Here's What Your Child Should Eat To Ace His/Her Exams: Expert Tips
During exam time, parents should feed their children with food which keeps them alert, improves their concentration and memory, and prevents sluggishness and sleepiness.
A wholesome breakfast helps to kick start the metabolism
- Avoid fried food during exams
- Plan for 3-4 mid-meals in a day
- Limit intake of caffeinated drinks
It's that time of the year when our young minds are busy and burdened with exam preparation. The least parents can do is feed them well. Eating well implies feeding them food which keeps them alert, improves their concentration and memory, and prevents sluggishness and sleepiness. Preparing for exams also means that the students are sitting for long hours, their physical activity/ sports/ outdoor time is almost negligible. Change in activity pattern also alters their bowel movements and increase chances of constipation and weight gain. The diet should aim at addressing all these issues.
1. Include complex carbohydrates like whole grains which are rich in vitamins and fibre. Serve them chapatti, rice, khichadi, idli, dosa, poha etc. Avoid maida and sugar which causes spikes and lows making them hungry very soon. Complex carbohydrates get digested slowly allowing slow and sustained release of energy so the kids remain alert.
2. Include proteins like dals, low-fat dairy like milk, cheese, paneer, curd, eggs and fatty fish. These are essential for growth and development and are broken down slowly keeping them satiated.
3. Avoid fried and fatty foods. Fried foods make them sluggish and cause weight gain.
4. Include lots of fruits and vegetables as they are loaded with vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants and phytonutrients. Remember, the more colourful the platter, the better it is. The requirement of vitamins like C, B-complex and zinc is high due to high levels of stress. Vitamins A, C, E are also needed as they are antioxidants and prevent free radical damage due to stress.
5. Keep them well hydrated. An intake of a minimum of 1.5-2 L (or 7-8 glasses) of water is recommended. This can be obtained from drinking water, coconut water, fresh lime juice, buttermilk (chaas), milk, soups, herbal teas etc. Avoid fruit juices, whole fruits are preferable as they provide many more nutrients including fibre. Adequate hydration helps to increase alertness, prevent headaches, and improve bowel movements.
6. Limit intake of caffeinated drinks. Students oftem resort to drinking tea or coffee as it helps them to stay up late night while studying. Caffeinated drinks must be avoided post sunset as they disturb sleep patterns. Small amount of coffee does help increase alertness but excess can cause anxiety, nervousness, irritability and headache.
7. Plan for 3-4 small mid meals a day apart from 3 main meals. Plan them well in advance, keeping in mind nutritional guidelines as well as child's preferences.
8. You can make healthy substitutions in their favorite junk foods and prepare them at home.
9. Avoid eating out as it increases the risk of infections, and they certainly don't afford to fall sick at exam time.
10. Avoid trying any new items/dishes to avoid the risk of food allergies.
11. Breakfast should be the most wholesome meal including all food groups, as it happens after a long gap. A wholesome breakfast helps to kick start the metabolism.
12. Healthy mid meal options include nuts & seeds, fruits, salads, soups, yoghurts, smoothies, buttermilk or namkeen lassi, soups, egg, idli, dhokla, milk etc.
13. Seeds like flax, chia, pumpkin etc can be eaten as such or ground and sprinkled on salads, sandwiches, soups, smoothies or mixed with the dough.
14. Keep handy some late night munching options like nuts, roasted chana/peanuts, roasted pulses, khakhra, yoghurt etc. Avoid having processed foods like biscuits, cookies, cakes, heavy namkeens that are high in salt, refined sugar, refined flour, hidden sugars, preservatives, vegetables oils and all such stuff that you should avoid.
15. The students should try to include a few minutes of physical activity in their schedule to prevent excess weight gain. They should stretch their body for a few minutes after every hour, and try to walk around a little or run down the stairs for some chores to stay active. They should also exercise their neck and eyes for 5-10 minutes every day to ease the stress.
Feed them well, encourage them to get adequate sleep, support them and watch them come out with flying colours.
(Pooja Malhotra is a Delhi-based nutritionist)
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