St. Clair's Fitness & Health Promotion Coordinator, Deb Ivey, says first and foremost, hydrate!
"If students are properly hydrated, they'll do better in school," explains Ivey. "Our brains work better, obviously, if it has the proper nutrients, and water is one of them."
"When you're in class, you're trying to stay awake and alert, and staying hydrated is a huge part of that," says Ivey.
Our bodies are 70 per cent water and we excrete about two cups of water a day – something we need to be mindful of putting back into our bodies, explains Ivey. The average person should be taking in about two litres of water a day. But she explains that water can be found in many foods, so you can increase your intake depending on what you eat.
For instance, she points out that skim milk, strawberries, watermelon, lettuce, celery, cabbage, spinach and broccoli are made up of more than 90 per cent water. And things like fruit juice, yogurt, apples, grapes, oranges and carrots are more than 80 per cent water.
"So it's not just that we need to drink more water," says Ivey.
A good tip she says for students to increase their water intake – along with eating more fruits and vegetables which are full of water – is to keep water with you at all times throughout the day and sip on it frequently.
"When you drink water, other nutrients are going run more freely through your body," says Ivey. "So any of your vitamins or good food that you're eating, those nutrients are going to be able to flow to the parts of your body that need them, and water is the transport for that."
She says you'll feel more energy if you hydrate more, which is important for students.
"Students are tired enough with all the daily stresses and school stresses that they have," says Ivey.
The second most important piece of advice she can give to students is a balanced diet – which includes not skipping meals.
"A lot of students skip breakfast, but it's really the most important meal of the day because our brains work on sugar, so we have to feed our brains first thing in the morning," says Ivey. "When you don't eat, you're brain's going to be sleeping and you can't learn."
Eating breakfast – which literally means breaking the fast of not eating while you're sleeping – boosts your metabolism and keeps you energized and alert for the day ahead. And she says while some options are better than others for breakfast, what matters most is that the meal is not skipped.
"Really anything is better than eating nothing in the morning," says Ivey. "So even the cold pizza from the night before is better than eating nothing at all because your body needs food. It needs sugar to operate."
She says a good healthy breakfast would be something high in protein and fiber, like oatmeal. Fruits or cereal are also good options.
Ivey says while most students skip breakfast, they end up binge eating later in the day because they are famished. This results in crashing and feeling tired and exhausted.
She says good brain foods are ones rich in Omega 3, such as fish and flaxseed. Those who don't like fish can take fish oil supplements, and Ivey recommends sprinkling ground flaxseed on meals throughout the day, like oatmeal or salads.
"Honestly, the number one thing is to eat a balanced diet and try to eat a leafy green or orange vegetable every day," says Ivey. "And remember canned and frozen often times are packaged at their peak, so sometimes they're more nutritious than fresh, and they're usually less expensive than fresh."
So be the best student you can be by changing some of your nutritional habits today!