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By Joanna Clay, USC News

All-nighters, caffeine, junk food — these are all just part of finals week, right?

Maybe not. And ironically, those unhealthy choices can actually make it harder to concentrate or perform well on that test or paper.

USC News got some tips from experts–including Assistant Professor of Clinical Gerontology Cary Kreutzer, director of the USC Leonard Davis School Master of Science in Nutrition, Healthspan and Longevity program–to find out the best ways to prepare for finals, without putting your mind and body through the wringer.


Cary Kreutzer

Cary Kreutzer

When it comes to studying, it’s all in the snacks.

“Snacking is a big thing. We all do it to stay alert and attentive,” said USC dietitian Cary Kreutzer.

But while they might be bite-size, they could have big effects on your body, she said: “You’re better with picking more nutritious snacks, like carrot or celery sticks or air-popped popcorn.”

Plan ahead and hit the grocery store to stock up, she recommends. Plus, that’ll save you money at the vending machine.

And don’t be deceived by labels. Even if an Oreo is less calories than a cracker, the cracker might have fiber or whole grains that will keep you satiated longer, she said.

Watching caffeine intake is also key. Genetics play a big part in how someone metabolizes it — it could last an hour in one person but half a day in another. And it can lead to other issues, like sleep deprivation and dehydration.

And interestingly enough, it’s not just coffee that will wake you up. So will H20.

“Dehydration will make you tired, sleepy and may affect your focus,” Kreutzer said, recommending eight to 10 glasses of water a day. If plain water sounds too boring, try putting fruit in it or try sparkling water or herbal tea, she suggested.

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