If you're a busy, working adult enrolled in an online degree program, what you eat can have a big impact on your academic performance.
Your to-do list is relentless. Mornings are harried; afternoons pass in a blur and evenings drag on as you stay awake to finish everything necessary. Your eyelids droop, your stomach growls. You reach for ... what?
Caffeine? Chips? Candy? Or do you just plow through and figure you'll eat when you're less busy?
You wouldn't send your kids off to a test or a busy school day with a soda and chocolate bar. What adults eat during their days can affect their academic performance, too.
As a student enrolled in a Saint Leo University online degree program, you may be juggling demands of school, work and family — and certain foods can give you a leg up in helping you focus in the short and long term.
Keep your brain sharp with some of these smart snacks for the different scenarios you face while pursuing your online degree.
When you have a long day ahead of you
You may be tempted to rush out the door in the morning and not waste your time on breakfast, but planning ahead for this important meal pays off. Numerous studies have shown that eating breakfast improves academic performance. Breakfast can help memory and increase attention span, possibly because it stabilizes your blood sugar after hours without eating.
But there's a big difference between starting your day with a bowl of sugary cereal and a more well-rounded breakfast. Turn to breakfast foods filled with protein that will sustain energy levels.
- Boil eggs Sunday night for a grab-and-go item on hectic mornings.
- Yogurt topped with cereal is a creamy, crunchy and fulfilling option if you're not big on eggs. Carbs in the cereal provide energy, while the yogurt's protein keeps you feeling full.
- Oatmeal has similar benefits, and you can sprinkle nuts or fruit on it for added benefits.
- Or try a peanut butter banana smoothie, avocado on toast or a fruit and yogurt parfait.
When you have a lot of reading
When your blood sugar is low, it is tough to concentrate. You need a snack with lasting power that won't have you back at square one before you finish your chapter.
- Trail mix — with a mix of nuts, raisins and maybe even some dark chocolate — is a healthy choice to munch on and provides a lasting energy boost that candy alone won't.
- You can also make your own granola bars that are light on the sugars but big on flavor.
- Pair whole-wheat crackers, a quick energy source, with protein (cheese or peanut butter) to sustain you.
- Bananas are easy to keep on hand, if you're looking for something with little to no preparation and are filled with potassium and vitamin B6 that may help memory and concentration.
- Blueberries, meanwhile, contain flavonoids that may improve memory, reasoning skills and verbal comprehension. A recent study showed people who drank blueberry juice daily for a certain period of time showed improvement on learning and memory tests.
- Take a veggie break. A study published in Neurology reported that people who ate at least three servings of vegetables a day could slow their rate of cognitive decline.
- Leafy greens seemed to make the biggest difference. Make your own kale chips, stuff your sandwich with spinach or turn it into a salad — or mix those greens with a scrambled egg in an omelet or frittata in the morning for that healthy breakfast you also need.
When you need to burn the midnight oil
It's been a long day. The kids are finally in bed and the house is quiet. You're going to put in one more hour of studying so you can ace your psych final tomorrow, but you need a jolt of energy. Coffee and soda are tempting, but is there a better choice?
- Go for water. Dehydration can cause you to lose your focus, feel tired and develop headaches.
- For something with more flavor, green tea contains caffeine and has added benefits of helping lower your risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
- If you're craving chocolate, a cup of hot cocoa provides a sweet jolt and may stave off memory decline.
When you want to build your brain
Some foods are valuable to work into your diet on a regular basis, no matter what your school schedule, because of the benefits they bring your brain.
- Foods with omega-3 fatty acids are essential for brain health. Try to work cold-water fish into your meals a couple times a week, maybe with salmon tacos or seared tuna on a salad.
- Flaxseed, walnuts, canola oil and soybeans also contain omega-3 fatty acids.
- Chia seeds are rich in healthy fats and antioxidants and require no preparation — just sprinkle into smoothies, yogurt, cereal or batter for baked goods.
- Dark-skinned fruits and vegetables are great for their high antioxidant levels and nuts high in vitamin E as foods that may protect brain cells.
Remember, though, even the most well-fed brain deserves a break. Adequate rest ensures you have time to recharge mentally and physically, and exercise is a great way to manage stress.
What do you reach for when you need a brain-boosting snack?
Image Credit: sinseeho on Shutterstock
Other posts you may be interested in reading: