A Nutritionist's Guide To Powering Kids Through Exams

A Nutritionist's Guide To Powering Kids Through Exams

Exam season can be super stressful for kids – a time when they’re likely to run on cortisol, caffeine and carbs. Not only does this continuous “fight or flight” mode lead to broken sleep, poor concentration and unhappy stomachs, but their immune health is compromised too. Emma Davies, Leapfrog’s Head of Nutrition, shares her tips to keep teens in top form while they revise for exams over the coming months. 

"In clinic I see a lot of teenage and young adult clients. I’ve got two at university who don’t look after themselves - late nights, poor diet alongside lots of exam pressure – and one still at school who gets every cough and cold going. Our kids nowadays succumb to many more viruses and bacterial infections just from living in a very busy, over-stimulated and pressurised world. Stress, anxiety and sleep are common problems, and many kids often don’t practice good sleep hygiene. Here are some suggestions for helping your teen navigate through their revision and thrive on exam day." 


The NHS recommends that we drink between 1-2 litres of water per day, and this is particularly crucial for children whilst studying.  Being dehydrated can cause fatigue, lethargy and poor focus.  Optimal hydration has been shown in studies to lead to better concentration and short-term memory, and higher test scores.  Also avoid too much coffee/tea: caffeine is dehydrating and many young adults rely on it for energy and focus. In fact, too much caffeine has the opposite effect. 


As tempting as it is to have the sweets and biscuits on hand for energy and or the reality is that the glucose spike is swiftly followed by a blood sugar crash, bringing on fatigue and inability to focus. Protein-rich snacks such as nuts, yoghurt , eggs and olives can help to keep kids sated and energised, as well as increasing their alertness and brain function.  


Eating a nutritious meal before a long day of revision or an exam, can have a big impact on focus and concentration. Aim to include a good source of protein and healthy fat alongside any carbohydrate. Think wholemeal /sourdough toast with eggs, oat or chia porridge with nuts, seeds and berries or a veg + fruit smoothie with ½ avocado and dollop of nut butter. This mix of macros really can help feed the brain during those taxing days.  

Eat The Rainbow 

Aside from the obvious physical benefits of eating healthily during the revision period, research shows it can also affect students’ frame of mind. Children who eat five or more portions of fruit and veg per day have been shown in studies to have improved mental health. Aim to eat the colours of the rainbow for a potent antioxidant hit and to eat in season to vary your choices. There is the added bonus that this helps feed our gut microbiome too.  

Leapfrog IMMUNE 

I think Leapfrog IMMUNE is fantastic for teenagers. Its hero ingredient Lactoferrin is a powerful antimicrobial that can help see off infections, and during times of stress we are all more vulnerable to catching coughs and colds especially after the long UK winter.  

Leapfrog SNOOZE  

The Lactium in Leapfrog SNOOZE is a milk protein hydrolysate that has incredible soothing activity in the brain. It helps increase the flow of the neurotransmitter GABA – I call the GABA my inner yogi – and it’s something that can really help the brain and body to get ready for sleep. It can also lower raised cortisol, the stress hormone. 


Stress can deplete kids stores of a key mineral magnesium, an ally for supporting a calm nervous system. For calm and optimal sleep during exam time, aim to include magnesium rich foods in the diet - green leafy veg, legumes, seeds and a little dark chocolate. You can also add in a supplement, spray or even Epsom salts in the bath for a lovely calming ritual before bed. 


Omega-3 fatty acids are vital for our brain health. Salmon, mackerel, sardines and other oily fish are an excellent source alongside walnuts, chia and flax seeds. Numerous studies show huge benefits to learning, memory and focus with regular intake.