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Keep em' healthy and ready to achieve greatness!

With my youngest children about to enter Year 12 its a great time to revisit the research I put into practice when my first child was a Year 12 student. It must have been okay as she is now in her final year of tertiary study, completing her second degree.

With exams comes stress. Stress can be a huge dietary trigger, with comfort food and bad meal choices being made by the children to help them through the huge amount of study time. It is too easy to sit down to a tedious study session and make it feel better with a big bag of lollies. A huge sugar intact before bed will guarantee a bad nights sleep and the start to a gradual decline in health and the ability for your student to concentrate. Bad food choices can become a 'crutch' that also develops 'bad habits' for the future. 

I have always insisted my children play team sport with regular training sessions up until third term. Then I let them decide if they'd like to carry on in a team sport or switch to a couple of sessions of fun and/or relaxing activity such as a swim, yoga or even an hour long walk. After a long day at school a break is well deserved, but this break should not be lying around on social media or watching TV whilst eating. 

Eating well at exam time right can be the first step to aid in study success. My ‘‘Exam Preparation Dietary Tips’ can get your student eating well so that they can study efficiently and perform better when exam time hits. Hey! It can't hurt to take a little or a lot of this article on board!

A good Study Eating Plan provides a guide to healthy meals and snacks packed with nutrient-rich foods that are recommended in The Australian Dietary Guidelines. A Study Food Plan should incorporate red meat, such as beef and lamb 3 to 4 times a week, this helps keep students iron and zinc levels in check and keep them focused and full of energy.

Including 3 to 4 serves of beef and lamb per week provides iron to support brain function and zinc for a healthy immune system. Red meat is especially important at exam time and the study time in the lead up as low iron can contribute to fatigue which will defiantley make effective study harder. Three balanced meals a day with snacks that high in nutrients and low in fat such as wholegrain breads, fruit and energy bars will keep the body and mind fit and avoid fatigue. Vegetables high in iron such as silverbeet and beans are also a "go to' to serve with meats. I prefer to stir fry my vegetables with a little garlic for an extra immune boost.

A Study Eating Plan includes meal plans should be tailored to suit the needs of teenage girls and boys and should be easy for the family to fit into daily life at same time. Choose a meal plan that is varied and also cost effective. Do not include meals that you have not cooked before as this may lead to deterring from the plan. With detailed choices for breakfast, lunch, dinner and numerous healthy snacking options, a Study Eating Plan will show that eating right can help fuel the mind and body for PEAK exam performance.

Pin your menu on your fridge so the student knows what to do it you are at work. 

Sample Study Plan Menu

  Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Breakfast Toasted breakfast wrap – ham, avocado and tomato
Fruit salad
Wholegrain breakfast cereal with reduced fat milk and chopped banana

Wholegrain toast with tomato and poached or boiled eggs

Brekkie toastie – baked beans, tomato and egg Wholegrain cereal with reduced fat milk and chopped banana Big brekkie (eggs, bacon, tomato) and wholegrain toast

Porridge and stewed fruit


Morning Tea Wholegrain English muffin with reduced fat cheese and vegemite Milo Drink and piece of fruit

Wholegrain crackers, veggies sticks and reduced fat cheese


Wholegrain fruit toast with reduced fat cream cheese Sushi roll or Tuna with Rice & corn and a little mayo to combine Wholegrain muffin with avocado Wholegrain toast with peanut butter
Lunch Pesto chicken, sun-dried tomato and salad wholegrain roll Chickpea, sweet potato and rocket pasta salad Beef, spinach and pumpkin wholegrain sandwich Smoked salmon, avocado and mixed leaf wholegrain wrap Egg and lettuce wholegrain sandwich Leftover bolognaise toasty

Chicken, avocado and salad on a wholegrain roll

Afternoon Tea Reduced fat yoghurt Piece of fruit Wholegrain English muffin with peanut butter Wholegrain English muffin with reduced fat cream cheese and chopped banana Nut Museli Bar Wholegrain fruit muffin Wholemeal crumpet + vegemite
Fun size chocolate
Berry smoothie – reduced fat milk, frozen berries, honey
Dinner  200g Scotch Steak with steamed greens or salad Spicy Spring Lamb BBQ Chops with charred Zucchini a mixed green salad

Pork Fillet and mixed vegetable stir-fry with egg noodles

Spaghetti bolognaise with garlic bread and a mixed green salad

Baked barramundi with pumpkin mash and rocket salad

Greek BBQ Lamb with salad


Wholegrain fruit toast with ricotta

Reduced fat custard and stewed fruit

Berry smoothie – reduced fat milk, reduced fat yoghurt, frozen berries

Reduced fat milk and wholegrain crackers with peanut butter

Wholemeal crumpet + vegemite
Fun size chocolate

Vanilla ice- cream and frozen berries

Fun size chocolate Air-popped popcorn

Here are some useful tips for study and exam success. 

1. Don't skip meals  - In the lead up and during exam time it's easy for your student to say that they don't have time to eat. However, skipping meals can lead to fatigue and loss of concentration pretty quickly. Quick and healthy dishes such as steak sandwiches on wholegrain bread, wholegrain lamb wraps or tuna salads are great options during this busy time. Healthy snacks are also important, so make sure there are plenty of fresh fruit, nuts, nut bars or reduced fat yoghurt in the pantry and fridge. 

2. Provide iron and zinc-rich protein foods  - Iron and zinc are required for brain function and immunity, and low levels can lead to tiredness, lack of energy and poor concentration. Red meat, such as beef and lamb are good sources of iron and zinc and are recommended 3 to 4 times a week as per The Australian Dietary Guidelines. 

3. Keep hydrated  - Encourage the student to drink plenty of water as dehydration can affect both their physical and mental performance. Provide a water bottle during exams and limit sugary soft drinks, juices and energy drinks. My girls both have favoured herbal teas as a relaxant as well as a source of hydration. 

4. Exercise is vital - Encourage the student to be active. Exercise will reduce stress, improve mood, re-energise the brain and provide a much needed study break. Get them to walk the dog, walk to the park or play a team sport with friends. A simple hit of tennis with a friend will do wonders for 'overall balance'. 

5. Sleep is key - We all know that a good eight hours of sleep helps us to perform at our best. To help sleep, encourage tea or a glass of milk over caffeinated beverages such as coffee and energy drinks which can make sleep difficult. Explain to your child that phones and laptops are not to be used in bed during exam time as the light can trick the brain into thinking its still day time as well as this being a mighty big distraction to restful sleep.