The temptation of the biscuit tin and endless cups of coffee may seem like a good idea to get through exam time, indeed it may help to cheer us up in the short term. However it’s vital to eat well while studying for exams, after all the brain needs fat for intelligence and memory - and it needs the right kind of fat. Regular meals and snacks will ensure that energy is high throughout the day and the brain has all the right nutrients to help improve focus and memory, but to also feel emotionally balanced throughout. Of course plenty of sleep, relaxation and TLC won’t go amiss!!
Here are some ideas for healthy meals and snacks – it's a good idea to stock up before the exams start and your teenagers will be more likely to munch well!
Low GL Granola
A breakfast option or a tasty dessert or snack. Full of omega 3 fats in the nuts and seeds.
1tbsp coconut oil or olive oil
50g (2oz) whole oat flakes
1 tbsp flaked almonds
1 tbsp chopped walnuts
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp ground almonds
Serve with fruit compote, berries and a dessertspoon of live yoghurt.
Gently melt the oil in a frying pan, add the oat flakes and stir for 3 minutes or until they start to go golden and crisp up slightly. Add the flaked almonds and chopped walnuts and cook for a further 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the pumpkin seeds and ground almonds.
For 7 day's worth of breakfasts for 2 people, multiply all the amounts by 7 but only use 5 tbsp of the oil. Store in the fridge to keep the nuts and seeds fresh.
Eggs are a great brain food! Quick and easy to rustle up in a hurry!
1 tsp olive oil
115g (4oz) red onion, sliced
1 medium garlic, crushed
½ medium red, yellow or green pepper, sliced
70g (2 ½ oz) mushrooms, sliced
handful basil leaves
118 ml (4fl oz) skimmed milk
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp grated parmesan or goat’s cheese
(use whatever vegetables you have in the fridge: broccoli, asparagus, spinach all taste great in a frittata)
Coat the base of the pan with olive oil and place over a medium high heat. Add the onion, garlic, pepper and mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes. Mix together the egg, egg whites, basil and milk. Add salt and pepper to taste, then pour the egg mixture into the pan and toss the vegetables to spread the mixture throughout the pan. Turn the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes. Sprinkle the Parmesan or goat’s cheese on top and grill until the top is set.
Quinoa is a seed that provides good protein and will sustain energy longer than white rice in a meal.
300g cooked quinoa
100g cooked broccoli
handful toasted pumpkin seeds
finely chopped handful of spring onion, parsley and mint
Mix everything together and serve with pomegranate seeds over the top, olive oil and lemon. Serve with salmon, tuna, chicken, roasted vegetables or salad as a quick and satisfying meal. You can also serve quinoa instead of rice or couscous with curries or casserole dishes.
Keep healthy snacks to hand. This flapjack is a lovely sweet treat for a snack or a dessert.
Bramley Apple, Apricot and Walnut Flapjacks
makes 9 squares
450 (1lb) Bramley apples
140g (5oz) honey
grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
150g (6oz) dried apricots or dates
(ready to eat)
140g (5oz) butter or coconut oil or PURE margarine
250g (9oz) porridge oats
½ tsp ground cinnamon
25g (1oz) walnuts, finely chopped
50g (2oz) dark muscovado sugar/or molasses
Set the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas5
Peel, core and slice the apples and place into a small pan with 2 tbs of water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until the apple is soft. Stir in the lemon zest and dried apricots/dates and cook for a further 15 minutes, uncovered, stirring often until the fruit is softened and the mixture quite dry. Whizz to a pulp in a food processor. Melt the butter, sugar and honey in a saucepan. Stir in the oats and cinnamon and mix well. Press half of the mixture into a greased 18cm/7 inch shallow square tin. Spread the pulp on top and cover with the remaining mixture. Sprinkle over the walnut pieces and bake for 25 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the oven, mark into squares and leave to cool before removing from the tray. Try replacing 1tbs of the muscovado sugar with molasses, this provides not only a wonderfully rich flavour, but lots more nutrients, as molasses are a fantastic SuperFood, rich in minerals, especially iron, calcium and potassium and the family of B vitamins.
Other snack suggestions:
Oat cakes or spelt oaty crackers with humus or almond butter
Fruits and nut selection
Quacamole and veggie sticks: carrot, cucumber, peppers
Smoothie with natural yoghurt, banana, berries and ground flaxseeds
Protein drink – add protein powder to a smoothie or use almond milk for a thinner consistency.