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Discover the foods that make children smarter

So long, school vending machines! TODAY nutritionist and diet editor Joy Bauer lists the winning combinations that feed kids' brains.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

Want to ace your next exam? Ditch the soda, cookies and candy — instead load up the following winning foods!

Whether you have a morning, afternoon or evening exam, your pre-test meal should consist of slow-release carbohydrate plus high-quality protein. This winning combination will help stabilize your blood sugar while fueling your brain with continuous glucose. Bottom line: You remain sharp, alert and ready to conquer

Pre-exam breakfast ideas

  • Oatmeal with berries: bowl of oatmeal topped with 1-2 teaspoons sugar, fresh berries and a glass of skim milk
  • Egg sandwich: 1-2 scrambled eggs between 2 slices of whole-wheat toast and a sliced orange
  • Breakfast burrito: whole-wheat tortilla stuffed with a scrambled egg, shredded low-fat cheese, ½ cup black beans and optional salsa
  • Waffles with peanut butter and bananas: whole-grain waffles, toasted and topped with peanut butter and banana slices

Pre-exam lunch ideas

  • Turkey/cheese sandwich on whole-wheat bread with baby carrots and an apple
  • Cold pasta salad tossed with light canned tuna, vegetables and low-cal dressing
  • Leftover dinner: chicken stir-fry with rice
  • Bowl of hearty lentil or black bean soup with whole-grain crackers

After-school homework enticers
When it comes to hitting the books, think fun/healthy finger foods:

  • Low-fat popcorn
  • Grapes (chilled or frozen)
  • Apple slices with peanut butter
  • Soy crisps
  • Healthy dry cereal (Puffins, Mighty Bites, Heart to Heart, MultiGrain Cheerios)
  • Baby carrots
  • Pepper sticks (red, green and yellow)
  • Cherry and grape tomatoes
  • String cheese
  • Edamame (in the pod)
  • Raw almonds or cashews

4 extra credits for overall brain health

1. Hydrate with plenty of water.

2. Load up on omega-3 fats (fatty fish, omega-3-fortified eggs, ground flaxseeds and walnuts).

3. Eat foods rich in folic acid (spinach, oranges, broccoli and fortified breakfast cereals).

4. Get plenty of exercise.

Joy Bauer is the author of “Food Cures.”  For more information on healthy eating, check out Joy’s Web site at