By: Dr. Paula Goel
Exams! The word itself stresses not only children but parents and caretakers as well. Keeping in good health is imperative during exams and food plays an important role. Not only does food provide us the required fuel to feel energetic and focused, it also works as a comforting factor for many individuals.
Many types of food can also cause gastritis, abdominal discomfort and bloating. Some varieties of food can cause sleepiness and lethargy. Hence, what is most important is the type and the quantity of food that has to be taken before exams. What is the correct type of food that can be taken before exams and during the exam period?
For this, we need to understand what happens to the human body during exams. Exams are a period of stress for any student irrespective of age, doesn't matter if you are a child or you are appearing for your masters. Just like the exams that require proper planning, scheduling and organising, food too requires the same. A good diet helps students to beat the stress. The kind of food a student eats helps the student prepare effectively and manage the anxiety of the period.
Exams are an inevitable part of every student's academic journey and cannot be evaded. During these exam times eating regular and healthy meals and snacks will help your child stay nourished. Having breakfast is an essential component of the diet. Missing breakfast is deleterious as long hours of fasting leads to drop in blood sugar level and this affects cognition and focus, which is imperative during examinations.
If due to the feeling of nervousness your child may become nauseous and avoid eating, make sure they still take the time to eat something. It is important to have a healthy, heavy and filling breakfast before the exams. Their brain will need the energy from food to work efficiently, and eating before an exam will ensure that your child's mental focus is kept on the exam and not on their hunger.
A hungry child cannot concentrate on the studies and loses focus. Attention is hampered and exam performance declines. Hence it is necessary as parents to ensure that your kids enjoy their meals and snacks. Help your child develop a healthy relationship with food and eating even as they're coping with exam stress.
There are certain kinds of food that increase alertness, enhance memory retention, and can increase energy levels and general wellbeing of your child. Healthy food choices on exam day include protein-rich foods such as eggs, nuts, cottage cheese and yoghurt.
A good breakfast combination might include whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk, porridge, muesli or eggs and toast with jam. For Indians, vegetable rich poha, or oats with nuts, fruits like bananas, apples, pears, papaya, chikoo may be given. Ragi/ sooji idli or dosa can also be given. Dry fruits and nuts are also concentrated sources of energy and should be given.
Yoghurt is not only high in protein but is also a good probiotic and helps in maintaining the gut flora preventing gastritis , abdominal bloating and discomfort .It is best to avoid foods rich in carbohydrates and oily food as they will induce sleep and cause gastritis.
Nutritionists suggest the intake of oranges, bananas, apples and grapes and green leafy vegetables for students to reduce their stress.
Parents should help kids with the diet they follow during and before the exams for better performance. Here are a few tips to remember -
. Stay hydrated. Dehydration leads to poor exam performance and muscle fatigue
. Stick to small frequent meals that are easy to digest
. Include protein rich foods
. Avoid sugar and salt as they are addictive and leads to fluid retention and weight gain.
. Avoid processed foods and packaged foods as they cause cravings like pizza , burger, vada pav , samosa
. Avoid caffeine
. Avoid aerated drinks and fruit juices. It is best to stick to fresh fruits rather than having fruit juices.
. Have high fibre food which prevents indigestion and abdominal bloating
. Bananas are a good source of energy and provides a whole meal. They can be taken just before exams to maintain blood sugar levels and prevent mental confusion and chaos.
Healthy diet and dietary habits start early in life and family and school plays a very important role in developing healthy eating habits. Healthy eating patterns which start early from life paves the way for good health. After all, there is no need to change healthy dietary habits during exam. However, if dietary habits are poor, it is necessary to bring in some discipline in the eating habits. Remember... what you put in your mouth, finally affects not only your health but career as well!
(Dr. Paula Goel, Consultant Pediatrician, Adolescent Physician and the Founder of Fayth Clinic)