Best Food for Test Day

Best Food for Test Day

By Phil Lempert, editor of and The Lempert Report

It has been a long time since I was a student and so much has changed from when I was behind a desk. However, there’s one constant in academia that unites the generations and that’s test taking.

But today we know more than we did then when I was a student about how to be a successful test taker and help boost those scores. In fact, the food kids eat during studying and on test day can make a significant difference.

Nutritionists suggest eating 5-6 smaller meals and snacks daily. It helps to keep blood sugar stable and therefore a person’s energy is consistent and doesn’t crash.  Experts say fruit is a high ranking brain food and the natural sugar in fruit offers clean energy, so blood sugar won’t dip like it does with refined sugar products.

In addition, another important “always” food is vegetables, but nutritionists say not all are created equal. The darker the color, the higher the concentration of nutrients and subsequently, it makes a better brain food.  For example, spinach has more to offer the mind and body than iceberg lettuce. Other great vegetable choices include bell peppers, broccoli and sweet potatoes.

Here are some other “brain food” test taking day suggestions:

What to Eat Before the Test

When students are studying, smart snacking can help kids retain information. Eating meals and snacks in regular intervals helps keep nutrient and energy levels more stable, curbing the temptation of trips to the empty-calorie vending machine. Ideally, stay away from sugar and less nutritious foods and eat snacks from two different food groups to balance nutrients and keep blood-sugar consistent. Examples include a banana and peanut butter, cheese with an apple, dried edamame with yogurt, carrot sticks with blueberries, or almonds with a pear.

What to Eat On Test Day

Having a smart and healthy breakfast is important to everyone’s success, not just a student. But for kids who need extra brain power on test day, a doughnut and juice isn’t the answer. Kids should start their day with a well-balanced meal. It doesn’t have to be large, just smart. The idea is to eat some protein, calcium, fiber and a piece of fruit or a vegetable. Suggestions include: a bowl of cereal with milk and a piece of fruit, a scrambled egg, toast and a piece of fruit, or a cereal or granola bar with a banana and milk for those who are more on the go. Eggs are rich in choline (a vitamin-like substance that is plentiful in eggs, but also found in nuts) which helps promotes memory and brain development. Also, eggs provide long-lasting satiety because of its protein package.

Parents can pack a brown bag full of brain food lunch and snacks that represent each food group. A well-nourished and fit child is better able to learn and has more energy, stamina, and self-esteem.

A turkey, cheese and avocado sandwich on whole wheat bread is a great test day (any day) lunch item. Whole grains in general contain phytonutrients, folate and B vitamins that boost memory.  The turkey is protein and can help kids feel full longer, avoiding a sharp drop in blood sugar. Avocado is a healthy fat that “cushions” the brain and the cheese while also a protein, contains calcium so it’s good for growing bones.

Also include fruit in that brown bag. Berries, grapes, apples, pears and other seasonal fruits are rich in antioxidants like vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and fiber.  The fiber in fruit also helps keep kids regular, yes it’s not just a grown-up problem.

A hard-boiled egg is considered one of the best brain foods. It’s also easy and fast to eat on the go.

And don’t forget, hummus and carrot sticks or another veggie for dipping. It’s fun and delicious. Hummus is made with chickpeas which is a high protein legume that’s cholesterol and saturated fat-free. It’s also rich in protein. Hummus can help a student maintain correct blood sugar since it contains plenty of Omega 3 fatty acids, which is great for improving intelligence and maintaining a healthy heart. On top of it all, hummus has iron, vitamin B6, manganese, copper, folic acid, and amino acids. Tryptophan, phenylalanine, and tyrosine are the amino acids found in hummus that can promote good quality sleep and uplift one’s mood. In addition, many hummus brands use garlic and lemon juice which is thought to reduce stress in the body – important on test day.

Another great addition to the brown bag is edamame. Kids love to eat it in the pod, already shelled or even dry roasted. Edamame is a good source of complete protein, is high in fiber and a source of essential Omega 3 fat, and rich in calcium, iron, zinc and B vitamins.

Another option is a plastic container with a chef salad. Use a green leafy lettuce and add turkey or chicken and a variety of vegetables. A low-fat dressing can be on the side in another container so the salad doesn’t get soggy. It’s a meal in a bowl. Add some fruit and other healthy snacks and the brown bad is ready to go.

Also be sure to include filtered water.  Dehydration can lead to fatigue, fogginess, and more, so drinking plenty of water is crucial to keeping concentration and energy levels high. Parents would be surprised how little water kids drink at school.  After learning and running around all day most kids could use a couple glasses of water. Buy a reusable water bottle in the color or pattern that your kids like- or let them pick it out.  If they choose it, they are more likely to use it!

To prevent food-related illness, its important keep your child’s lunch cool. Depending on the weather in your area, you may want to include a freezable gel pack or water bottle in an insulated lunch bag. Try to position the coldest item at the top of the bag since cool air settles.

These foods suggestions should help your child be alert and ready for their exam. It’s also a great way to create healthy habits that can last a lifetime. But the most important item to include in the brown bag is a note of encouragement on their test. Overall, it’s the best way to nourish their soul.

Anyone interested in learning more about healthy foods, trends, and maneuvering the supermarket can visit iTunes and download his free iPhone mobile app called “Smarter Shopping with Phil Lempert.”

About Philip Lempert

Known as the Supermarket Guru®, Phil Lempert publishes the trends publication The Lempert Report and Food Nutrition & Science. He is the author of several books and founded in 1994 that is a leading online resource providing consumers with food safety, products, trends and shopping tips.  With more than six million visitors annually, consumers have access to breaking food industry news, health and nutrition tips and other food-related information. For more information, please visit


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