Blog: What foods can I eat to give me more energy?

May 26, 2024

"I’m a sleep-deprived parent of young children. What can I eat to give me more energy?"

Being a parent, especially of young children, can often feel like running a marathon on little to no sleep. The constant demands and responsibilities can leave your patient feeling utterly drained. While reaching for that extra cup of coffee might seem like the only solution, there are healthier and more sustainable ways to boost energy levels.

Here are some practical tips for meeting nutritional needs throughout the day:

  • Eat enough. This is the most important question you should ask your patient: are you eating enough? If you find they are skipping meals or not meeting their baseline calorie needs, no amount of caffeine or energy boosters will give them what their body truly needs. They need to eat more. Period.
  • Never skip breakfast. Eating in the morning replenishes glycogen levels and boosts energy for the day ahead. Suggest quick options like a protein shake, protein bar, or overnight oats. If time permits, enjoy a veggie-filled omelet to fuel yourself for the day. If you’re like me and you don’t like the traditional Western “breakfast foods” dinner leftovers can be a great option. I love having a turkey and cheese wrap or a rice bowl with leftover chicken and black beans.
  • Keep Quick Energy-Boosting Foods Handy: It's essential to have easily accessible snacks for quick energy boosts while your juggling bottles and bouncy toddlers. Consider keeping dried fruit, granola bars, trail mix, applesauce, and cheese sticks on hand for convenient and nutritious options when you need a quick pick-me-up.
  • Pair Protein with Carbs: Maintaining stable blood sugar levels during a busy day is key. Pairing a carbohydrate-rich food with a protein source helps stabilize blood sugar, preventing rapid fluctuations and promoting satiety. Consider options like cottage cheese with melon, cheese and crackers, banana with peanut butter, or a boiled egg with berries. These combinations provide sustained energy and will prevent those late-night cravings and binge-eating.

Here are 5 energy-boosting foods you can suggest to your patient:

  1. Carbs: Just as athletes rely on carbohydrates to fuel their bodies for peak performance, parents also need these energy-providing nutrients to keep up with the demands of daily life, whether it's chasing after toddlers or managing household tasks. Choose complex carbs that contain fiber to help keep you feeling full. Some great options include whole grains like quinoa, oatmeal, bread, bagels, and cereal, fruit like apple, berries, citrus, and banana. Dried fruit is a simple, quick grab-and-go option.
  2. Salmon: Incorporating fatty fish like salmon into your diet can do wonders for your energy levels. Salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce inflammation and improve brain function. Plus, it's packed with protein to help keep you feeling energized and alert. Aim to include salmon in your meals at least twice a week for maximum benefits.
  3. Leafy greens: like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard. These nutrient-dense vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can help fight fatigue and boost your energy levels. Try adding a handful of leafy greens to your morning smoothie or incorporating them into salads, stir-fries, or omelets for a nutritious and energizing meal.
  4. Greek yogurt: Swap out sugary snacks for a serving of Greek yogurt when you need a quick energy boost. Greek yogurt is rich in protein, which can help stabilize your blood sugar levels and prevent energy crashes throughout the day. It's also packed with probiotics, which support gut health and overall immunity. Enjoy it as a standalone snack or mix in some fresh fruit and a drizzle of honey for natural sweetness.
  5. Nuts and seeds: Keep a stash of nuts and seeds on hand for when hunger strikes between meals. Nuts like almonds, walnuts, and cashews are rich in healthy fats, protein, and fiber, making them the perfect energy-boosting snack. Similarly, seeds like chia seeds, flaxseeds, and pumpkin seeds are nutritional powerhouses packed with essential nutrients and energy-sustaining properties. Pair a handful of nuts or seeds with a piece of fruit for a satisfying and energizing snack combination.

Remind your patient to keep it simple: prioritize balanced meals and snacks that include a mix of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats to sustain your energy levels and support overall health and well-being. 

For more helpful tips on how busy parents can make healthful choices, even with a hectic schedule, check out episode 18 called  Nutrition for Busy Moms: Nourish Your Body, Boost Your Energy and Conquer Cravings.

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