Let’s see what energy food means. Remember when you experienced a low in energy right after a consistent lunch, or felt very sleepy and ready to go take a nap rather than entering a new meeting or answering those unread emails? No matter how long you sleep during the night or how full of energy you wake up in the morning, you simply can’t avoid this time of the day when you feel all your energy has ended.
Believe it or not, this is all because of the food you eat during the day and especially during lunch. In the paragraphs below, we will explore how the body functions and what it needs to be full of energy during the whole day. Eating the right food at the right times can not only give you a consistent energy throughout the day but it will also keep you healthy on the long run.
Choosing the right kind of food (the one I call “energy food”) is not that difficult, and there are plenty of options to choose from so that it doesn’t become boring. I personally observed that packing my food from home helps me eat healthy and the right quantity needed to keep my energy up throughout the day.
The main secret to energy food: pack your lunch and snacks with your home made food. This way, you can control the ingredients as well as the quantity you will be eating.
Eating right starts with a proper breakfast, healthy snacks during the day and medium-size meals. 3 meals a day ideally at fixed hours and snacks in between, with moderate amount of coffee and hydration is the shortest recipe to having a full energy day and a constant level of productivity.
The healthy food we eat is transformed by the body in glucose (instead of stored fat when we eat bad food). Glucose is the fuel the body needs to produce the energy we need to function properly, both at physical level but also at brain level. Lacking the glucose or making the body use the energy to digest the high-fat food we just ate at lunch will make us feel sleepy and with a low energy level.
Let’s explore what we should be eating at each meal so that we avoid the low energy times during the day.
Energy food for breakfast
As spoken previously about this topic, no matter how busy you are, breakfast is a meal you shouldn’t skip under any circumstance. You have in this article examples of what to eat for breakfast to keep energized for the whole day.
In the following graph you can see the difference in energy level that the breakfast can make:
People who skip breakfast (the blue color) have a glucose (fuel) spike right after a consistent lunch, rapidly followed by a decrease. That’s when we feel low in energy and sleepy. Compared with the ones that eat breakfast in the morning (yellow), they manage to keep a constant glucose level during the day and therefore a constant level of energy and productivity.
So, make some time at home or pack your breakfast to kick-start your day. The things you should include in your breakfasts are:
- Fiber: as whole-grain foods (oatmeal, whole-grain cereals or whole-grain breads), fruits (apple, oranges, nuts), vegetables and peanut butter. Always choose whole fruits and vegetables over juiced ones as they are much richer in fiber
- Protein – helps you feel full for longer, have some milk (up to 3% fat), eggs or peanut butter; try to limit or avoid beacon and sausages as they are not a healthy choice
- Vitamins and minerals: vitamin B (whole-grain), potassium (banana) and calcium (yogurt, milk and cheese)
Energy food for lunches and dinners
Packing your food at work or cooking at home is a really key thing to make sure you eat properly and have control over what and how much you eat. Eating at a restaurant or work canteen has two big downfalls: you can never know for sure what is in the food you are eating and secondly, you usually get a quite large portion that is too much for what you should be eating.
A proper lunch or dinner, besides being medium – size, should consist of three main food nutrients:
- Carbohydrates, which the body uses for energy: milk, grains, fruits and starchy vegetables (potato, pumpkin, green peas, corn)
- Protein: which helps sustain energy if needed (meats, dairy products, seafood, soy)
- Healthy fats like those found in fish (salmon, tuna), nuts, and olives. These fats will lead to meal satisfaction and will keep you from going hunting for sweets one hour after eating. This way you’ll avoid the glucose rush and the crash after – avoiding the energy low that happens usually after a wrong lunch
Some food ideas could be a baked salmon with mixed greens and whole-grain bread, chicken breast with peas and whole-grain crackers or beef tenderloin with a baked sweet potato and asparagus. For more ideas you can follow my Instagram account. I post daily on the Instagram account healthy food ideas that I eat as well to keep healthy and full of energy throughout the days.
Energy food as snacks in between meals
In between breakfast and lunch and subsequently between lunch and dinner, the key to keep our energy up while avoiding feeling hungry is to have some healthy snacks.
Some snacks ideas can be:
- Seeds: walnuts, almonds, cashew, pistachio, pumpkin seeds
- Whole fruits (not smoothies), either one fruit or a handful: apples, berries, peaches, bananas, grapes, pomegranate, pineapple, mango, goji
- Dried fruits: apricots, raisins, plums
- Vegetables: carrots, celery
- Dark chocolate
- Cottage cheese
Keeping your body hydrated is another key element to maintain your level of energy up throughout the day. There is a whole debate on the idea that drinking 8 glasses of water a day is the minimum recommended quantity of water to keep hydrated. I personally can’t drink that much without spending my day on the toilet. I believe the body takes water from food as well, the only important thing is to listen to our body. When we feel thirsty, we should drink water – and never reach the point where we are dehydrated. When we feel thirsty or when the urine is really dark in color – those are signs of dehydration so we really need to get back on track and drink some water.
Our body is 60% made of water so do listen to it when it asks for it to function properly. Have some water at hand and take a few sips anytime you feel like it. Shouldn’t be too hard, and you’ll see how your level of energy keeps constant after getting into this good habit.
Want to feel energized all day, productive even after lunch time? Make sure you eat the right kind of energy food and keep hydrated. It’s simple – maybe not that easy, but definitely achievable! Give it a go and see if you like the change (I am sure you will!). By following this healthy eating lifestyle, you will not only achieve daily constant level of energy but also long term health as you’re feeding your body with the right kind of food. Enjoy the journey!