Advice Column, Education, Paper Video, Study Assistance, Study Tips

The best study snacks and why they work

  • Paper Video
  • Category Advice Column, Education, Paper Video, Study Assistance, Study Tips

There are so many things that can distract you from studying. Maybe you have low energy and can’t concentrate. Maybe you’re hungry and that’s pulling focus away from your work. Maybe you’re even struggling with your memory right now due to stress or depression. Food is a good and sustainable way to address all of these factors, alongside daily physical activity and quality sleep. In this article, however, we’re talking about the best study snacks and why they can work for you, in addition to being delicious.

1. Coffee with milk

You probably already know that coffee can help increase your energy levels and keep you awake, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to tell you to drink coffee when you have to study late at night (more on that later). Another great thing coffee does is increase the production of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine lifts your mood, making coffee a great option for the beginning of the study session, when you may not feel like getting stuck in. This neurotransmitter also improves focus and boosts concentration, helping you take in more information when you’re learning. Limit your coffee intake to two cups per day and don’t drink any coffee at all after lunchtime. This will prevent caffeine-related anxiety and poor sleep later on.

2. Trail mix

Toss together a big bowl of mixed nuts, your favourite dried fruits and small pieces of chopped dark chocolate. Carbohydrates are our brain’s preferred source of energy, so you’re definitely going to want to include them when you’re planning your study snacks. Fruit contains plenty of carbs in the form of sugar, as does dark chocolate, and this often results in a spike in blood sugar (and energy), followed by an energy crash. We use fat to counteract this effect, and that’s where nuts come in. Nuts contain plenty of the good fats, which force the body to digest carbohydrates more slowly when the two are eaten together. This will give you a steady flow of energy for the next couple of hours. And remember, a portion of trail mix is about a quarter cup, so try to stick to that amount at snack time.

3. Popcorn

There are so many things to love about popcorn. It’s high in protein, wholegrain carbohydrates and fibre. All of these nutrients work towards sustainable slow-release energy to help you concentrate. They also work together to keep you fuller for longer, so you won’t be distracted by hunger 30 minutes into your study session. Popcorn is also extremely low in calories considering the nutritional value it serves, but only if you prepare it correctly. Stay away from ready-to-microwave popcorn or cooking it on the stove with heaps of butter and oil. Instead, buy a bag of kernels and mix a portion with one or two tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Pop them into a brown paper bag and then microwave the popcorn until it’s done.

4. Smoothies

Do you want a wholesome filling snack that includes lots of brain foods plus energy-boosting nutrients? A smoothie is the best way to do this. Remember, our brains need carbs for energy, and healthy fats to help our bodies absorb and use that energy more slowly rather than all at once. So we’ll start with those as a base. We love the idea of oats as your main carb option. They blend easily, give smoothies a nice texture and they have a neutral flavour. Milk offers the same smoothie-making benefits, while offering protein and fat. Now that you have your base, it’s time to add brain food!

  • Blueberries have been found to support memory and cognition.
  • The omega fatty acids found in chia seeds, nuts and seeds are great for concentration and overall brain health.
  • L-theanine is a compound found in green tea that increases focus while decreasing anxiety at the same time!
  • Greens like spinach, broccoli and lettuce are about the long game. Eat them regularly for long-term cognitive health throughout your studies, working life and beyond.
  • Dark chocolate (in small amounts) because it’s another food that naturally contains caffeine.

5. Apples and celery with peanut butter

We know it sounds weird, especially the celery part, but celery and apples are an amazing combo, and celery and peanut butter are an amazing combo (try it before you deny it). Apples are packed with nutrients and energy in the form of carbs, making it a well-rounded snack when paired with a healthy fat protein like peanut butter. When it comes to celery, recent studies have shown that it can improve memory. The evidence also points towards helping people with depression. If you suffer from depression and find that it is affecting your memory (as it commonly does), adding celery to your diet could help to counter this symptom. We’re excited to see where this research leads! When it comes to peanut butter, you can benefit from all the brain boosting effects its omega fatty acids offer. These include improved memory, cognition, concentration and mood.

6. Veggies and hummus

If you’re not a sweet tooth and prefer savoury snacks, what about veggies and hummus? Choose a wide range of veggies in different colours for your energy and nutrients. Serve them with some hummus on the side for dipping to act as your protein and fat source. If you’re a slow snacker, carrots, cucumber, sliced peppers and celery keep (and travel) well, and they all pair well with hummus and each other.

7. Fruit yoghurt ice lollies

Have you ever been in a test or an exam, and a teacher pulls out a bag of Fizz Pops or chewy sweets for the class writing? If you have, you’ll probably remember forever how good your memory and concentration were that day. If you look around, you’ll see this everywhere. People chew gum to increase focus during the work day, they bite their nails to concentrate on something they’re reading, snacking on small nibbles throughout a movie feels like it helps you to enjoy it more. Multiple studies have been conducted to find out if chewing and/or slow snacking does improve concentration and focus. They found that it definitely does, although they don’t quite know how or why just yet. If you find that it helps you concentrate, you don’t have to wait for a teacher to offer you a snack while you’re writing. Take advantage now while you’re still preparing. Buy a six-pack of plain yoghurts. Remove the lids and add your favourite fruits (fresh or frozen). Pop in a stick (use plastic cutlery if you’ve got it building up from takeaways) and freeze them overnight. When you’re ready, snap off one of the yoghurt tubs and gently slide out the now-frozen lolly to enjoy.

If you find that you do tend to struggle to concentrate while studying, maybe it’s time to find a new approach. Instead of sitting down to learn a list of facts, maybe spend 10 minutes learning something you need to know off by heart. For the rest of your study session, do a bunch of past paper questions. This method of studying can feel more active and purposeful. Find hundreds of past papers on Paper Video, with an experienced teacher explaining the answer to each individual question should you get stuck. Paper Video is free for 2023, so you can dive in right now, study snack in hand!

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