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The Best Foods to Eat Before a Test

Proper nutrition is a critical aspect of preparing for a big test and can make or break your score. We cover everything you need to know about pre-exam meals and nutrition.


By Lynell Ross, Certified Health & Wellness Coach

Colorful Food

Best Pre-Exam Foods


The best way to eat for optimal performance on test day is to prepare well-balanced meals using healthy foods. Consuming high fat foods, simple carbohydrates and sugary drinks and snacks can lead to brain fog and a crash after the quick absorption of the glucose in the body. Starting the day with a healthy meal, regardless of the time of the exam, is important to begin properly fueling the brain for the day ahead. It is also crucial to drink enough water the day of the exam. This helps the body stay hydrated and can help the brain focus on the test. A proper balance of complex carbohydrates, protein and fats can keep the brain fed and the blood sugar stable leading to a heightened focus. Throughout this article there are tips on how to pick the right types of foods to help improve concentration, focus and memory. Here are several meal ideas to keep the brain working at peak performance for an exam. 


Steel Cut Oats with Berries and Almonds

Eating a bowl of steel cut oats topped with berries and almonds before a test can help keep the brain fueled up for an exam. The carbohydrates from the oats combined with antioxidants from the berries and fat from the almonds can provide the brain with nutrients it needs to work at peak performance for the duration of the exam. To prepare this dish follow the cooking instructions on the package for the steel cut oats. Once prepared, place one cup of oats in a bowl. Top with ½ cup of blueberries and ¼ cup of slivered almonds. If the oats are too thick or dry try topping with ¼ cup of milk or a milk alternative.


Eggs and Toast

This simple breakfast idea is quick and easy while providing all the brain fueling nutrients needed to take an exam. First it is important to select the correct bread for the toast. Looking at the nutrition label is necessary to ensure the bread will provide the long lasting carbohydrates needed to prevent a dip in blood sugar. Opt for breads with whole wheat as the first ingredient and a fiber content of 4 grams or more. Do not be fooled by the words on the packaging. The only way to tell if the bread is the right choice it to read the nutrition label. By choosing these types of breads the body will take some time to digest it preventing a spike in blood sugar followed by a crash. To prepare this meal start by cooking one egg or one whole egg and one egg white as preferred. Make the toast at the same time and once its all done enjoy.


Kale Salad

Kale or other leafy greens have been shown to boost brain function. Choosing toppings also proven to boost brain function can not only create a satisfying meal but also provide the body and brain with nutrients needed to maintain focus during the exam. Try creating a salad of kale (or any other leafy green of choice) topped with ¼ cup of sunflower seeds, ¼ dried cranberries, 1/3 of a medium avocado and either 3 oz of chicken or salmon with 2 tbsp of the dressing of your choice will be just the brain boost needed to keep focused during the exam. 


Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

Now this may seem like too simple of an idea however, if made with the whole grain bread (as described above), natural peanut butter (made from only peanuts-no added oils) and a jam or fruit spread (one with no added sugar) made from strawberries, blackberries or blueberries it is an excellent choice for a pre test meal. The whole grain bread provides the long lasting carbohydrates, the peanut butter provides some fat and protein needed to keep the body feeling full longer, and the berry jam or fruit spread provides antioxidants proven to help brain function. 



Most important of all is to ensure the proper intake of water. Keeping the body hydrated will keep the brain functioning at top level. The recommended intake of water is 64oz daily- this is a total of 8 8oz glasses. While it can be difficult to remember to drink water an easy way to help remind you is to carry a use a re-useable water bottle. They come in many different sizes 16oz, 24oz and 1L being the most common. This makes the counting a little easier- for the 16 oz bottle you would need 4 per day, 24oz you would need 3 per day and the 1L bottle 2 per day to reach the recommended water intake. The water bottle can serve as a reminder to actually drink your water.  



If snacks are allowed in the testing area opting for nuts, seeds, and dried fruit can help provide fuel for the brain. Making a trail mix with your favorite mix of nuts, seeds, dried fruit and even a little dark chocolate can be an easy way to help provide a little boost of energy through out a long exam. Ensure that the dried fruit has no added sugar as this can cause a spike in blood sugar leading to a crash. Choosing nuts like peanuts, almonds and walnuts are the best options for your mix. Sunflower seeds are also a great choice as they are a brain fueling food. 


Consuming the correct types of foods on test day is essential to maintaining the proper brain function needed to take a test. Avoid highly processed foods, foods high in fat and sugar, and drinks high in sugar. Make better food choices by reading nutrition labels and buying whole foods and fresh produce. Combining the complex carbohydrates with a protein and a healthy fat can keep brain fueled and the body full for the exam. All the meals mentioned in this article are simple to make and can be done on any budget. These foods are high in nutrients and will help feed the brain through out the test. 

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