Foods rich in complex carbohydrates provide sustained energy for mental alertness and concentration during long study periods and exams. Rich sources are wholegrain cereals, oats, breads, chapatti, fruits and vegetables.
7.Go fruity and green: Fruits and vegetables are powerhouses of nutrition. Rich in micronutrients like vitamins and minerals and anti oxidants, they catalyze the body mechanism and keep the brain alert. It is very important to include green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, light vegetables like gourd, pumpkin, fruits like apples, papaya, oranges, kiwi, and mangoes, amongst others to keep up the concentration levels of your child.
8.Junk out junk food: Most of the junk foods like pizzas, burgers and noodles are made from refined cereals and are low in fibre. They are poorly digested, making your child feel lethargic and sluggish. Apart from this, they can also cause infections if not cooked in hygienic conditions. It is better to give your child home cooked options which are nutritious and satisfy your child’s cravings as well.
So, a healthy diet coupled with a good night’s sleep and right attitude will go a long way in stimulating your child to overcome exam anxiety and maximize their performance in the examination. Nutrition is required for a good performance and for sustaining the pressure of exams but it should be complemented by maintaining a routine, sleeping for sufficient hours, getting enough exercise, eating meals with family and taking hourly breaks and spending sometime connecting with the world or sharing a joke.
As we know… “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.