Food for Thought: How to Eat Healthy During Final Exams

By Katie Meade, Dietetic student, University of Maryland

After cramming for midterms, you swore that the end of the semester would be different.  But somehow finals have crept up on you, and now you are basically planning to live in the library during the upcoming exam period.

We’ve all been there. But if you find that finals season usually means subsisting on extra-large iced mocha drinks and late-night pizza deliveries for days at a time, this blog is for you.

Healthy eating during exams is not hopeless. In fact, packing nutritious study snacks might be easier than you think.

library photo (6)

What to pack for those epic study sessions

Below are some of my favorite foods to pack when I take up residence in the library. These are all readily available on campus, easy to pack, and provide important nutrients to fuel your body and your brain.

  • Peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread – This simple sandwich provides protein, whole grains, and healthy fats.
  • Piece of whole fruit – I like to bring an apple or banana, but there are so many other portable fruit options including oranges, grapes, strawberries and pears.
  • Carrots and hummus – That crunch is oh so satisfying!  Other veggies like bell peppers and cucumber slices are great with hummus too.
  • String cheese and cherry tomatoes – Cheese can be a good source of calcium, protein, and other important nutrients. Also because string cheese is pre-packaged, portion size is just one less thing to think about with this snack.

Tips for studying and snacking

  • Keep it cool. It’s great if you already have an insulated lunch box and an ice pack, but if not, no need to worry. Just freeze a water bottle the night before, pack it with your food, and things should stay cold for a few hours.
  • Warm it up. Craving something warm like soup or want to heat up a cup of tea while studying? There are microwaves available for students to use in McKeldin Library!
  • Break often. When studying for hours on end, try to stop and eat something every three to four hours. This will help keep your energy level high and can provide structure to your study sessions (organic chemistry…break…physics…break…English lit…break…you get the idea).
  • Keep your dorm well stocked. The key to eating well when life gets hectic is to make it as easy and convenient as possible which means keeping healthy foods handy. Here is a tip sheet on how to stock your dorm room fridge with healthy foods.

A few other things to keep in mind while studying…

  • Stretch it out. For every hour of studying, try to get up and move your muscles for a couple of minutes. Take the opportunity to refill your water bottle, or check out the scenery on a different floor of the library.
  • Don’t let stress get the best of you. Learn more about how to take charge of the stress in your life.
  • Catch some Zzzz’s to get A’s. Make sure you’re getting 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. It may feel more productive to keep studying rather than sleeping, but the truth is your study sessions will be much more effective after some shut-eye. Here are some tips to help you sleep better.

How do you eat healthy when you are studying? Please share your ideas below!

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