by Gael Myers, Accredited Practising Dietitian

As featured on Today Tonight.

With all the pressure put on teenagers to do well in their exams, parents can find themselves feeling powerless to help. But, with 1 in 4 Aussie teens missing out on breakfast and clear research linking skipping breakfast to lower performance at school, parents can help by simply making sure their teen eats breakfast on exam day. 

Eating well during exam time will improve how well your teen’s brain functions, particularly in terms of memory and concentration. The brain is a hungry organ that uses about 20% of the energy we need each day. One of the best ways for parents to help their student perform well is to make sure the brain stays fuelled with healthy foods during exam time.

Top tips

Water with sliced citrus

1. Stay hydrated and steer clear of energy drinks

Energy drinks contain caffeine that can make you feel jittery and make it difficult to sleep. They're also full of sugar which sets you up for a quick surge in blood sugar followed by an energy slump.

Encourage your student to keep a bottle of water next to them when studying and to take one into their exam. If they're not so keen on plain water add cut up fruit like strawberries or citrus to give extra flavour. Drinking plenty of water will keep your child hydrated. Research has linked dehydration to headaches, feeling tired and having difficulty concentrating.


2. Snack right

Soft drinks, cakes, biscuits, lollies and chocolate will give you a quick energy boost but will leave you feeling flat and irritable soon afterwards. Instead choose healthy options to snack on like:

  • Yoghurt
  • Grainy crackers and cheese
  • Fruit
  • Vegie sticks and dip
  • Nuts
  • Wholegrain toast and peanut butter.

Tropical fruit smoothie

3. Get a good breakfast

Eating regular meals, especially breakfast, is very important during exam time to fuel the brain. For optimal performance, make sure that the breakfast students are eating is packed with the nutrients they need to perform well. Swap sugary cereals for:

If your teenager is too nervous to eat right before an exam try a smoothie instead. Make the smoothie with hilo milk, yoghurt, fruit and a spoonful of oats. Liquids can be easier to manage when you’ve got butterflies in your tummy.

Physical activity

4. Schedule pit-stops and get enough sleep

Remind your teenager to get away from their desk regularly, for example by taking a quick run up and down the stairs or having a walk around the garden. Encourage them to fit some exercise into their day to help clear their mind and lift their mood, helping them to concentrate.

Getting enough sleep is also important! Sleep helps them to consolidate the information they've learnt, making all that studying more effective.

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