Nutritional Challenge for Students battling with IIT-JEE and NEET

Students in general and in particular, those preparing for competitive exams such as IIT-JEE, NEET etc have only one focus ahead of them which is succeeding in the exam. Yes, this is the single most important step towards their professional future but at the same time, they can ill-afford to allow eating habits to take a backseat. They have to take sufficient care to balance out energy Intake and Offtake. But they tend to overlook both the short term and the long term impact. If eating habits get compromised, it could impact their health just before exams due to dehydration, fatigue and burnout so the whole year’s efforts and aspirations will be shattered.

With Students, dietary habits tend to take a back seat for several but very common reasons.

  • One, the average student is often under pressure having to prepare for highly competitive examinations. Peer pressure, expectations of parents & family elders to perform well and get into professional courses only make things worse. So the attention to food habits gets glossed over.
  • Given that time is at a premium, eating on the go becomes an easy option and therefore they resort to quick takeaways just to overcome the immediate hunger .Skipping meals is another common problem associated with students. Social needs and the hang out with friends tend to make fast food restaurants an attractive option.
  • Emotional turmoil associated with adolescence tends to distance them from parents’ and elders’ advice. It is also an age when they are in search of identity and autonomy.   So they will start to develop their own likes and dislikes when it comes to food, fashion and lifestyle. They tend to rebel when others try to advise them and in the process are also distanced from important health advices.

Here are a few quick tips for students to keep reminding them on how they can develop healthy dietary habits

  • Breakfast time: Morning times are the most precious for some relaxed “Me time “. They have to make the best of this slot by having a healthy and balanced diet that should include whole grain cereals, some fresh juice and fruits that can keep them invigorated for the rest of the day. Fruit flavored soft drinks having chemicals should be avoided.
  • Drink Plenty of water: It is important to drink plenty of water to keep body hydrated and more so where physical activity is vigorous. It is always advisable to carry a bottle of water all the time and keep drinking a little bit at regular intervals.
  • Fast food in moderation: No doubt the fast food joints are tempting with their offerings of instant delicacies that satisfy our appetite. It may be hard to totally avoid fast foods but it is good to remember to avoid or limit high fat stuff. Fast foods generally have low food value, high fat and therefore this could leave students undernourished and obese.
  • Avoid excessive dieting in order to lose weight: Skipping meals is generally not recommended to lose weight. Balanced diet and regular exercise is the only proven solution.
  • Calcium Intake: Doctors strongly advise adequacy of calcium intake even as early as twenties in order to avoid Osteoporosis in the later years. According to World Health Organization, Osteoporosis is second only to Cardio Vascular disease as global health concern. Sufficient quantity of low fat milk , cheese and green leafy vegetables can help build calcium levels.
  • Iron rich foods:Brown rice, Whole wheat bread, Broccolli ,  Oatmeal and Watermelon are some of the quick Iron rich options.
  • Relaxed Snacking while Studying: Almonds and Walnuts are a good option as opposed to fried snacks. Milk chocolates and dark chocolates are not just tasty but also healthy as they are said to contain antioxidants and can help beat stress.
  • Alcohol and its effects:  Studies suggest that moderate drinking can be good for the heart but leaves a dangerous impact on the rest of the body.
  • Excessive Coffee is best avoided.  The Coffee culture and the Caffeine content are a dangerous combination. Research studies have linked Coffee to very serious potential health hazards. Tea is a more recommended option as a stimulator.

Nutrition and health are closely interlinked. So no matter how hard pressed a student is for time, aminimum amount of time and attention has to be set apart for basics such as eating healthy and nutritious food, adequate amount of sleep and regular exercises all of which will also lead to positive thinking and better performance both in exams and in life.

Written by Asha Sampath