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5 SAT Power Breakfast Ideas

Sheila Szabo
Aug. 6, 2012

Fuel up on brain food before a big test

From practicing ratios to memorizing vocabulary, students feed their minds for months as they prepare for college exams, but too many forget about the importance of feeding their bodies as well. These tests are demanding, and you need to prepare your body, especially that morning.

You can study and cram as much information as you can during the final test-taking moments, but if you've neglected proper nutrition, you could still flounder under pressure. Joyce Berenson, a dietician and nutritionist from Temecula, California, recommends combining three components in your breakfast choice.

"Ideally, you should have a balance of whole-grain carbs, lean protein and healthy fat," Berenson says. The proteins fuel young brains for the needed stretch of time, without the fall-out sugar can cause later on. "Some people don't like to eat breakfast, so try blending low-fat milk or yogurt, a fruit and some juice. Or grab a healthy granola bar, a banana and glass of low-fat milk or string cheese."

Kathryn Adelstein, a private college exam prep tutor from San Diego, California, believes that confidence during test taking is the most important tool for a student's success, and part of that confidence comes from feeding the brain with proper nutrition.

"I tell [students] to eat a healthy breakfast, and take protein snacks during the testing--even if they're not hungry," Adelstein says. "It really helps boost their memory when they have a snack during breaks."

Choose a meal that will kick-start your brain

Don't grab something quickly and haphazardly on your way out the door the morning of the test. Plan what you are going to eat for breakfast ahead of time. Here are some ideas that will set both your brain and your body on the right track.

1. Steak or ham and eggs with multigrain bread. This breakfast of champions consists of steak or lean meat and eggs, as it has a winning combination of amino acids that improve energy and choline (found in egg yolks) that boosts brain function.

2. Buttermilk biscuits with poached egg Florentine. While protein is the No. 1 choice for power breakfasts, carbohydrates are second in line. Avoid the easy option of grabbing a sugar-based breakfast, such as doughnuts, cereal or pastries. After the sugar high wears off, test takers will be left feeling lethargic and slow--making concentration difficult during the examination. Eggs provide the protein and spinach the slow-burning carbs, to make this one last throughout the morning. Don't worry about a little bit of sauce in this well-balanced breakfast; even the cheese helps round this one out with protein and vitamins to keep you going. Balance the meal out with grapefruit or orange juice.

3. Breakfast burrito in whole wheat tortilla. Add Canadian bacon or ham to a couple of scrambled eggs and top them with salsa and shredded cheese. For a meat-free or gluten-free alternative, use tofu with chopped veggie burgers, or replace with a corn tortilla.

4. Brown rice cakes topped with veggies and eggs. For another gluten-free idea, grab brown rice cakes, and build them up with your favorite toppings, such as egg, cheese, spinach, tomatoes and bell peppers. Avocados are great for adding healthy fats along with flavor.

5. Steel-cut oatmeal with bananas and peanut butter. Prepare steel-cut oatmeal--it's less processed and therefore a more complex carb than the microwaveable baggies--and blend in sliced bananas for a power-shot of potassium. Peanut or almond butter is an excellent addition for protein, especially for those avoiding meat.

Drink some java

If you normally gulp down coffee in the morning, avoid adding a ton of sugar or sugary creamer to it, but don't try to cut yourself off on test day. As long as you've had a solid breakfast, a small cup of black coffee sipped just before or during the start of the test can help increase alertness. But don't go overboard with a venti triple-shot latte, as coffee can still cause a crash--especially when chugged.

Eat healthy on days before the exam

Whether the test you're taking is the SAT, SAT II, ACT, PSAT or CSAP, the rules are the same: Give the brain what it needs to stimulate thought processes and energize memory. In the days leading up to an exam, your body and mind should be given the fuel it needs to keep up with the demands of vigorous studying, says Berenson. She recommends beef and broccoli stir fry, lemon shrimp in garlic sauce and turkey meat loaf.

"Why not relax and cook a great brain power meal?" she suggests. "The night before the test is a great time to relax--you already know your stuff and no further studying is needed."

Pack snacks with a punch

No matter how much you study, fueling up from the night before and enjoying healthy snacks during the test can mean more than a few points on those tough tests. Hummus and whole-grain bread, veggies and peanut butter, beef jerky and string cheese are great snacking options, and check out Snacking for Success for more great ideas. So fill your body and head out knowing you've got an edge on those vending machine junkies sitting next to you.

Sheila Szabo is a born cheerleader,and recovering love addict. Passionate about love, art, cooking, storytelling, and inspiring others, she is currently a freelance creative writer from her home in Northern San Diego. Her work can be found here.

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