Prepare for exams with healthy food, mindful eating

Food Columnist and Food Columnist

As we head into the upcoming finals week, don’t neglect to remember food’s influence.

Good food provides us with nutrients our bodies need, but also it can give us the brainpower needed to ace a test or write a stellar essay. Here are some food-focused tips for surviving finals week:

Don’t “forget” to eat. Many of us get so busy with studying and working, we sometimes disregard our rumbling tummies so we can do more. Skipping meals, though, leaves the body without fuel, and without fuel our bodies will putter out and shut down. Eating meals (at regular times) provides us with much needed moments of rest and re-energizes our bodies so we can function at our highest levels.

Eat right. It may seem easier to grab a quick burger and fries from Wendy’s rather than taking the time to build a salad at the Oaks, but, actually, eating fresh vegetables and non-processed foods keeps our minds more alert. Avoid the carb coma by eating leafy greens, fruit rich in antioxidants, such as blueberries, and fish loaded with omega-3, like salmon and halibut.

Think ahead. The best way to avoid greasy fast food is to take a few hours this weekend and prepare a few quick and easy dishes. Hard boil six eggs, and you have an easy snack (just crack open an egg!) or you can quickly make an egg salad sandwich. Make a big pot of minestrone soup with beans, tomatoes and all the vegetables you love; then just heat it up when you’re ready to eat. Planning in advance makes meal-time effortless and stress-free.

Combat fatigue with choline! If you’re burning the midnight hour, don’t reach for a sugary energy drink, which only gives you a quick boost before a crash. Snack on a bowl of oatmeal or peel open a banana. Foods with choline, such as oats, bananas, legumes, eggs, chicken, shrimp and collard greens, have been proven to “boost alertness, memory and stress resistance,” according to “Psychology Today.” (

Slow down. Due to our fast-paced lives, many of us swallow our food whole so we can get back to work. Eating is supposed to be enjoyable, not something to check off a to-do list. While you’re eating, chew slowly and think about the flavors you taste, the textures you feel and the well-meaning hands that prepared it. Savoring each bite can help the body relax and give the mind a break. Mindful eating can lead to mindfulness in other daily activities, too, including studying.

Don’t eat alone. Sharing a meal with family and friends gives us a chance to check in with others, which can take our minds off of the next task. During family meals, many of us eat slower, healthier, and more mindfully. Make a meal with a friend the reward for studying a few hours, and it will feel like a reward.

Unplug! Turn off computers, cell phones and other technological devices while eating, especially with family and friends. First, it’s rude to text between bites when you are in the presence of others. Second, taking a break from technology means taking a moment of rest. Why not make that moment during lunch or dinner so you can really appreciate the company you are with, the food you are eating, and some quality time away from the constant chatter that is the Internet?

Eating well keeps our minds sharp and our bodies active. It’s important, especially during times of stress, to honor all the work our bodies do. When we’re under pressure, it’s the best time to remember that good food, solid sleep, lots of water and brisk exercise are proven to reduce stress, and they just might help you earn that A.