Examinations are an important phase in a teenager’s life. As a parent my job is to provide support as and when required, just as my mom did for me. While I was ready to encourage, motivate and keep a shoulder free, nothing prepared me for the “Ma! I’m hungry” wails. My child who, otherwise stuck to regular meal and snack times, was now perpetually hungry.
At first I did not pay much attention to this new surge in appetite. But, as time went by, it dawned on me that I was dealing with a very unfamiliar kind of food craving; one that refused to be satisfied easily. The fruits, nuts and milkshakes barely made a difference.
One of the teachers put an end to my worrying by explaining that this is how it is during the major public exams. As studying gets more intense, it results in a constant energy burnout. I wonder why that never occurred to me. We only think of physical exercise as a means of working up hunger. Little do we realise that the brain needs fuel too !
After exhausting all snack options at home, my starving student began to look elsewhere. The frequency of visits to neighbourhood cake shops rose to an all-time high. A gooey chocolate cupcake, brownie or doughnut would be gobbled up in a trice and satiated smiles would beam for the next hour. That’s when it occurred to me that this eating was not just to quell hunger but also for comfort . Comfort food releases endorphins that make us feel good and helps deal with the exam-associated nervousness. However, many comfort foods are high on sugar or transfats. While an occasional indulgence is fine, it’s not a good idea on a regular basis.
Therefore, I decided to re-examine the ingredients that went into my cakes. I had to make something delicious, easy to bite on (thanks to the added inconvenience of braces ) and as healthy as possible. So, I made some blondies , the paler equivalent of a brownie. Wholemeal batter sweetened with coconut blossom sugar. No cocoa but preservative-free peanut butter and white chocolate morsels. This healthier version of a warm blondie — crusty on the outside and squidgy on the inside —was my first offering to my starving teen. Not only did she love it but the complex carbs allowed for a slow release of energy and resulted in her feeling full for a longer period.
That led to us to explore a variety of similar snack options. An apple crumble with a layer of fresh organic apples topped with a mixture of almond meal, demerrera sugar and cinnamon was delicious and added to the ‘feel good’ factor. Since my kid also has an affinity for payasams that was another terrific option. With beaten rice, vermicelli and millets as the base, bits of fruit and lentils added to the nutrition quotient.
We don’t need to give in to cravings just because the kid is stressed. A tendency to binge on the empty calories will only leave them feeling sleepy and not help refresh them. Fatigue caused by lack of nutrition is a very real problem. At school they are advised to eat well and get plenty of rest while preparing for their exams. The specifics of eating well must be explained in detail. It is extremely important that they be taught how important food is for their mental well-being. The voice of hunger at home is diminishing in volume and the cook in me is suitably triumphant.