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Why eating properly is so important while studying

Avril talks about why looking after yourself when studying for exams can help you feel physically and mentally more prepared


Written by Avril Clarke | View this authors Twitter page and posted in opinion


This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of SpunOut.ie. It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for SpunOut.ie please contact editor@spunout.ie.


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Let’s be realistic here. We all have deadlines, projects, exams, general things to do and it can feel like we have no time to do it! I’m feeling the pressure myself at the moment, I’ve been throwing myself into a project and stupidly, haven’t been looking after my belly’s needs, and it has been quite vocal with its miserable grumblings. A promise of doing a big grocery shop and cooking a feast usually turns into grabbing a Pot Noodle, or even worse, forgetting to eat altogether! Gallons of coffee isn’t the nourishment my brain or body needs, and in doing so, I’m becoming quite the hypocrite.

As Dave Murphy – Youth Leader of Foroige UGA Tallaght quipped: “Exam time is probably the unhealthiest time of a student’s life.” And it brought me back to my exam and essay deadline days. No sleep, too much coffee and snacks. “I have no time to eat!” I always thought that it was stressful enough studying without thinking about ensuring my body and mind were healthy enough to deal with stress and lack of sleep.

We know this is counter-productive. We know we need to take a break. We know that we need to remember to eat good food, as well as remember whatever information we are studying, but are we doing this? This is all so much easier said than done.

It wasn’t until a friend tweeted me saying that she is sustaining herself with “caffeine and cereal” that I gave myself a kick up the arse and forced myself to take a break. Yup, forced myself. I hadn’t eaten a proper meal in a few days and was already seeing the effects; tiredness, getting the sniffles and generally feeling run-down. I gave myself two hours.

Laptop was switched off, threw all notepads, books and pens out of my already strained handbag, and decided to take advantage of these 2 hours, by walking into town on such a rare, warm evening instead of taking the Luas. Headphones in. Fleetwood Mac on. Even by stepping out of the house, I slowly started to switch off. Children were playing in Smithfield Square and beautiful, colourful street art was being painted, just past the Four Courts. ...

Grocery shopping was a pain as I forgot to bring a list. But I headed straight for my go-to food for quick and easy meals. And treats. You’ve gotta have treats. Thank God for Dealz and their 3-pack of bars for €1.49. Thankfully, I love to cook. I find it somewhat therapeutic. Some people play sport, some knit, I cook. Anyways here’s a few of my go-to recipes, admittedly they aren’t the most healthiest meals ever known, but it’s a start, and exam time is only temporary!

Porridge

Eat some. It will make you feel full and slowly release the energy you need for the day, and then you’ll be less tempted to fill up on snacks.

Cheesy Tuna Pasta

  • Cook some pasta.
  • Drain a tin of tuna, add to a bowl and mix in some low-fat mayo and sweetcorn/cooked frozen peas.
  • Drain your pasta, and while it’s still hot, stir in the tuna mix with some of your favourite cheese!
  • If you haven’t time for pasta, use the tuna mix with wholemeal bread for yummy sandwiches.

Chilli Beef Mince

  • Fry mince, onions & peppers. Drain the fat.
  • Mix in passata and dried chilli (or chopped fresh chilli if you have it).
  • This basic mix can be easily made in bulk, stored in individual portions, frozen, and then ready to defrost, and reheat when you need it.
  • I use this for burritos: Heat up the mix, add some cheese, and use big lettuce leaves in place of wraps.
  • Cook some rice (my favourite is basmati rice, mmmm) and add some of this mince for a basic chilli! If you have kidney beans, sure throw them in too.

Pasta

Not a fan of jars of pasta sauce, I prefer to make my own. Passata is fierce cheap, roughly about 60c for 500g. Getting dried herbs do cost a few euro at first, but you’ll save so much money in the long-run! No passata? Tinned tomatoes do the same job.

  • Cook pasta. While you are doing this, fry some onion and peppers. Drain pasta.
  • While the pasta is still hot, mix in your onion, peppers. 
  • Add some passata and your favourite herbs. I love garlic, chilli, mixed herbs, and a dash of honey.

Fruity Breakfast

You can always get great deals on fresh fruit in supermarkets, check out any local markets too, you’ll always pick up a great bargain there.

  • Get your favourite fruit and chop it all up!
  • Add to a big bowl and smother it in low-fat natural yoghurt (Prices vary, but the cheapest I get it is 55c for 500g! Bargain alert!)

Avril’s 3 top tips for surviving exam time:

  • Drink water. Keep hydrated. Or drink lots of tea
  • Go for a walk, not just for the exercise, but for the chance to switch off, even just for 20 minutes. You’ll come back refreshed and with a clearer mind to tackle everything.
  • Eat. Just don’t forget.

If I could, I would personally cook a good hearty meal for every single student so it was one less thing they had to worry about. I hope this helps somehow. The stress you’re feeling now is only temporary, exams will be over soon. Mind yourselves, and good luck to everybody.

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Published May 16th2013
Tags exams healthy eating study
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