Everyone who has met me knows that food is on the top of my priority list. The only time that I’m not thinking about my next meal is during my current one. Yep, I’m a foodie. My life is just one long series of snacking. And so, it’s only natural that I give you advice on what brain food to buy from the supermarket during finals week.
Snacks. That’s the big secret. Healthy ones. Maybe you have a three-a-day meal plan and get hungry in between; maybe you prefer eating six small meals throughout the day, like I do; or maybe you’ll be in the library cramming for hours every day of finals week. You’ll need a snack (or more than one!) to keep your energy levels steady and avoid mid-day crashes.
The only problem is eating the right kinds of snacks. So, rather than relying on cereal and bags of chips, buy the things on this shopping list. They might not make your mouth water the way a can of Pringles does, but they’ll make you feel comfortably full, awake, and sharp—just what you need during finals week!
- Berries: Berries are a sweet, juicy source of nutrients, and because they contain more than 90% water, they can keep you hydrated. The antioxidants found in berries protect the brain from free radicals and reduce signs of aging, such as memory loss. My favorite, the blueberry, is high in fiber and vitamin C. Not only can a handful of these little blue treats keep you full for a while, but they can strengthen your immune system and provide you with all of the fiber you need for the day. If you’re looking for a bigger snack, make a yogurt parfait with Greek yogurt, honey, blueberries, strawberries, granola, and raisins.
- Apples: If you haven’t already started your day with a warm cup of joe, pick up an apple instead. Because apples stabilize your blood sugar, you’ll feel more awake and you won’t suffer a caffeine crash later on. Apples contain natural glucose for energy, antioxidants that protect your brain from damage, and a dose of dietary fiber for your digestive system.
- Nuts: Almonds, cashews, peanuts, you name it. They all have nutritional value. Pack a baggie of almonds for calcium, cashews for protein, and peanuts for fiber. A handful of mixed nuts will fill you up for the next hour or two and give you the boost you need to stay focused. You can’t go wrong chomping on a no-mess library snack while you’re flipping through flashcards.
- Hummus: You’ve heard about Jack hiking up the beanstalk in search of magical beans. Well, you may not have heard that they weren’t just any beans; they were chickpeas! Hummus is indeed an extraordinary brain food, high in protein and low in sugar, so you won’t crash halfway through Chapter Two of tonight’s reading. Make it a dip for other healthy snacks, like carrots, celery, or whole grain crackers, or roll everything up into a wrap. The best part about hummus is that you can never get tired of it since it comes in a ton of different flavors, like red pepper and garlic, and it can be used in hundreds of recipes.
- Trail Mix: Dark chocolate, nuts, and dried fruit in one bag? Perfect! The amount of nutrients, vitamins, and protein mixed into that little purchase are out of this world. Dig in and kickstart your productivity.
- Bananas: If you have packed your finals week schedule, end the day with a banana. According to Keri Gans, registered dietitian and author of The Small Change Diet, bananas contain magnesium and potassium, which allow the muscles to naturally relax. Plus, they’re high in carbohydrates, which up your chances of falling into a deep sleep.
- Carrots: What’s up, Doc? Answer: your grades! Carrots are just as good for your memory as they are for your eyes. They also help detoxify the body and benefit your immune, digestive, and cardiovascular systems. You remember our magic beans from earlier, right? Carrots and chickpeas are a match made in heaven.
- Oranges: Oranges are jam-packed with vitamins that fight off easy-to-catch illnesses that make the rounds around campus, like the common cold. Orange juice contains a subclass of flavanoids, which can improve learning and memory according to the University of Reading.
- Water: To feel your best, you need to stay hydrated. Your body, brain included, depends on water. When you’re dehydrated, focus, memory functionality, and mental arithmetic performance are all suffer. Bring water to every class and study session. Brownie points if you carry it in a reusable bottle.
- Dark Chocolate: Don’t worry. I’m not telling you to not have any sweets. Like I said, I love food. I’m a firm believer in balance and moderation, so, go ahead and buy some Dove dark chocolate with sliced almonds. You’ve earned it. Oh, and you can justify it with these benefits: Dark chocolate is good for high blood pressure and has neuroprotective antioxidants and a little bit of caffeine for an energy boost during those late-night study sessions.
At a time when you are being tested academically, mentally, and physically, be conscious of how you fuel your body. You can either put in cheap gas or you can power up with premium. Reach for the healthy snacks during finals week. I’m not saying not to treat yourself to a latte or Snickers bar, but take my grocery list to heart. You’ll notice the difference in the way you feel. A few minutes of a sugar high is not worth feeling sick or drowsy during a final. Eat right and show those exams what you’re made of!
A foodie who hopes you ace your finals