Students are just getting settled into their new classes at UNBC and CNC this week, but it won't be long before the assignments start piling up and mid-terms approach.
When that crunch time inevitably comes, Rotman Research Institute senior scientist Carol Greenwood said students should avoid the temptation of a quick fix of caffeine or candy to get them through those late-night cram sessions.
A healthy diet not only helps brain function in the moment, it also lowers risk factors for other conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, which can have long-term negative impacts on brain health.
"To get it right, you're wanting to eat a healthy diet that's rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy sources of protein - predominantly fish but also poultry," Greenwood said. "When you look across the traditional Canadian diet we're not getting it right in a lot of those areas."
For students living away from home for the first time, it can be difficult to adjust to having to prepare all of their own meals.
Greenwood said the first trick to maintaining a healthy diet is making good choices at the grocery store. She recommended filling the shopping cart with fruits and vegetables or looking to things like hummus or bean spreads rather than junk food.
"They can make certain when they're picking up foods they're not buying the highly processed junk food, because if it's not in the house they're not going to eat it," she said.
When there's not enough time to prepare meals, Greenwood pointed to ready-to-eat options like pre-barbecued chickens or cans of salmon as good options. She said students can also cook large portions and use the rest as leftovers the following day.
Greenwood, who also teaches nutrition and brain health at the University of Toronto, said students can still eat healthy when on a budget, it just comes down to making good choices like selecting whole grain bread over white bread or purchasing frozen vegetables if the fresh ones get too expensive in the winter months.
As for those late night cram sessions, Greenwood recommends avoiding them as much as possible, but if students are in need of fuel, they should look for good sources of carbohydrates like oatmeal cookies, bran muffins or seed and nuts.