We are at that time of the year again. The middle of April, everyone is dealing with coursework stress. Exams slowly creeping in from all sides and suddenly it all feels very, very real and true. And like any other rational students and human beings, we all turn to that one thing hoping it will provide us with relief and comfort – food.
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As much as food is amazing and something needed to just survive, not everyone might hold the same perception towards it. Most of the time, we count calories but fail to look at the nutritional value of the food we consume. I write this article in hopes of clearing a few misconceptions that we tend to hold towards food, healthy diets or fad diets, in an attempt to lessen the stress on our bodies which is already rocketing sky high during exam season. At the end of this article, there is also a food list as a guide to nourish your body, won’t leave you feeling like a puddle of emotional mess (*casually throwing shade at sugary chocolate*) and might help you ace to those papers with less misery.
To begin with,
A hundred calories of chips is not the same as a hundred calories of an apple
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This is the reason why counting and obsessing over numbers will not get you anywhere. A single serving of normal potato chips provides around 115 calories, which is 15 grams of carbohydrates and 10 grams of fat, whereas a large apple provides roughly the same amount of calories, but with 30 grams of carbohydrates with little to no fat.
Instead of focusing on the numbers (including that evil weighing scale), try to pay attention to the nutritional content of the food that you are consuming, especially when you are cramming for those final lecture readings or pulling those all-nighters. The sugar rush from the apple’s natural sugars will take you much further than those sugary treats from the convenience stores.
Stop weighing yourself every single day
If you think your weight is contributing to your stress and if you are one of those people who tends to weigh yourself every day, DO NOT. It is hard to stop right away but once you break it away, it helps tremendously. A lot goes into your body weight and a lot of the differences you see on a daily basis is usually water weight, food from the day before and so on. During a high stress exam period, your body will end up holding on to much more as it is a natural survival instinct and you are constantly feeling anxious or nervous. Tell yourself: the difference is only temporary – it will fix itself – the only thing you got to be doing is focusing on those papers and your well being!
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
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Dehydration is something you don’t want to experience during this season as it leaves us feeling lethargic, tired, and it also lowers our concentration. To deal with this, aim at drinking at least 1.5 to 2 litres of water per day, or if you are bored with water, you may want to try drinking plain herbal tea or fruit-infused water. It will make you feel refreshed and rejuvenated to tackle those assignments throughout the day (or night!)
It is completely okay to let go once in a while
The food temptations are getting too much! All you want to do is to devour that entire pack of chicken nuggets and a tub of your favourite ice cream? We all have those moments. And it is completely okay to do so. Denying the things you love gonna make your temptations grow and leave you thinking about that one particular food all day long. So, ultimately, if you are craving for it, just go for it! However, try to portion control by drinking half a cup of water or so in between eating as it will give you a sense of satisfaction quicker. With that, you are not left feeling like you are starved of those wonderful pleasures in life and yet fulfilling the calls of your taste buds.
Make wiser choices
It is much easier to trick your brain and satisfy the cravings than you think it is. When you are craving for sugar, you can trick yourself by eating a banana than reaching for that bar of chocolate. You just have to give your brain some time to process this as natural and whole foods take a longer time for the body to digest (due to lower glycemic index), compared to simple carbohydrates and sugars.
To help you with this, provided below is a food list that you could find in the vicinity of UNMC, which is a healthier option that your body will definitely thank you for! Always remember that a healthy lifestyle does not have to restrict any particular food group because that is just not sustainable, especially as a University student. It is all about making the best use of your available resources, so that you feel good and nourished in the end!
(Most of the foods below could be easily found either in UNMC’s 7Eleven, the convenience store in Univillage or Tesco)
Image from Raw Blend
Craving something sweet? Try these:
Granola Bars – Nature Valley Oat and Honey / Roasted Almond / Apple Crisp
Any serving of fruit – Apple / Banana / Grapes
Dried Fruit – Raisin / Cranberries / Dates (preferably no sugar added – single serving)
Calories: ~110 calories
HL Milk – Plain / Strawberry / Chocolate (single serving pack – 200ml)
Dark Chocolate – at least more than 30% cacao
Greek or plain yoghurt – Toppings could be honey, cut fruits, muesli, granola, ANYTHING that goes with your taste!
Craving something savoury? Try these:
7Eleven Onigiri – Salmon/Tuna/Fish Roe/Chicken/Egg
Any serving of flavoured or spiced nuts: Almonds / Pistachios / Cashew Nuts or Sunflower Seeds (for that extra crunch)
Baked Chips or Microwave / Air Popped Popcorn
Calories: ~200 calories
Bread, wholemeal or bran
Calories: ~160 (2 slices)
If you really do not fancy any of the recommendations, it is completely alright too! As long as you are eating your favorite foods, but are still in control of your portion size, you won’t be doing much damage. A gentle reminder: make sure you read those nutrition labels to ensure what is going into your body and adjust accordingly.
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On an ending note, good luck in acing all those assignments and exams! Stay healthy, relax, care a little less about the figure/figures and may the force of good food guide you on your way to success!
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Written by Samudhra Sendhil