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What to eat before the SAT test (and what not to eat)

What to eat before the SAT test (and what not to eat)

The morning you take the SAT test — while nerves may prevent you from feeling famished — is not the day to demurely nibble on a bagel, swig some coffee and be on your way. 

“The SATs require an enormous amount of brainpower and concentration, so your body and mind need to be functioning at their best capacities,” says Andrea Berez, a registered dietician and certified pediatric nutrition specialist. “It’s super important to get a complete nutritious breakfast the morning of. Eating enough protein before a long exam like this is crucial, in addition to eating enough carbs to keep concentration and stamina going.”  

If prepping the perfect SAT breakfast isn’t high on your priority list (because, after all, you have plenty of other prepping to do), consider this: According to the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, students who eat a nutritious breakfast perform better on math and reading in general, as well as standardized tests

Healthy breakfasts also provide the following benefits to students:

  • Increased energy. 

  • Improved concentration, particularly with memory and recall. 

  • Fewer behavior problems.

  • Fewer incidents of tardiness.

  • Better problem-solving skills.

Healthy breakfasts for test day

When deciding what to eat before the SAT test, go with foods that will help you maintain energy levels throughout the morning. As Berez pointed out, protein and carbohydrates should always have starring roles in this meal, as they’ll help combat mental fatigue and mid-test exhaustion. 

Here are a few foods to choose from when deciding what to eat before the SAT:

  • Eggs.

  • Steel-cut oatmeal.

  • Nuts and nut butter.

  • Yogurt.

  • Fresh fruit.

  • English muffin.

  • Whole grain waffles.

  • Turkey sausage.

  • Guacamole. (Yes, really.)

  • Cheese.

  • Milk-based protein shake.

SAT breakfast recipes

Wondering how to put it all together into something delicious? Here are five of Berez’s favorite power breakfasts for pre-SAT fuel:

1. Breakfast wrap

“A whole wheat breakfast wrap filled with two eggs, cheese and some chopped veggies, topped with guacamole is a great way to start the day,” she says.

2. Oatmeal

For long-lasting energy, kick your oatmeal up a notch by adding a few protein-rich toppings to it. Berez recommends a bowl of steel-cut oatmeal made with your milk of choice and either two tablespoons of nuts or seeds or nut or seed butter, along with half a cup of fresh fruit.

3. Sausage patty

“A turkey sausage patty on a whole-grain English muffin served with a half cup of fruit is a great breakfast option for sustained energy,” says Berez. 

4. Protein shake

For a grab-and-go option, Berez suggests a protein shake made with milk, one scoop of protein powder and half a cup of fruit blended with ice. 

5. Yogurt

Another easy-to-throw-together option? Full-fat Greek yogurt with two tablespoons of walnuts or chia seeds, along with half a cup of fruit.

Foods and drinks to avoid

Not everyone is going to have time to put together a perfectly curated breakfast the morning of the SATs. We get that. However, it’s in your best interest to make sure your breakfast isn’t too one-note the day of the big test. 

“Avoid having only carbs in the morning, as they will break down quickly and leave you feeling hungry and tired in the middle of the SATs,” says Berez, who recommends staying away from the following:

  • Breads.

  • Cereals.

  • Muffins.

  • Baked goods.

Additionally, Jenifer Thompson, an advanced-practice dietician at Johns Hopkins, recommends resisting the urge to drink more coffee than usual in an effort to “perk up.” 

“Coffee can help with short-term energy, but too much will leave you jittery or uncomfortable. Also, it’s a diuretic, so you’ll likely have to use the bathroom shortly after consuming, which could be disruptive for testing times,” she says.

Making time for breakfast

If you’re not known to be a breakfast person, but you want to make sure you fuel up before the SATs, try these tips from the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

  • Make breakfast the night before. While you can’t fix yourself scrambled eggs ahead of time, you can hard-boil eggs or, at the very least, have all the ingredients organized and ready to go. 

  • Avoid snacking too late. Late-night eating may make for a full belly in the morning. Prioritize your morning appetite by making sure you’re not eating too close to bedtime. 

  • Set your alarm earlier than normal. Never have time for breakfast? Make time by setting your alarm to go off 10 to 15 minutes early. 

  • Have a grab-and-go option. If you never have time for breakfast — and can’t see yourself getting up early the morning of the SATs — have something, such as trail mix, a banana and milk at the ready, so you can munch on the way to your test. 

Good luck!