"For improving academic performance, eating consistently is really the goal," says Ann Selkowitz Litt, MS, RD, LD, author of The College Student's Guide to Eating Well on Campus (Tulip Hill Press, 2000). A nourishing breakfast is key: A student's first meal of the day kick-starts brain function as well as metabolism. However, it's also the meal most commonly skipped by sleep-starved college students. Greteman, for example, usually wakes up about 15 minutes before her 9 a.m. class and doesn't eat until class is over, when she hurries through coffee and a bagel. According to Litt, students should eat within an hour of waking to fuel the day's productivity.

Because high-protein foods don't spike blood sugar levels the way simple carbohydrates can, it's best to start the day with a high-protein meal to help keep the body's insulin secretions steady. Instead of picking up a plain bagel or a doughnut after class, Greteman should grab a protein-rich bite on her way to class. She might choose a high-protein breakfast bar, a carton of skim milk or yogurt, a soy milkshake, or peanut butter spread on whole-wheat toast, all of which contain high-quality, brain-pumping protein.