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It's Brain Food!

Secrets about snacks that can help you succeed.

Learning Benefits

Breakfast, lunch, and snacks in the afternoon can all affect how you study and, in turn, how you perform on a test. Here's a crash course on refreshments that can refresh your mind.

What's the Big Deal About Breakfast?
Do you get up as soon as your alarm rings and eat breakfast before school every morning? Or do you hit the snooze button a few times before rolling out of bed and rushing off to school with no breakfast? If the second choice accurately describes your morning routine, you're in good company! Who really wants to get out of bed and eat breakfast when you could be getting more rest by sleeping an extra twenty minutes?

As it turns out, sleeping in and skipping breakfast will probably leave you more tired during school than waking up a bit earlier and making sure you eat. That morning munchfest is totally essential for energy — and this is especially key leading up to a test.

Why? When you eat food in the morning, you're giving your body the necessary vitamins and minerals that affect the way you concentrate, the way you absorb information, and the way you function in class. Think of it this way: it's pretty tough to learn the dates of the Civil War when your eyes droop closed and you can't focus on the blackboard. It's also hard to remember that timeline when your mind wanders into daydream mode constantly. And it's even more difficult to get a good grade on a test when you're asleep during it!

So turn off your alarm on the first buzz and dig into the breakfast of academic champions every morning. It'll boost your memory skills, you'll be more alert, and it could translate into test success. You have to actually study too, but having breakfast definitely helps!

A Week's Worth of Ideas for Morning Meals Leading Up to Test Day

Monday: Cheerios with a banana sliced up. Stick to low sugar cereals, like Cheerios or Crispix, and add some fruit to naturally sweeten it. Cereal is filling, easy to make, and tastes good — the perfect way to start the week.

Tuesday: Scrambled eggs with wheat toast. Eggs are a good source of protein, and with a slice of toast, you'll have a combination of nutrients that will give you extra oomph all morning.

Wednesday: Whole-wheat bagel with jelly or cream cheese. Multi-grain or whole-wheat bagels are more nutritious than plain white ones, and a tablespoon of jelly or cream cheese is a better choice than heavy butter. Plus, bagels are great for an on-the-go breakfast if you're in a rush to get to school for extra studying.

Thursday: Yogurt with granola. Get a big dose of calcium from the yogurt, and put granola on top for a satisfying crunch. Almost as satisfying as reviewing for the test and knowing all the answers!

Friday: Oatmeal with brown sugar and cinnamon. Oatmeal is truly a winner — it has a mix of protein, fiber, and carbohydrates, which will keep you energized and alert during the test. Sprinkle your oatmeal with a bit of brown sugar or cinnamon to make it sweeter; better yet, add some fresh berries! After all, it's Friday, and you deserve a treat for preparing yourself so well.

A Balanced Lunch Helps a Bunch!
Now that you've aced breakfast, it's time to make your noontime noshing more nutritious. As with breakfast, eating the right food at lunch gives you energy so you don't crash before the day is done. And the right food will feed your brain, so your brain can feed you all the right information for your test!

With all the studying you have to do, it may seem easier to buy your lunch in the cafeteria than to worry about packing a lunch at home. But some of the choices you might find in the lunch room — pizza, burgers, chicken fingers, French fries, and the candy machine — are high-fat or high-sugar foods that will leave you sluggish and not at all in test-mode. For the healthiest, smartest meal, you should break out the brown bag.

Thinking Inside the Lunchbox: Do's and Don'ts for Packing a Brain-Boosting Lunch

Do balance your box with selections from the food pyramid. Pack some whole grains (brown rice, an English muffin, whole wheat pita bread), fruits and veggies, dairy (cheese, yogurt, milk), and meat (turkey, ham, chicken) or meat substitute (tofu, tuna fish, peanut butter).
Don't forget to pack a snack: a baggie of pretzels, a cookie, Jell-O pudding, or a handful of Wheat Thins.

Do pay attention to what you're drinking. Water and milk are good. Sodas and high-sugar fruit juices are not.
Don't discard your thermos. Bring hot soup or chili to school with you during cold winter months so your brain doesn't freeze.

Do dip in! Put some ranch dressing, honey mustard, or salsa into a Tupperware container and zip some baby carrots, cucumber slices, celery sticks, and broccoli florets into a Ziploc bag to add crunch to your lunch.
Don't leave out your favorite tastes. If you love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, just substitute the white bread with wheat bread — it's better for you.

Do make a fruit salad. Apples, pears, peaches, plums, and raspberries (all full of fiber) are the best choices for boosting brainpower.
Don't go to the vending machine when you finish eating. If you feel like you must have a snack, wait at least 20 minutes. That's how long it takes for your stomach to realize it's full. And if you go into a study session or test with a too-full stomach, you probably won't be able to concentrate.

Munching for Your Mind
Ahh, snacks. Some swear that the "sugar-high" and caffeine boost from candy, chocolate, or soda actually helps the studying process because it gives them energy. But it's just temporary, and what goes up, must come down. In most cases, too much sugar or caffeine will end up zapping your energy. You could also end up with a headache, and in general, be left in a state that's rather useless for absorbing test information. If you can't live without sweets, just remember to not to go crazy. One chocolate-chip cookie won't kill your concentration. But if you have six, chances are you'll either end up with a stomachache or taking a nap.

Try out some snacks that are both delicious and healthy. This menu of munchies will keep your mind alert, your stomach satiated, and your taste buds thrilled.

Super Snacks For Studying

  • PB and A. Cut an apple into wedges and spread some crunchy peanut butter on it.
  • Smooth Studier. Blend a cup of milk, 2 cups of your favorite fruit, and a cup of ice. Stick a straw in your glass and you have a super smoothie!
  • Cheese, Please! Cube some cheese and stick toothpicks in them. Serve with crackers.
  • It's Berry Good. Take a handful of berries — blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, or sliced strawberries — and mix them with plain or vanilla yogurt. Yum!
  • Skinny Dipping. Nothing beats noshing on carrots and ranch dip when you need something crisp.
  • Pop Star. Pour your favorite fruit juice into the ice cube tray and freeze for mini-popsicles.
  • Go Nuts! Create your own nutty trail mix, with cashews, peanuts, bagel chips, pretzel sticks, and M&Ms. Shake it up, and serve in a bowl.

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