Brain Food! What To Eat Before Exams

With the imminent arrival of end of year exams, particularly the HSC starting 17 October, students across the country are getting ready for an intensive period of study. As a parent, ensuring your children are eating well, rested and calm is key to their success.

If the students in your household are feeling unmotivated, tired or unable to concentrate, it might be that their levels of key nutrients are low1. Low iron levels can make it difficult to concentrate and learn.

Research shows that when iron levels are corrected, improvements are seen in memory, attention, learning and mood2-3. Red meat, including beef, lamb and veal, is the number one source of easily absorbed4 iron in the Australian diet5. By including red meat 3-4 times a week in your family’s meal plan, you are helping to meet iron requirements for everyone in the household.

According to Accredited Nutritionist, lecturer, best-selling author and mother of two, Catherine Saxelby,

good nutrition can increase mental alertness in the lead up to exams. “Eating foods rich in iron and zinc, such as lean red meat and whole grains etc., can help improve memory and concentration,” she says.

“As a mother of two 20-something’s, exams are constant in our household and so I’ve been through all of the stress. I’ve realised over the years just how important it is for parents to support their children through these periods, encouraging them to stay positive and eat right,” she explains.

Ensure your kids are eating well with the following meal suggestions:

• Breakfast - Many studies have shown that concentration, performance and memory are improved if you eat in the morning. Try cereal with milk or toast with spread or if your kids can manage more than this, add some fruit (fresh or canned) and some protein e.g. yoghurt, eggs or baked beans.

• Lunch - Have a light lunch with protein so that you stay alert. Try a bowl of beef and vegetable soup with a bread roll, or a roast beef and salad sandwich.

• Snacks - Aim for a light meal / snack that provides carbohydrate for glucose to fuel the brain, combined with protein and a little of the “healthy” fats. Examples are avocado, nuts, seeds like sesame and oils.

Leave leftovers in the fridge so your kids can snack on healthy alternatives such as savoury mince on toast, a burrito or cold roast meat rather than high fat / salt / sugar foods like biscuits and

• Dinner - Prepare meals high in essential nutrients including red meat 3-4 times per week. Aim to sit down as a family to enjoy meals together. It’s the perfect opportunity to offer emotional support.

To ensure your student is performing at their best during the HSC, follow Catherine’s study-boosting tips below.


Stretch – Stretching sends fresh oxygenated blood to your head, neck and shoulders. Take hourly breaks to clear your mind and recharge by walking around in the fresh air.

Sleep well - Sleep is important for memory and concentration. Aim for a minimum of six hours, ideally seven to eight.

Get into a routine – Aim to go to bed / wake up at around the same time each day. This will get your body into a routine so it’s easier to fall sleep and you will wake up refreshed.

Find when you are most productive – Some people work better at the beginning of the day, while others work best in the night. Whichever it is, schedule intense revision at the peak of your productivity.

Don't eat meals at your desk - You need a physical and mental break as well as time to interact with your family – your biggest support team. Make sure you share meal times together so you stay connected.

Eat red meat as part of a balanced diet – Red meat 3 to 4 times a week helps to prevent low levels of iron which can affect concentration, memory and learning abilities and also provides other essential nutrients such as protein, zinc, omega-3 and B vitamins.

Laugh - Laughter clears the cobwebs from your mind and puts you in a positive mood. Try thinking of a funny story or watch a comedy to boost your mood.

Exercise regularly – Exercise, especially outdoors, can help students cope with mental stress and recharge. Take a 30 minute walk outside, jump with a skipping rope, hit the gym or take the dog for a walk in the park.

Want more? We thought you might like this video.

Like this artice? Subscribe to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered striaght to your inbox.

By registering you agree to our Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Privacy Notice


Sign Out

Join the Conversation

Please note, LifeStyle cannot respond to all comments posted in our comments feed. If you have a comment or query you would like LifeStyle to respond to, please use our feedback form.

1 comment
Please login to comment
Posted by Report