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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Good Nutrition for Children During Examinations

Sheela Paul,  N.Amudhavali –Dietitian(MVNES)

Good nutrition is often the last thing on one’s mind during exam time. In fact, good nutrition should be part of a student’s study plan because it is going to help with those tests. The better the fuel the brain gets, the better the ability to study. During the exams, students spend long hours studying and staying awake. Eating the right kind of food in small quantities helps to keep them stimulated and alert. Students must ensure they get sufficient calories, proteins and all micronutrients and drink adequate amounts of water so that they don't get dehydrated as most exams take place during summertime.

1. Have a regular breakfast, don’t miss it. Beverages are not enough for breakfast.Have a bowl of cereal with milk,or rotis/paranthas with milk or dhal and a piece of fruit and  some vegetable will provide the necessary nutrients.

2. Eat at regular intervals. It helps keep nutrient and energy levels more stable, and prevents one from having empty-calorie snacks.

3. Eat small, eat frequently: Eating the usual three-big-meals-a-day slows you down mentally and physically. Have 5-6 well-balanced smaller meals instead.

4. Choose powerful vegetables. Not all vegetables are created equal. The darker the color, the higher the concentration of nutrients. For example, greens and other vegetables are more useful to mind and body.

5. Going bananas? Good. Fruit ranks high among the best foods you can eatfor your brain. The natural sugars in fruit offer clean energy, so you don’t experience the crash that follows consumption of refined sugar.

6. Smart snacking can enhance studying. Have healthy snacks while studying and you may find that you retain more. Try to get two food groups into your snacks to balance the nutrients and keep your blood-sugar level stable. Some smart snack examples are banana with peanut butter, a small baked potatowith cottage cheese.

7. How do I eat smarter? If you meet the daily vitamin and mineral requirements , it will make doing your best much easier. Ironand B-Vitamins are especially important for maintaining the physical and mental energy necessary to study well. Foods that contain iron include red meat, cereals and greens and foods that are rich in  B- vitamins include whole-grains, wheat germ, eggs and nuts. Fish and soy are other foods that are said to help boost your brain by providing the nutrients it needs.

8. Vitamin tablet is not a meal. Dietary supplements are good, but real food is better. An orange contains not only Vitamin C, but also fiber, beta carotene and other minerals — so it can’t be replaced by a pill.

9. Stay well hydrated. Choose your beverages well. Caffeine and sugar should be kept to a minimum as too much caffeine can make you jittery.

The diet plan:

• Include proteins, with carbohydrates and fats

• Make healthier choices when choosing snacks

• Stay well hydrated

• Consume a lot of fruits and juices in the diet

• Eat well; don't starve

• Instead of big meals, take small portions at regular periods not more than four hours apart

• Have more curd and buttermilk

• Have a lot of milk, mixed with nuts

• Include iron-rich green leafy vegetables in the diet

• Avoid junk food and too many sweets

• Food determines health, wealth and happiness.

Health issues during exams

Depression, dehydration, anxiety, restlessness, anguish, dry mouth, anorexia nervosa (emotional eating), heart burn, acidity, constipation, anaemia, digestive problem, flu, cold, headache, hyperactivity, kidney stone, muscular pain or back pain, nausea and vomiting are some of the health issues that can plague childrenduring examinations.

Opt for healthy foods:

• Provide your child with juicy fruits and vegetables as they rehydrate and replenish the body and do not make them sleepy and lethargic. A fruit platter could include slices of water melon, musk melon, strawberries, oranges and sweet lime

• Almonds, walnut, pumpkin seeds, cucumber and watermelon seeds help improve memory and concentration. Nuts are full of DHA –which is needed in high levels by the brain and eyes for learning and improving memory.

• Prevent your child from consuming starchy vegetables like potatoes and yam which make him lethargic and sleepy or cause constipation which can lead to bloating

• Provide light vegetables  such as  bottle gourd, carrots or fenugreek with chapati

• Chilled raita made of fresh fruit or vegetable provides calcium, water and protein

• Instead of snacking on samosa, burgers, patties or namkeen, opt for almonds, cashew nuts, pistachios, or pumpkin seeds. Boiled chickpea is a great option too

• Replace soft drinks witha glass or two of healthy fresh fruit milkshake, lassi, energy drinks or glucose.

• Avoid fried foods and refined foods made of maida as theymake people sleepy and lethargic.

• Iodine is very important for memory power so include enough iodized salt in your child’s diet

• No supplements should be given during exams, unless prescribed by thedoctor

• Keep your child well hydrated – provide a lot of water in the form of fresh seasonal fruit juices like watermelon, strawberries, cucumber and orange juice

• Ensure your child sleeps well before the exam as it will prevent anxiety, depression and restlessness

A happy child has an increased serotonin level. Listening to soothing music can increase the serotonin level which is a chemical in the brain that is known to induce a de-stressed, calm feeling.

Avoid the following foods:

• Hot dog
• Pizza
• Aerated drinks
• Cheese burger / sandwich
• Red meat
• Fried fish
• Ham burger

Ensure that your child is not overeating to cope with problems or to deal with emotions such as stress.

A little modification in lifestyle helps   

Follow these guidelines and your mind will be on full alert when you need it most. If you want to do well in your exams, eat carefully. You only get one shot at your exams, so it’s worth doing everything you can to ensure you are alert when in the examination hall.

Were these tips useful to you? Share your views with us.


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