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Taking the bar exam...what to eat?

So I'm taking the bar this week, and staying at a hotel for the test (3 days). I want to bring some food along with me for breakfast and lunch. I'll have a small soft-sided cooler with me, which I plan to refill with ice daily. Quick, filling, non-perishable items that can be made in a hotel room are what I'm looking for.

I'll have the regular camping staples:
Cliff bars,
Trail mix,
Dried Fruit.

I'm probably going to bring some instant oatmeal to cook in the room's coffee pot.

I'm doubtful of anything mayo-based, which nixes a lot of sandwiches, but the concept of sandwiches isn't completely off the table.

What would you bring for a 3-day, stressed-out adventure in mental endurance?

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  1. I took it last year and maybe I am just overly paranoid, but I just stuck with foods that I typically ate both during the day and for dinner and just tried not to vary my routine or even get close to anything that could get me sick. Granola bars were good for before the exam, a nice innocent sandwich at lunch, and pasta for dinner...Good Luck.

    1. I would eat more than protein bars, I would eat healthy and make sure not to over eat. One of my favorite things to eat is brown rice, saute veggies (cubed sweet potato, onion, carrots, cabbage,) with beans (kidney beans are really good in this mixture). It is delicious room temperature also. You could preportion it in ziploc plastic bowls.
      Oatmeal in the morning is good, it will keep you full, have some nuts and golden raisins mixed in.
      A sandwich is fine even with mayo in a cooler, Or you could get some mayo packets and add it before you eat. Have a lot of food, one less thing to worry about. Break a leg.

      1. Good canned tuna packed in olive oil on tasty crackers. Squeeze on some fresh lemon if you thin you can deal with a lemon a day, or if you can find a product called True Lemon (dehydrated lemon juice) it works well in a pinch.....

        Laughing Cow cheese is actually shelf stable unless you open up an individual wedge. Good with fruit or aforementioned "tasty crackers". If you have a microwave, you can "bake" a potato and top with Laughing Cow as well.

        Simple as it sounds, peanut butter sandwiches with a single-serving carton of shelf-stable UHT milk or soymilk (chilled well against the ice pack) can be quick and satisfying. If you have the energy, slice in a banana or some apple. Or skip the bread and just have peanut butter with fruit or crackers.

        Shelf-stable milk/soymilk can also be used on your oatmeal or for dry cereal. Sprinkle on your dried fruit or some nuts to keep things interesting.

        Have not tried many personally, but I believe there are some interesting noodle bowls on the market now that aren't deep-fried. Just add hot water....maybe other have recommendations of good ones.

        Good luck on the adventure!

        1. If you don't want to eat out, suck it up and order room service (that's what I did when I took the Bar).

          Personally, I don't think I could function well only protein/energy bars.

          Only thing I would bring (and not buy at the hotel or a restaurant) is fresh fruit.

          1. As bad as dining room/room service food usually is in mid-level hotels, I'd have to agree with that. It's an expense, but retaking the exam in February is a bigger one.

            One thing that hasn't been said is that -- unless you're normally asocial, you'd be much better off IMO hanging out with other people as much as possible and eating with them is a good way to do that in these circs - going from 8 hours of test back to the solitude of a hotel room --> really not a good idea unless you're bringing non-test-taking company yourself. Even if you don't have friends/classmates taking the same exam, you're likely to find willing dining companions. They may be people you wouldn't normally socialize with, but they'll be feeling the same way so that should work out fine. On the other hand, if you will be there with friends, eating better-tasting food in your rooms or a common area wouldn't be so bad either and could be something to take your mind off the urge to mindlessly, and pointlessly by that point, review notes during every waking moment your attention isn't otherwise occupied. :)

            Oh, and unless you normally eat a lot of extra-dry foods like those you've listed, beware unexpected, unpleasant GI results. If you want a quick, easy source of protein, I think protein powder to mix with water or milk or canned liquid supplements are a safer bet. (If you bring protein powder, bring a tightly sealable container to shake it up in!) Canned fruit juices are something I don't think anyone else has mentioned.

            3 Replies
            1. re: MikeG

              Hotels often have little fridges that you can request to have in the room. We've gotten them over the years for baby food or medicine. Or good leftovers. Or beer. Best to call in advance. I wish you well with the exam!

              1. re: MikeG

                Honestly, I would say the exact opposite -- I'm normally a very social person, but during the bar, I was in my own little cocoon. I took it in the city where I live, so I wasn't staying in a hotel, but at lunch I walked a few blocks away and sat on a stoop to eat, and I ate dinner at home, far away from other test takers. I found that any interaction with other people taking the bar was too much, because they will invariably want to talk about the exam, and that is the last thing that I wanted to talk about, because it would have just made me more anxious (reviewing questions already answered is never a good idea!). Back to the topic, I would definitely agree with ordering room service, at least once or twice -- I find room service to be a treat, and you definitely need to treat yourself a bit while studying for the bar. Get the simplest thing, and nothing too heavy, but even a basket of pastries with coffee and orange juice in the morning starts the morning off right.

                Definitely have some fruit, dried or fresh, easy sources of protein (turkey sandwiches, peanut butter/jelly sandwiches, canned tuna, string cheese, etc.). Also, I took the advice of someone else, and kept a little baggie of M&Ms in my pocket during the exam -- they're great to have when you need a little pick me up, just go to the bathroom, give yourself a 30 second break, and pop a few little candies, and they'll give you an energy boost to get through that session. Good luck!

                1. re: JasmineG

                  Do I know you? I did the exact same thing with the M&Ms almost 15 years ago! I was worried about going through withdrawal because I ate a lb of M&Ms every day and a half. So, I snuck a baggie into the bar and would pop them into my mouth as I went towards the bathroom. I've told countless people of my "addiction" over the years.

                  To the OP, for lunch, I had a cold grilled chicken breast sandwich, banana and ice tea for the caffeine. I also sat away from people at lunch and just read a fun book or magazine to clear my head.

                  Also, if you can, get a massage during the nights between the bar. It will help you relax and sleep.

              2. You might also bring some string cheese or other protein/fat source. When I took the bar exams (not long after dinosaurs roamed the earth), I fortunately was able to stay at home, raid my own fridge, sleep in my own bed, marinate in my own tub, etc. My diet through the whole bar prep-bar exam period was what you'd make for young kids: all four food groups, lots of color, minimum refined sugar. The one exception was caffeine, but I tried to minimize even that. I wanted stuff that would stick with me and digest slowly and easily.

                Good luck!

                1. You are way over thinking this -- not that I blame you, I'm sure its more interesting to think about what to eat during the bar than continuing to study for it! But I will echo the poster below who suggested being around other people as much as possible. Trust me. You aren't supposed to be spending your lunch breaks and evenings studying anyways -- Bar Bri is absolutely right about that. Close the book a day or two before the exam and say que sera sera. Do your normal breakfast -- order cereal from room service or something, or do the oatmeal like you were planning. Get away from the test taking site for lunch (but don't go too far!). Try to hit some little cafe or coffee shop or something. Heck, I think I did Subway for both days. Not chowish, but it had the right mix of protein, fat and carbs to carry me through. Then have a normal sized, balanced dinner --again, away from the testing site, out of the hotel, and preferably with other people who agree to abide by a "absolutely no talking about the bar or the law during dinner" rule.

                  You'll do great!

                  Oh, and almost every single person walks out of the bar thinking they failed. Don't worry, you didn't.

                  1. I second the notion that you should eat the sort of foods you're used to eating. I've taken bar exams in two different states and my stomach was temperamental during both. Personally, I'd add in some protein at breakfast; I think my mind works better when I'm fueled with both protein and carbs (not to mention caffeine). Watch the early morning o.j. if you're stomach is tricky; my first bar almost came to a tragic end because of too much orange juice. As for what to do at your other meals, only you can know whether you're better off dining with others or alone. But my number one piece of advice about bar exams is don't discuss the questions you've already answered. It never fails that at least some people will have answered differently than you, and you'll freak out that you were wrong and they were right, when in fact the opposite may be true, which will affect your performance on future questions. And don't study -- watch the best movie you can find!

                    1. Thanks for the tips, all!

                      A few responses:

                      1) as for dinner, I'm on the social side, personally. In fact, a close group of friends (also test takers) and I have made reservations at a favorite restaurant of ours the night before the test. We've also scouted out some possibilities for the next few nights. (And yes, we've already made a "no talking about the test" pact among us.)

                      2) As for lunch, I wasn't looking to head to my room to study more, etc. My thinking was that I don't want to deal with hundreds of stressed-out bar takers waiting in line at every restaurant in the area. I'd rather just head up to my room, make something quick, filling, and healthy, and eat in peace before heading down for the afternoon sessions. We'll see how that actually plays out.

                      3) I'm sold on the PB, fresh fruit, and string cheese...Maybe a noodle bowl or two as well. Thanks for the inspiration, I was really at a loss!

                      Anyway, thanks again for the advice and support...Every little bit helps!

                      1. I take the MD bar exam on Tues/Wed... I've been trying to eat healthy for the past 2 months, and I've done pretty well with it, but my game plan is to grab a sandwich or something for lunch, and have breakfast and dinner at my hotel. I'm not planning on studying, but I think I want to be away from people, just hang out on the net, watch TV, etc.

                        1. Don't forget to stay well hydrated.... I am sure you don't want to take many bathroom breaks during the test .... but often a headache coming on may be due to thirst more than hunger...
                          If you are too nervous for breakfast-a banana, bit of cheese and OJ or some other fruit juice will help to put your brain in gear.
                          Eat light at lunch-- good salad with some cheese or chicken-- so you don't go into "nappy time" mode.
                          Of course at the end of the exam-- treat yourself to a really nice dinner-- regardless of the test result-- you deserve it.
                          Didn't have to take the bar but have had many awful tests for becoming a doc-- two day debacles....Most important thing is to treat yourself to good food and breathe...

                          1. these aren't the most delicious, gourmet creations, but you'll need a slow burning protein source:

                            hard boiled eggs
                            deli meat slices
                            packaged cheese (i.e. string or cracker barrel cheddar)
                            almonds (unsalted so you won't be tempted to drink too much water and waste time going to the bathroom)
                            packaged fish (tuna, salmon, sardines)

                            are all good choices. also whole, easily packaged fruit like grapes, apples. keep it light and simple and relatively low carb. the last thing you want is to start feeling sleepy... good luck!

                            1. I agree with everyone else about the protein, although my choice when I was doing grad school exams was Snickers. I can't do this sort of thing without dark green, like spinach. I guess spanikopita would get soggy, but you can always have salad. When I have high thinking energy requirements, fish really does help, and I tend to eat a lot of eggs for breakfast then too. You can get one of those microwave poachers for the hotel room.
                              I cook oatmeal in the room when I go to conferences. I usually use quick oats and add in molasses (iron), raisins, and cinnamon.
                              Good luck on the exam!

                              1. I took the medical boards - I would add that it helped me to keep some snacks in my purse to quickly munch during a brief 5 minute morning break and especially during an afternoon break (around 3-4pm when the blood sugar starts to fall again). Something like peanut butter crackers or crackers with laughing cow cheese or a few nuts. And I wish I had taken something like a bottled starbucks coffee or something with caffeine in it to drink in the afternoon.

                                1. Well the first thing I'd pack would be an MP3 player, really good ear buds, and make sure it's loaded with Mozart! A steady diet of that right up until you walk into the exam room should help. Yay Mozart effect!

                                  Then, as a matter of personal preference, I'd be more likely to soft boil some eggs in the hotel coffee pot than make oatmeal. Well, unless you really like coffee flavored oatmeal. Do you have a mini-toaster oven you can tuck into your bags? That would really open up the options. Bagels with cream cheese and lox. Thawed frozen waffles. Ciabatta toasted, then topped with a thin slice of tomatoe and some mozerella and toasted again. Lots of good stuff you can do with a smuggled-in mini-toaster oven!

                                  Good luck on the exam! Bar exam, bar celebration. Here's to a nice champagne. '-)