By DUSTIN DUNCAN
Special to Atmore News
AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – “You are what you eat,” or so the saying goes. The food used to fuel the body has a significant impact on the amount of energy a person has throughout the day.
While it’s true that people need food to convert to energy to complete day-to-day tasks, the amount of energy can vary depending on an individual’s eating and drinking decisions.
From the start of the day, it’s vital to make food choices that don’t bring about a sluggish feeling.
Katie Funderburk, an Alabama Extension specialist and registered dietician, looks at a few food and drink options that help give individuals the necessary energy throughout the day.
“Smart food choices can make a big difference in your energy levels, ability to focus, and overall mood,” Funderburk said. “Plan ahead to make sure you’re eating plenty of energy-boosting whole foods rather than relying on the quickest grab-and-go options like fast food or vending machine snacks. Those can often be high in added sugars and cause an energy slump after eating.”
Breakfast is an essential part of any day, whether at 6 a.m. or 3 p.m., depending on life and work schedules.
It’s understandable that some mornings are action-packed and can feel like a whirlwind as parents get ready for work and get the kids to school. However, to power through the morning hours without feeling sleepy, a few scrambled eggs and some fruit will help jumpstart the day.
That morning cup of coffee isn’t necessarily bad, but remember that many store-bought or specialty coffee drinks are high in calories and added sugars. It’s best to start with black coffee and then add milk, creamer, honey or sugar. Whether a coffee drinker or not, try to drink a big glass of water in the morning. Water will help metabolism, which is essential for the body to get energy throughout the day.
It may be tempting to reach for an energy drink or something with sugar to get rolling in the morning, but it’s important to think about the amount of sugar many of these drinks contain. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, drinks high in sugar can actually make individuals feel tired and sleepy.
Drinking lots of water will also fight against dehydration, which can lead to fatigue.
After powering through the first part of the day, it is time for lunch. Making good lunch choices could be the difference between having lots of energy throughout the end of the workday or feeling exhausted when it’s time to go home.
Look for something high in fruits and vegetables. They’re high in fiber, which helps the stomach feel full for longer, and rich in healthy carbohydrates for an energy boost throughout the afternoon.
No matter what is on the menu for lunch, try to find something with lots of fruits or veggies and low in added sugar.
Sometimes the stretch between lunch and clock-out time can feel a bit long, and the stomach may begin growling from hunger again. This can be a tempting time to run to reach for a bag of chips or a handful of candy. But, be strong.
Funderburk has a few more ideas that may help make that midday hunger attack a bit more bearable without causing end-of-the-day sleepiness. Try bringing bell pepper, baby carrots, broccoli or celery in a bag for moments like this.
Dinner or supper
The workday is over, and the family is at home. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a need for energy to take kids to an evening school event, meet friends for a gathering or chase a toddler around the house.
While dinner or supper may traditionally be the last meal of the day, it doesn’t mean it can’t give a shot of energy to get through the final push of our day.
Live Well Alabama’s Chicken and Broccoli Bake combines several energy-packed foods that can help finish the day with a spark, and also may have some leftover for lunch the next day. Also try the Sheet Pan Tilapia with Asparagus from Live Well Alabama for an easy, one-pan lean protein and veggie dinner.
Live Well Alabama
For Live Well Alabama recipes or tips for overall nutrition or exercise, visit www.livewellalabama.com. You can also visit Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.
Dustin Duncan is an agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.