Granola with yoghurt and blueberries. Photo: Marina Oliphant
As the summer holidays draw to a close, the new school year looms. Good study habits are always important but many students do not realise that eating well can also help.
An easy way to kick-start energy levels and improve concentration is to start the day with wholegrains. Berries are another fabulous brain food, with compounds known to boost brain signals and help memory. Calcium-rich foods, such as yoghurt, improve nerve function - combine with berries and wholegrains or blend into a super smoothie for breakfast.
During study breaks, eat foods that boost energy and concentration; too many processed carbohydrates can leave you feeling sleepy. Instead of biscuits, munch on fresh fruit, raw vegetable sticks, nuts and seeds, which contain proteins, vitamins and essential fatty acids. Walnuts, almonds, pecans and cashews are top of the list and make a great snack at home, but remember, most schools have nut-free policies due to students with extreme allergies.
Include sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds in home-made toasted muesli or sprinkle them over a healthy lunchtime salad.
Eggs, avocados and tomatoes - perfect for a simple, tasty salad - are all good for brain health. Broccoli and spinach are also on this list, as is fish. Combine it with leafy greens for a fast and easy mid-week dinner.
And yes, chocolate really is good for you. Dark chocolate has antioxidants and natural stimulants that improve focus and concentration, but is best taken in moderation.
If you can't eat nuts, replace them with extra oats or reduce the amount of honey.
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup mixed nuts (optional), roughly chopped
½ cup pumpkin seeds
½ cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup linseeds
¾ cup honey, warmed
500ml plain yoghurt to serve
2 punnets blueberries to serve
Preheat oven to 180C. Mix oats, nuts and seeds in a medium bowl, add honey and stir to combine. Spread out mixture on a lined oven tray. Bake for 30 minutes until golden and crunchy, stirring halfway. Remove from oven and cool. Break up into chunks and store in an airtight container until ready to use. Serve with yoghurt and blueberries.
I prefer shiitake mushrooms for this dish, but any small mushroom will suffice.
4 salmon fillets (about 150g each)
1/2 cup mirin
3/4 cup salt-reduced soy sauce
1 punnet fresh shiitake mushrooms
2 tsp castor sugar (optional)
Cooked brown rice to serve
Steamed vegetables to serve
Fresh lime, to squeeze
Cut each salmon fillet into three bite-size pieces. Place cup mirin and cup soy sauce in a large shallow bowl with the salmon and set aside in the fridge to marinate for five-10minutes. Slice mushrooms thinly, then place in a small saucepan with remaining mirin and soy sauce. Add sugar to taste and cook over medium-low heat for fiveminutes until mushrooms are softened and sauce is slightly reduced. Set aside.
Heat oven grill to high. Place salmon pieces on a foil-lined oven tray and place under grill for a few minutes until the top of the salmon becomes opaque. Turn pieces to cook the other side. Remove from grill and serve with mushrooms, brown rice and vegetables, with a squeeze of lime juice.
Tip to cook brown rice, soak in cold water for 30 minutes. Then place drained rice in saucepan. For one cup of rice, use about 1 cups of water. Bring to the boil, reduce heat, place a folded tea-towel over the top of the pan and cover tightly with the lid. Cook over low heat for around 35 minutes
Make tamari seed mix by combining pumpkin, sunflower, sesame seeds and linseed with tamari sauce and a little sesame oil. Bake in a moderate oven for 10-15 minutes until browned.
1 hard-boiled egg
95g tin tuna in oil
Handful cherry tomatoes, halved
Handful baby spinach leaves
Cup tamari seed mix
Cup mixed sprouts
Lemon, to squeeze
Put everything into a lunch box and mixtogether at school. Squeeze over the lemon juice and toss together before serving.