Exams and stress seem to have become synonymous to each other. During the months of Feb and March, both the child and the parent go through tremendous amount of anxiety, stress and nervous tension.
Endless comparisons, overpowering peer pressure, child’s innate desire to excel and outperform others, along with a dose of parental expectation and our system’s classic obsession towards grades and percentages, and before you realize you have a lethal cocktail. And this lethal cocktail not only leads to reduced alertness, depression and mood swings, it also takes our and our child’s eating routine and choices for a toss. As a parent, providing emotional support and guided advice is needed at this hour but also needed is a focus on our child’s eating habits, sleeping pattern and mental and physical fitness.
Common Parenting Traps
I realize that as parents, we are always careful about what our child eats and should eat and for that matter go to the extent of pestering him to take care of his food choices. But during exams, we often fall into the common traps of being ‘lenient’ and ‘understanding’ and somehow let the nagging and pestering come down. We agree to listen to their excuses on how much they need to munch on wafers while reading or can have only a glass of milk for dinner. We want them to study, so do not want to trouble them with ‘yeh khayo aur yeh mat khayo’ during this time. We rather go out of the way and make sure that the child’s favorite food, whether it is chocolate pastry or pav bhaji is kept on the platter, just to please him or her so that they study well.
Umpteen number of coffee is served so that they can stay awake till late and obviously when the child is studying late, he gets up late and here goes the breakfast in the bin! Correct me if I am wrong, but we parents unknowingly succumb to their demands. Skipping meals, preferring only snack items over proper lunches and dinners and ordering food from outside become routine. Watching TV or playing computer games are the chosen recreation after long study hours.
Can you Actually Eat your Way to Good Marks?
I know it is easier said than done, but, trust me, and trust the scientific evidence and numerous researches which point that ‘you can actually eat your way to good marks’. Exams are the time when we need to be more careful about our child’s food preferences, pay more attention towards their nutritional needs and keep more focus on their eating timetable along with their study timetable. Do not let the correct food choices or good nutrition slip down the priority ladder, especially during exams.
Eating right and having a well- balanced diet is always important but it attains utmost importance during exams. You would be amazed to know how what you put on your child’s plates can not only affect his alertness and memory but has also a profound effect on his moods, sleep patterns, concentration and ability to give his best during examination. So whilst fueling the brain of our kids right during the exams months may not make them a genius, it would definitely give them the edge they need to perform better in exams.
So what do you put on their plates and most importantly, how should you put them so that they are eaten without a fuss?
Strategies to Eat Right and Eat Well during Exams
Eating right and having a well -balanced diet is always important but it attains utmost importance during exams. The brain friendly diet strategies which help in combating stress and improving the child’s memory and alertness during exams are-
- Go high on proteins
One of the most important exam nutrients is protein. Include good quality protein in the form of pulses, chicken fish, eggs, nuts and milk in your diet. Thinking is a biochemical process and for the signals to get transferred from one neuron to another there are certain chemicals called neurotransmitters in our brain. The key neurotransmitters like acetylcholine and dopamine are created by amino acids present in
Therefore, adding proteins in your diet work wonders during the examinations, especially the morning when the child has his paper. You can easily add protein in form of salads (such as sprouts salad,) sandwiches (with chicken or egg white), curd, cheese, soybeans (which can be made into cutlets) by adding soy flour to wheat flour while making rotis.
2. Power up With Correct Carbs
The brain needs a constant supply of nutrients to work efficiently. The primary source of energy for the brain is glucose which comes from carbohydrate rich foods like breads, rice and chapattis. The brain’s energy stores are very small, so to keep it functioning at its best, it needs constant glucose as replacement. And the best sources of the carbohydrate would be the complex carbs such as whole grains, sprouted beans and fruits. When you eat a candy or drink soft drinks, they break down too quickly into glucose. This sudden increase in blood glucose levels pushes the pancreas to secrete more insulin and this all leads to a sugar spike which is then followed by a sudden sugar drop and we start feeling depressed and lethargic. A key ‘happy mood’ neurotransmitter, serotonin is also released after ingestion of starchy foods and vegetables.
3. Calm the nerves with healthy Fats
Fats are major component of brain cell membrane and make up the myelin sheath around each nerve. Adequate amount of fat and the right kinds can greatly affect the brain power during examination. The good sources of this right kind of fat would be nuts like almond and walnuts, seeds like flaxseeds, sesame seeds (or til seeds) and pumpkin seeds , oil like olive oil and fish.
4. The Alert Brain Vitamins
Among vitamins, the important ones during examination are immunity boosting Vitamin C and Vitamin B 6, B 12 and folic acid that play vital roles in the manufacture and release of neurotransmitters and maintenance of good brain health. Consuming foods rich in vitamin E such as almonds, green leafy vegetables, corn oil, sunflower oil, hazelnuts, and whole-grain flour helps as they provide protection against oxidative stress and cellular damage.
- Memory Improving Minerals
Critical minerals would include iron (required to carry oxygen to the brain cells) and zinc (keeps the brain alert and boosts memory)
- Additionally, avoid the brain draining and lethargy inducing foods such as sugary drinks, processed foods made from white sugar and white flour, and fried foods.
- Avoiding hot and spicy food preparations is also recommended as they irritate the child’s digestive functions.
Written BY Panchali Moitra