Tests and exams are unavoidable throughout school life. I sent my eldest boy into school today for the first day in a week of SATS tests. I’ve also been going in to schools to talk to children about how they can support themselves through exams with the right nutrition. Discussing with them the pros and cons of having a cookie for breakfast. Over the longer term the right nutrition is vital for good mental health and cognitive function, but seen as the SATS start now I thought I’d quickly re-cap on the things you can do right now that will make a difference:
1. Protein, protein and more protein:
Yes, with every meal and snack. This is the best nutrition tip for exams! This is the best way to balance blood sugar and keep concentration and energy levels stable throughout the exam. If your child lives for sweet things be it fruit or sweets, then now probably isn’t the right time to stop them, but give them a protein rich snack alongside it to curb the increase in blood sugar levels that leads to crashes and problems with concentration. Really good sources of protein include nuts, meat, poultry, eggs, lentils, beans, hummus and dairy.
2. Eat Breakfast:
Before you think you’ve got that one covered and move on I should say that by breakfast I don’t mean those sugary, food-like substances that come in cardboard boxes designed to be attracted to children. That is not breakfast. That is just another sugary snack, with some synthetic vitamins thrown in to convince parents that it’s not all that bad.
No, for breakfast, your child really needs to have a good source of protein to ensure their blood sugar levels are not raised to much too quickly, resulting in a mjor mid-morning slump. Try them on eggs, nut butters, or sausages – but please not coco pops.
3. Drink water.
Drink some first thing to re-hydrate the body after sleep and then encourage them to sip water throughout the day. The brain (and body) cannot function properly unless it is well hydrated. Fruit juice and fizzy drinks are not useful alternatives. They raise blood sugar levels too far and aren’t utilised by the cells in the same way.