What to Eat the Night Before an Exam?


Even the very best students get stressed about exams – fact! And when exam season rears its head, neglecting overall health and wellbeing is common amongst students. This is especially true when it comes to food. So what is the best food to eat the night before an exam?

Whilst it may seem like the least important thing in the world when you’re knee deep in past papers and have replaced sleep with coffee, eating the right foods the night before an exam can actually have a real impact on exam performance, and making yourself dinner using a few key ingredients can really boost your brain power and set you up for a positive exam experience.

It’s not just your cognitive performance that benefits from a good diet either – eating well can have a huge impact on your emotional wellbeing, and, let’s face it, feeling healthier in every sense makes exams all that much easier to deal with. So, ditch the Doritos and resist the Red Bull in favour of healthy, nutrient-rich foods that will provide you with so much more than orange Wotsit fingers.

What to eat for dinner the night before an exam

There are several foods that you should definitely include in your pre-exam dinner, as well as some that you should most definitely avoid! Avoid processed sugary foods like the plague. Snacking on sugar can cause your blood sugar levels to spike, giving you a rush of energy, before the dreaded drop – AKA the sugar crash. After that sugary high you’ll wind up feeling tired, sluggish and definitely not exam ready. Do yourself a favour and leave the sugary snacks for a post-exam treat.

Another top tip is to avoid overeating or undereating the night before an exam. While pre-exam nerves can lead some to overindulge and others to feel nauseous (everyone’s different), altering your normal eating routine can leave your body feeling confused. Confused bodies lead to confused brains, so as much as you can, try and stick to your regular eating routine.

Also, undereating is a bad idea as it can cause a flag in energy, and your brain needs energy to work properly. So don’t starve yourself – you’d make sure your car had enough fuel before a race wouldn’t you?

For the optimum pre-exam dinner it’s important to include an item that is high in whole grains. These increase blood circulation to the brain and helps to improve memory. Examples of healthy whole grains include brown rice, buckwheat, bulgar wheat and barley.

It is also important to include vegetables in the meal you eat the night before an exam – especially green vegetables such as broccoli, broad beans, spinach and kale. Green veg is a great source of fibre and is very low in sugar so can help to regulate blood sugar levels. No sugar-slumps for you!

Opting for fish the night before an exam is also a great idea, as fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids which promote brain health and boost memory. Cold-water fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines are all very high in omega-3 so are particularly good choices for pre-exam dinners.

Lastly, avoid drinking caffeinated drinks the night before an exam, as it is super important to make sure that you are well rested – a good night’s sleep makes all the difference when it comes to exams.

Read on for a recipe that includes all the right foods to eat the night before an exam. This meal will help to maximise focus and give you the energy your brain needs to help you do brilliantly in those all-important exams.

Recipe Idea:

‘Honey and soy salmon with brown rice and greens’

Here, we’ve got fish (hello there omega-3), fresh greens and the old classic, brown rice. Prepare for a tasty little dish that will regulate your blood sugar and give you brain-boosting nutrients – everything you need to ace that exam tomorrow.

You will need:

1 salmon fillet

2 large handfuls kale

2 large handfuls spinach

50g of broccoli

2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce

Juice and rind of 1 lemon

1 tbsp honey

50g brown rice


A sprinkling of sesame seeds


Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4

For the salmon, mix together the honey, low sodium soy sauce, lemon juice and finely grated rind in a bowl – that’s right, we’re marinating! Put the salmon in a baking dish and pour half the mixture onto the fillet. Then simply pop in the oven for 12-15 mins.

Nothing too taxing on that revision-filled brain now, simply boil the rice in plenty of seasoned water for about 15 mins and drain when cooked.

Next, steam the veggies for about 5-6 minutes, or until cooked through. Once they’re done, add the remaining soy, honey and lemon mixture to them and stir through.

To dish-up, serve the salmon on top of the rice and veg to ensure that everything is full of flavour, and sprinkle the sesame seeds on top. Then eat, enjoy and let the food do the rest!

Don’t let all that hard work in the library go to waste and make sure your body and brain are getting the nutrients they deserve.

Did you enjoy this recipe? Let us know what you thought on Twitter or Facebook, and stay tuned for more. You’ll be cooking your way to top grades in no time!

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Elise Pearce

As our Head of Content, Elise’s role involves everything from email campaigns to web content; if you spot a typo, you know who to blame. A lover of all things creative, she studied History of Art at St. Andrews enjoys running and painting in her spare time. At home, when she's not busy chasing after her two Labradoodles, Flossy and Rupert, you'll catch her doing handstands on her yoga mat.

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