Poor food choices aren’t providing brain fuel your teens need during busy and stressful times.
Accredited Practising Dietitian Geraldine Georgeou, together with Meat & Livestock Australia, tell us how parents can play a more proactive role in their teens’ exam prep.
1. Enjoy healthy meals together as a family
Eating main meals as a family can be beneficial to create a sense of normalcy in stressful exam time. At these meal times, encourage the family to turn off technology to encourage natural conversation and family interaction. Evidence suggests that when families dine together, they tend to have higher intakes of nutrients and vegetables. For example, a healthy meal with beef and lamb 3 to 4 times a week and plenty of vegetables provides around half your family’s daily iron and zinc needs.
2. Set up a daily routine
Prompt your student to create daily and weekly timetables with well-defined study periods; study breaks; healthy meals and snacks; family and friend catch up time and physical activity. Encourage them to go to bed and get up at a similar time daily so the body gets into a routine. Help them set study milestones and reward them for achieving short and long term goals.
3. Support healthy snacking behaviours
Support healthy snacking to curb study cravings, prevent snacking on calorie-laden snacks and repeated visits to the pantry and fridge which distracts from study. Keep the pantry and fridge well stocked with nutritious foods such as fruit, wholegrain crackers, nuts and reduced fat yoghurt or try cooking extra at dinner so there are always delicious leftover sandwich fillers in the fridge. Sugary and high fat snacks such as biscuits, cakes and chips should be limited as they provide a short fix of energy and will leave your child feeling sluggish.
4. Encourage good sleeping patterns
Good sleep is important so your student is alert during the day. Encourage your student to get at least eight hours sleep each night. Allowing time for some relaxation before bed will ensure your student is fresh for the day ahead. Try to offer herbal teas or a glass of reduced fat milk before bed instead of coffee or other caffeinated beverages to ensure your child gets the sleep they need.
5. Encourage daily physical activity
Make sure your student has plenty of time to relax and unwind and get active outdoors. Regular exercise is important as it provides a well-deserved break from study and releases endorphins to reduce stress and improve mood. Encourage your student to continue to play team sports, take the dog for a walk to the park or get active outdoors with friends.
Parents and students interested in the Study Diet can download the meal plans from: www.themainmeal.com.au/studydiet
Looking for nutritious recipes? browse our healthy eating recipe collection here.