My students are doing a program on healthy foods to snack on during Finals. I think some of our first year students are starting to burn out on caffeine and see the effects of all-you-can eat dining on their waistlines.
I figured since I helped do some of the research, I’d share with all of you. Just because many of us aren’t students, doesn’t mean we don’t have our go-to stress snacks and may need to change some of our own habits.
My go-to stress snack is caffeine and chocolate. I will be reducing my intake of both over the next few weeks!
The following snacks are ideal—as always, in moderation—for studying because of the impact it has on the body, brain or brain functions.
|Nutritional Element||Food Suggestions||Impact|
|Carbohydrates (preferably whole grains)||Sweet potato
|Omega-3 Fatty Acids||Avocado
|Help improve brain cell structure|
|Folic Acid and vitamins B-6 and B-12||Yogurt
|Helps manufacture and release chemicals in the brain known as neurotransmitters|
Skim or lowfat milk
|Helps manufacture and release chemicals in the brain known as neurotransmitters, keeps nerves healthy and communicating effectively.|
|Lessens nervousness and confusion|
|Caffeine: in small to moderate doses! (recommendation: 300mg or 2 cups of coffee a day)||Coffee
|Caffeine can increase mental focus and alertness, improve some aspects of working memory (such as the ability to process visual information quickly and to recall words and numbers) and cure a headache (which is why many headache remedies contain caffeine).|
|High fiber diets
have been linked to better learning and reasoning
|Protect cognitive skills|
Keep in mind that it’s important to maintain a healthy, balanced diet. Having the appropriate food to fuel your body (a balance of carbs, protein, healthy fats, fiber and a variety of minerals and vitamins from a wide variety of produce) will keep your body functioning properly.
Also know that these foods are good ONLY in moderation. Too much caffeine or glucose can actually have the OPPOSITE effect and make us jittery and lack focus.
Here are some general health and nutrition guidelines:
- Eat every 4 hours
- A balanced plate consists of produce, carbs, protein and healthy fats. The produce should take up half your plate and carbs and protein should each take up a quarter of the plate.
- Avoid sugary drinks and snacks that are either loaded with sugar or fat and salt.
- Drink several glasses of water a day
- Consider taking a daily multivitamin, especially if your diet isn’t well-balanced.
- Although it may be tempting to sequester yourself in your room or library with a pile of books and your laptop, be sure to take breaks and include physical activity in your schedule. Just a simple 10 minute walk will help you clear your head, get rid of any aches and pains from hunching over your computer for hours on end and get the blood flowing, which will increase your energy and ability to focus.
- Use a fork to poke holes in a small sweet potato and microwave until cooked. Sprinkle with cinnamon. The sweet potato has healthy carbs and a small one should only take 2-4 minutes in the microwave.
- Lowfat microwave or air-popped popcorn meets your craving for salt and crunch without loading on the fat and calories. It’s also a decent source of fiber and whole grains.
- Scrambled egg in a cup: spray a coffee mug with cooking spray, add ½ a cup of liquid egg whites or Egg Beaters and ¼ cup of low-fat cheese and cook in the microwave for a minute in a half to two minutes (until cooked). Instant scrambled eggs! It’s a filling snack that’s also high in choline which also helps support brain function.
- Instant oatmeal is a quick and easy snack that gives you healthy carbs and can fulfill a sweet tooth.
- A handful of walnuts is a good source of fiber, protein and essential fatty acids.
- A tuna sandwich on whole grain bread may make your roommate want to run for the hills, but will be a good source of whole grains and essential fatty acids.
- A bowl of Raisin Bran with skim milk: vitamin D and calcium from the milk plus the whole grains, vitamins and minerals from the cereal help the body manage stress and help brain function. Raisin bran provides carbohydrates, iron, B vitamins, folic acid, calcium and magnesium. These are all important nutrients for brain fuel, as well as health and vitality. In addition, magnesium is a mineral that helps relax blood vessels, preventing the constriction and dilation characteristic of migraine and tension headaches. Increased intake of magnesium has been shown to reduce episodes of these types of headaches.
- A yogurt parfait with berries, flaxseed and low fat granola. The granola (especially if it has some nuts) will be a good source of B-vitamins and fiber. The berries are antioxidants and a good source of fiber and glucose. Yogurt is a good source of calcium, folic acid, B-Vitamins and also is a great source of tyrosine, which is a nutrient that’s easily depleted when we’re under stress. Flax seed is an essential fatty acid and they are rich in fiber.
Caffeine Statistics: Stick with a limit of 300 milligrams of caffeine per day.
|Source of Caffeine||Caffeine Amount|
|1 cup of coffee (8oz)||150 mg|
|1 cup of tea (8oz)||40-120 mg, depending on the type of tea|
|12 oz of cola||35-54 mg|
|12 oz of non-cola soft drinks (Mountain Dew, Dr. Pepper, Sunkist Orange Soda)||35-54 mg|
|Coffee flavored ice cream||50-84 mg|
|1.5 oz of dark chocolate||31 mg|
|Energy drinks||50-500 mg per drink! Beware: companies are not required to list the caffeine amount on the label, so you don’t really know how much you’re getting.|