Do you often feel ready for a nap or by 3pm have trouble concentrating? Well, you are not alone. Food plays a major role in regulating our energy levels throughout the day. Refined carbohydrates which consist of mostly sugars and processed grains (pastries, white bread, pizza dough, etc.) are easily broken down by the body, providing a quick source of energy, but have little “energy staying power”. Contrast with whole grains which contain fiber. This helps slow the breakdown of starch into glucose and keeps you feeling full longer1.
Below are foods that can help you feel full and energized throughout the day:
Whole grains are rich in fiber, B vitamins, and trace minerals like iron and zinc. The fiber may help lower cholesterol and the complex carbohydrates will keep you feeling full longer. Sources include brown rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes, and oatmeal1.
Fats slow the rate of digestion, keeping you feeling full longer. Fats provide the body with energy, support cell growth, help the body absorb vital nutrients, and protect your organs. Some sources of healthy fats are avocados, extra virgin olive oil, fatty fish (sardines, tuna), and nuts and seeds.
Protein also slows the rate of digestion, so keeps you feeling full and energized longer. Some excellent sources of protein are grilled chicken breast, eggs, tofu, beans and legumes, and dairy products like Greek yogurt.
Eggs: A terrific source of protein to start your day. Hard boiled eggs are easy to prepare ahead and have in the fridge to grab and go! The protein and fat take longer to digest and will keep you feeling full and energized, longer.
Bananas: Perfect for on the go! Bananas are a terrific source of potassium, fiber, and vitamin B6. The natural sugars allow for a quick source of energy2. Try pairing with your favorite nut butter.
Sheet pan dinners: Try combining chicken with veggies, potatoes and seasoning of choice. This meal is packed with protein, fiber, and carbohydrates and can be baked all at once on one sheet pan!
Grain bowls: Grains are very versatile and packed with nutrients and long-lasting energy. Start with a grain (brown rice, quinoa), add some protein (chicken, beans, tofu), up the nutrition with some veggies (carrots, peppers, broccoli, spinach), and lastly top with your favorite dressing/sauce (vinaigrette, guacamole).
Oatmeal: Full of fiber, carbohydrates, and protein which help you to feel great all day! Try swirling in a nut butter like peanut, almond butter or sunbutter, add some diced apples and berries or go the savory route and top with an egg or tempeh, sauteed spinach, cheese, pepper.
- Whole Grains. The Nutrition Source. Published January 24, 2014. Accessed February 3, 2022. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/whole-grains/
- How To Eat For Optimal Energy, According To A Dietitian | You Versus Food | Well+Good.; 2019. Accessed February 3, 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adF3tbP2wC
This material is funded by UDSA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This institution is an equal opportunity employer.
Written by UConn Dietetics student Mikayla Anderson