When we think about healthy eating, often it’s the longterm benefits that come to mind. Eating a well-balanced and nutritionally rich diet can ward off disease and help us live longer. However, what we eat also makes a huge difference in how we feel on a day-to-day basis. Who hasn’t experienced the 4 p.m. crash after a large lunch or a sugar low after a sweet treat? What and how we eat directly impacts energy levels, and filling your plate with the right ingredients can even make you more productive. Here’s how to do it.
Meet the Experts
Reema Patel, BSc, MSca, is a registered dietitian dietitian for Dietitian Fit and Co.
Jenny Tomei, DipCNM, ANP, is a nutritional therapist.
1. Time it right
To keep our energy levels up we need to eat relatively regularly. Reema Patel, a registered dietitian for Dietitian Fit and Co., recommends not going longer than 4-6 hours without a main meal. “You want to prevent a very large gap between your main meals, so that you do not leave yourself feeling too hungry, which can then influence your overall productivity and energy,” explains Patel.
2. Add in snacks
If you have a long gap between meals, it’s best off to have a snack to keep you fueled and your energy levels high. For example, if you have lunch at 1 p.m. and dinner at 8 p.m., a snack around 5 p.m. is a good idea. However, if you find yourself snacking often, Patel suggests you may need to eat more at meal times. Everyone is different so it’s all about listening to your body and what it needs on a daily basis and remember this is constantly fluctuating based on what you are doing. “We are not designed to eat the same number of calories every day, and we are also not a perfect calorie machine,” points out nutritional therapist Jenny Tomei.
3. Snack smart
When it comes to the snack itself, there’s no point reaching for the cookie jar. “Choose a snack that contains some sort of fiber as well as protein,” suggests Patel. “Try fruit and Greek yogurt, hummus with veggie sticks, or whole-grain crackers topped with cottage cheese and cucumber slices or cherry tomatoes,” she adds. A better-for-you snack trumps those of the sugary variety because they keep blood sugar levels stable, allowing for less sugar cravings.
4. Balance your plate
At every meal it’s important to ensure you are eating the right balance of fruit and vegetables, protein, and healthy carbs. When you have the right balance, the body has everything it needs and will feel sufficiently energized. “Your plate should consist of half-plate with vegetables, 1/4 (palm size) of a protein source, and 1/4 (palm size) of carbohydrates,” describes Patel.
5. Don’t be afraid of carbs
When it comes to weight and diets, carbs are often the enemy. However, they are essential to any diet and crucial for energy. “Glucose is the body’s main source of energy, which comes from carbohydrates,” says Tomei. The key here is to eat the right sort of carbohydrates: complex carbs. “These are a slow-burning source of energy throughout the day,” she adds. These are found in things like oatmeal, vegetables, and whole grains. “Try to stick to whole-grain sources of carbohydrates such as brown rice or pasta, wholemeal bread, quinoa, millet, teff, or potatoes, and sweet potatoes (ideally with the skin on),” says Patel.
Looking to limit the amount of carbs you’re eating on any given day, you may want to consider carb cycling, an approach that toggles between low carb days and high carb days. It allows you to enjoy more carbohydrate-rich foods to support healthy muscle growth and boost your metabolic rate.
6. Avoid high-sugar foods
If you have a sweet tooth it can be hard to avoid sugary foods but on working days when you want to be most productive, these can be detrimental to how you feel. “Stabilizing blood sugar helps your body to work better, burn more energy, and you will be less hungry. When your blood sugar levels are stable, your body will become more responsive,” notes Tomei. If you’re craving something sweet, have it with a protein to help balance levels. For example, a combination like yogurt and honey or some berries and nuts. If not, try to stick to something that hits the sweet tooth without being overly sugary like dark chocolate.
7. Eat slowly
In our fast-paced world, many of us just eat far too fast. Gobbling up our food is not good for digestion or energy levels as the day goes on. “It’s important to eat slowly when you can, to help better register when you are getting full, and also enjoy the experience of eating too, as this helps with overall satisfaction. Try to prevent eating too quickly or too much so that you are too full, as this can often leave us feeling lethargic for the rest of the day,” advises Patel.
By following these healthy eating tips you can ensure you feel energized, productive, and inspired to power through your day — whether it’s at work or on the weekend.
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