Healthy Food Choices

Healthy Food Choices

Your days are busy—between work and family and personal commitments it can feel like you’re always moving. So why do some people seem to have the energy they need to get everything on their to-do list done while others feel exhausted by
lunch? At least part of the answer lies in what they eat.

All food is fuel for your body, but some foods do the job of providing a consistent level of energy and stamina better. While foods that contain sugar and refined carbohydrates (like white bread) can give you a quick energy boost, the sugars in these foods enter the blood stream and are processed very quickly, leading to an energy crash. A better choice is foods that contain complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein. Your body digests these foods more slowly, which not only gives you a steady stream of energy, it also helps you feel full longer, a bonus that can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

What to Eat and Why

How often you eat plays a role in your ability to maintain stamina throughout the day. Rather than eating three larger meals a day, it can be helpful to eat smaller more frequent meals. That’s because the brain has few energy reserves, so
providing a steadier stream of nutrients can help prevent you from feeling sluggish between meals.

One strategy is to still eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but to eat fewer calories at these meals and spread out the remainder of your calories throughout the day in the form of healthy snacks such as a piece of fruit, nuts and seeds, or an egg. Other nutrient-dense foods that you can include in your diet each day to increase your energy levels include:

  • Bananas are rich in carbohydrates, potassium, and vitamin B6, all key nutrients for energy.
  • Fatty fish like tuna, salmon, and sardines contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been associated with lower levels of fatigue-causing inflammation in the body.
  • Brown rice contains more fiber, minerals, and vitamins than white rice and is a lower glycemic index food, which helps regulate blood sugar levels and lower the likelihood of blood sugar spikes and crashes, which make you feel fatigued.
  • Sweet potatoes are a complex carbohydrate, which means you digest them slower and they provide a more steady source of energy. They also contain the mineral manganese, which helps in the breakdown of nutrients to produce energy.
  • Eggs are not only a good source of protein, they contain the amino acid leucine, which helps cells absorb glucose better, stimulating the production of energy in the cells and increasing the breakdown of fat to produce energy.
  • Oatmeal contains the soluble fiber beta-glucan, which slows down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, providing a steady source of energy. It’s also a good source of B vitamins, iron, and manganese, which help the body produce  energy.

Eating for sustained energy and stamina doesn’t mean you have to stick to what you may think of as “health food.” Dark chocolate (in moderation), strawberries, and avocados are also great energy-producing foods.

More Information

Read more about health eating from the Department of Health & Human Services. And the NIH, the National Institutes of Health, offers a healthy eating plan with menus, shopping tips and recipes.

More Physical Fitness Topics

Effects of Shift Work on Sleep
Getting the Quality Sleep You Need
Adding Aerobic Fitness to Your Exercise Regimen
4 Ways to Tame Stress

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