This post by Jan Bruce, CEO and co-founder of meQuilibrium, first appeared on Huffington Post
People always want to know, “What can I eat to give me energy?” The answer? Food. Real food. The irony is that we’re in a culture in which energy is sold in tiny, expensive bottles or packaged in cellophane with an energy promise printed on the label. In fact, real food will give you real energy—the key is making sure what you’re eating isn’t draining you of it.
Challenge yourself to make some changes in your food habits and set the stage for a calmer, more focused day.
TIP #1: Kick Your Breakfast Up a Notch
Most important meal of the day, right? Then time to stop eating thinly disguised desserts first thing in the morning. A more nutrient-rich breakfast can help you manage your weight by warding off late-day bingeing. It will also stabilize blood sugar. Because when it dips, so does your hand—right into the donut box.
- Add lean protein. Studies have found that adding foods like Greek yogurt, lentils, eggs, poultry, and fish (think smoked salmon) can keep you fuller longer and bump up your energy levels.
- Include fruits and veggies. Fresh and in season is best—but frozen is also a great option. Whip up a smoothie with your favorites and take it on the road!
- Opt for whole grains. If you’re going to go with a grain-based carb, make it a whole one—and by whole we mean that it should look like a grain (not just say it on the package). Brown rice, quinoa, and steel-cut oats are a good start. Opt for sprouted grain breads, too, with some good quality nut butter.
TIP #2: Skip the Vending Machine
Prepackaged snacks are not a food group. Food is food, and when you’re hungry, you should eat it. Pass on the vending machine and upgrade your between-meal bites to include actual fruits, veggies, grains, fats, and proteins. You’ll sustain your energy and avoid the sugar crash.
Try this instead:
- Cut up veggies and hummus or tahini sauce.
- A sliced apple with some almond or peanut butter.
- A small cup of greek yogurt with a few nuts.
- A whole-foods smoothie that packs a powerful punch of fruits and veggies and protein (just add some milled flaxseed). Recipes abound online (here are a few great ones from Whole Living), or you can experiment with a few of your favorite ingredients. All you need is a good blender. Try:
- Frozen berries, bananas, an apple, and some spinach or kale.
- Throw in some flaxseed meal for healthy omega 3s and fiber.
- Add some soy or almond milk for texture.
- Blend until smooth, and take along with you!
TIP #3: Buy foods in their original form
If you can eat most things right out of the bag on your way home from the grocery store, that’s a sure sign you’re relying heavily on processed and packaged foods. They’re not all bad, mind you, but if you want to eat for your health and not just for what you can grab with one hand, buy foods in their original, whole, unprocessed form: fruits, veggies, and grains.
Much of what you buy should require that you do something to it—wash, peel, cut, steam, sauté. The more something is “done” to a food before you eat it, the less of its original nutrients it retains. Keep that in mind as you shop the perimeter for your next grocery order.