by Monique Ryan, MS, RD
1. Start the day right. Yes, that means breakfast. Combine a whole grain with fruit, skim dairy, or soy milk, and even add some lean protein to the mix to sustain energy levels throughout the morning. Cooked oatmeal with yogurt and a banana or Lite Mueslix with soy milk and blueberries are good choices.
2. Have a mid-morning snack. Combine a protein and a carbohydrate. It is fine to be hungry mid-morning, so honor your hunger and give your body fuel when it is asking for it. Try yogurt with a peach, low fat string cheese with an apple, or cottage cheese and grapes.
3. Eat lunch on time. Don't push back lunch until you are ravenous. Instead, eat your mid-day fuel right on time to keep your blood glucose levels nice and steady.
4. Boost your mental energy. Nature's nutrition for the brain are omega-3 fatty acids. Add light tuna or salmon to your lunchtime food choices, in addition to walnuts, tofu, and canola oil. Healthy fat keep you feeling full for a longer period of time, so add small amounts to meals and snacks. Some good choices include avocado and almonds.
5. Start the day with moderate caffeine levels and keep caffeine intake modest. While it does increase mental energy, too much caffeine may lead to energy highs and then lows, and it can interferes with quality sleep.
6. Limit processed foods high in sugar. Avoid the office candy jar, treats, and vending machine whenever possible. Processed foods do not provide sustained energy and can result in low-energy moments during the day.
7. Consume foods high in folate. Higher levels of blood folate have been associated with faster and better thought processing. Good sources include lentils, chickpeas, black beans, asparagus, broccoli, avocado, and orange juice. Also important are vitamins B6, found in bananas and spinach, and B12, found in lean proteins and skim dairy products.
8. Have an afternoon snack. If dinner is late or if you have an evening workout scheduled, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat yogurt provide energizing carbohydrate.
9. Consume complex carbohydrates that contain fiber. The fiber allows the carbohydrates to be released more slowly, providing sustained energy. Opt for whole grain bread, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, and whole grain cereals.
10. Stay hydrated. About two-thirds of our body is water, and dehydration can contribute to reduced energy levels. About 80% of the fluid we consume comes from the fluids we drink, and the other 20% comes from foods. Always drink when you are thirsty, and have water available during the day to hydrate regularly.