Hitting a wall at 3 pm—even though you had a full night’s sleep? Your first instinct may be to reach for a cup o’ joe or a sugary treat just to keep you going.
Why this is a mistake: It’s common for our blood sugar levels to drop in the late afternoon, making us feel tired and hungry. But the mind-buzzing, heart-racing effects of so-called quick fixes soon lead to a crash-and-burn, putting us right back where we started.
WHAT WORKS BETTER
Once you accept that quick fixes are really nothing more than “fool’s gold,” you can embrace the true source of sustained vitality—energy-producing real foods.
What you need to know: Often it is not a single ingredient itself that invigorates but how that powerhouse is combined with flavorful and nutritionally satisfying add-ons.
Rule of thumb: The best foods for natural all-day vibrancy typically balance a complex carbohydrate with a healthy fat and a punch of protein—a combination that takes longer to digest and stabilizes blood sugar levels for hours.
For advice on the best foods to eat for all-day energy, Bottom Line Health spoke with leading nutritionist Lisa Young, PhD, RD, CDN, to learn about her top choices for maintaining day-long vim and vigor…
Avocado contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and provides nearly 20 vitamins and minerals.
My favorite way to eat avocado: Sliced or smashed on whole-grain toast. In addition to being a perfect base for creamy avocado, whole-grain toast boasts its own benefits and makes for a great energy-boosting combo—it fills you up with fiber and is low in saturated fat.
What’s easier than peeling back the lid on a ready-to-serve portion of this versatile, tasty fish? Especially when two ounces of canned salmon contain just 90 calories and only 1 g of saturated fat in a convenient protein source. Note: To reduce possible toxins, I recommend wild salmon sold in a BPA-free can.
My favorite way to eat canned salmon: On salad greens topped with heart-smart olive oil and a side of polenta. Cornmeal-based polenta, which is loaded with complex carbs to keep blood sugar levels stable for hours, even comes in ready-made refrigerated tubes. You can cook up a slice or two in just minutes on the stove or in the oven!
Protein-packed foods such as farmer’s cheese—born from farmers’ efforts to use milk left over after cream is skimmed for butter—can help you stay on top of your game. Two tablespoons of farmer’s cheese offer 4 g of protein with only 2.5 g of fat and 40 calories.
My favorite way to eat farmer’s cheese: On Ezekiel 4:9 bread with cinnamon and/or fresh walnuts on top. You can spread farmer’s cheese, with its ricotta-like texture, on Ezekiel bread—itself an efficient protein source as well as a unique blend of six grains and legumes. A dash of cinnamon not only adds the yin-yang of sweet and savory, but also helps control blood sugar levels. A few diced walnuts provide satisfying crunch and omega-3 fats that promote cardiovascular health.
Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) contains iron, B vitamins, magnesium, calcium, potassium and other nutrients, boasting zero saturated or trans fats. Even better, it takes only about 15 minutes to prepare.
My favorite way to eat quinoa: With chopped veggies and garnished with chickpeas. By topping with chickpeas, you’ll boost the overall protein, vitamin and mineral content—and stay fuller longer. Or you can try a quinoa-based hot cereal.
Sorghum, a substantial source of protein and dietary fiber, is a versatile, gluten-free grain that keeps your belly full and your energy levels high.
My favorite way to eat sorghum: In a tomato and red pepper slaw. To prepare: After simmering and draining your desired amount of sorghum, add some color by folding in a julienned slaw of tomatoes and red peppers.
Tomatoes, with their energy-boosting carbs and fiber, are also a major source of the anticancer nutrient lycopene…while red peppers aid in the absorption of iron from food, which boosts energy by promoting optimal blood oxygen levels.