When I started college I didn’t know the difference between proteins and carbohydrates or which foods kept me full the longest, or gave me the most energy. One night before finals, I cooked pasta with a homemade tomato sauce and vegetables. Then I packed up my books and went to the library to study. No sooner than I was sitting down to study at the library I started feeling hungry. I didn’t understand how I could be hungry so soon.
It is easy, especially at exam time, to get into the habit of drinking coffee rather than eating breakfast, or eating junk or vending machine food because you don’t have time to prepare a meal or healthy snack. It is important during law school to eat foods with staying power so that you don’t get hungry or tired during a study session or exam. Make good nutrition part of your study plan as you continue your law school journey. For more on this topic read this previous post on food as fuel for the bar exam.
I now know that there is more to choosing healthy foods than food groups or calories. Fiber, glycemic index, antioxidants, and healthy fats should help you determine which foods to choose. High fiber foods keep you full longer. Foods with a low glycemic index help keep your blood sugar stable. High levels of antioxidants in food can strengthen your immune system and may even boost brain function. Bright colored food is better for you. And certain “healthy” fats may make you smarter. The idea is not to focus on one theory but to combine these for a healthy balance.
Without taking time off from law school to study nutrition here are some tips for healthy meals and snacks to maximize your energy and focus.
- Start your day off with breakfast. Now I know why moms say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. See this former blog post by a nutritionist for more information on the optimal nutrition for breakfast and/or lunch.
- Plan ahead. Go to the market for a study break or on your day off. Make several meals at one time. To get out quickly to class or the library, prepare your breakfast the night before when you are too tired to study. Try one of these no cook oatmeal These also work as a good grab and go snack. Another tip for a healthy meal that will practically cook itself, try a slow cooker. See this previous post on fast cooking.
- Stay hydrated. Drink water or tea (but not too much coffee!) Caffeine and alcohol are diuretics and therefore cause dehydration (the opposite of what you are trying to accomplish). Adequate hydration helps the brain perform optimally. If you are well hydrated you will feel more rested and have more energy to study!
- Eat more protein. High protein meals and snacks are best for your brain. Try a couple slices of deli turkey rolled up with a slice of cheese and/or tomato or make your own protein smoothie with your choice of milk, banana and nut butter.
- Add healthy fats to your diet. Healthy fats increase blood flow to your brain. Snack on an avocado (on a piece of whole wheat toast or plain with some sea salt) or grab a bunch of almonds or walnuts, or sunflower seeds, or eat them in the form of nut or seed butter.
- Improve your memory with blueberries.
- Eat your vegetables. Color matters. Your brain depends on vitamins and minerals and kale tops the chart. Buy or make some kale chips, eat it in the form of a salad or throw some in a smoothie.
- Snack smart. Eat protein and carbohydrates together when snacking for maximum nourishment. Try apple slices, carrots or whole wheat pretzels (or pita chips) with some hummus or nut butter (peanut, almond, etc). See this slideshow for more ideas. Protein drinks and bars should not regularly replace healthy meals but if you need something on the go once in awhile try this drink or bar.
- Add beans to your diet. Garbanzo beans are high in magnesium and can improve processing speed. Eat beans as the base of a bowl with a lean meat protein for a meal or eat them as a crunchy snack. Roast some chickpeas in the oven for 45 minutes, long enough to get through some cases or class notes. Try these flavors. Other varieties of beans are also great for roasting.
- Drink your milk or yogurt. Greek yogurt is full of protein so will help you stay full. Yogurt with a probiotic may also reduce stress and anxiety.
With time at a premium in law school, now when you are food shopping or preparing meals or snacks you will know that it is time well spent.
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Other helpful law school tips:
- You Are What You Eat: Eating Well in Law School
- Want to Get Good Law School Grades – Become a Self-Starter
- 10 Reasons to Exercise in Law School
- 6 Ways to Take Time to Exercise in Law School
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