One of the most common complaints people have when they see me is that they lack energy.
Carbohydrates are far and away the most misunderstood type of food.
People say they're going "carb-free" when in reality if you actually did that, you would die...and most assuredly have very low energy before you keeled over.
Fact is, carbohydrates provide glucose which is needed by your body to create energy. So you MUST have them to survive.
The key is to be carb-savvy and know the good from the bad.
Bad carbs include any type of refined carb (white flour, white sugar and all products made with them like white bread, rolls, pasta, pastries, cakes and cookies) and anything made with high fructose corn syrup.
Good carbs include fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
Don't swear off carbs--just choose them wisely and see your energy skyrocket.
Red meat has taken a bad rap over the last several years because it contains saturated fat, and saturated fat has been implicated in the development of atherosclerosis and heart disease.
But it's important to realize that all saturated fats are not created equal!
Saturated fats are needed by your body to make hormones, cushion your nerves and even support your heart (how's that for a kicker?).
The truly deadly type of saturated fat is trans-fats--they are the bad guys that cause inflammation and gum up your arteries. Trans-fats are found in margarine, shortening, commercial baked goods and anything made with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils.
Red meat in moderation is actually a good guy because it is a great source of iron and Vitamin B12--and being deficient in either of those nutrients can cause your energy to plummet.
So enjoying that occasional steak can help you avoid iron and B12 deficiency and keep your energy level high!
Now, if you're vegetarian then being low in B12 may be an issue for you. This is also true of people who use acid reducers (since stomach acid is needed for proper B12 absorption), the elderly and people who have had gastric surgery.
If you have B12 concerns, you can have your doctor do a simple test to see if you’re low. If you are and you can’t get enough from your diet, supplementation can help make sure you're getting what you need.
Many people are under the mistaken impression that all fats are bad and avoid them like the plague.
But what they don't realize is that fats create energy! They're a crucial player in your body's ability to create adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which is your main form of energy.
Again, what matters is to know the good from the bad.
Bad fats include all sources of trans-fats (like I mentioned in #2 above), other fake fats like Olestra, and highly refined oils.
Good fat sources include real butter, olive oil, meat, eggs and dairy (preferably organic), fish (preferably wild-caught) and unrefined oils.
Give your body the good fats it needs to keep your energy production strong.
You may be thinking you're doing the right thing by sticking to 3 meals a day--breakfast, lunch and dinner.
But your body may be thinking otherwise.
Fact is, some people experience a drop in blood sugar within 2 hours after eating and if you don't replenish your supply (by having a snack), that can cause your energy to drop through the floor.
Now, this isn't a green light to attack the vending machine every few hours for chips or candy! Choose wise (not the brand name “Wise” but smart!) snacks like fresh fruit, vegetables, a small chunk of cheese, a handful of nuts, a hard-boiled egg or a small piece of leftover meat, chicken or fish.
There's no doubt that salad can be a very healthy food choice.
But some people overdo it--to the point where they are lacking other essential nutrients (especially proteins).
And proteins...you guessed it...are needed for energy production too!
If you love your salads, great, but just be sure to make them as nutritious as possible to ensure your body is getting what it needs to keep YOU going.
Smart, tasty additions to salads include:
- Sliced cooked chicken or beef
- Cooked shrimp
- Chopped almonds or walnuts
- A wider variety of vegetables (venture out beyond the lettuce, cucumber, tomato routine)
- Hard-boiled egg slices
- Chick peas
- Roasted red peppers
This is far and away the biggest energy zapper.
The typical meals that most people eat (made up of every type of food known to man) can be VERY difficult for your body to break down efficiently.
Now, what most people don't realize is that nothing the human body does demands more energy than digestion.
So when you consistently eat meals that are harder for your system to digest, your poor body needs every ounce of energy it can get just to try to break down what you've eaten!
And when all of your energy is being used up for digestion, guess what--there's none left for YOU.
That's a primary reason why you may find yourself getting groggy after lunch and need coffee to stay awake at your desk, or you fall asleep 10 minutes into a movie that you wanted to watch on TV in the evening.
But when you eat combinations of foods that can be broken down more efficiently by your stomach and intestines, your system doesn't NEED to use up all your energy for digestion.
That means more energy for everything else you want to do!
Healthy snacks; An apple and skim milk
"Almost any fruit is going to make a great snack, but you usually want to pair it with a bit of protein to make it more satisfying,unlike carbohydrates, which get used up relatively quickly, protein will help sustain your energy and hunger levels for a couple of hours."
Our pick for a protein-fruit pairing: one large apple and one cup of skim milk. This duo will give you 10 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber for just over 200 calories.
Cottage cheese-filled avocado
Here's another fruit and diary combo, this one for when you're craving something rich, creamy, and a bit savory. Remove the pit from one half of an avocado and fill the space with 2 ounces of 1% cottage cheese. For 200 calories, you'll get 9 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber—and no dirty dishes!
Canned tuna on whole-wheat crackers
If you don't want to incorporate dairy into every snack, a can of tuna (packaged in water) is another great source of lean protein plus healthy Omega 3's.. For about 200 calories, you can enjoy 3 ounces of light tuna and 6 whole-wheat crackers—complete with 3 grams of fiber and 20 grams of protein.
You may not think of shellfish as a grab-and-go snack food, but you can put this tasty treat together in a flash if you keep pre-cooked shrimp on hand. With Greek yogurt and avocado, it's a protein powerhouse with 9 grams per serving (and 4 g fiber), for only 129 calories.
Power berry smoothie
This recipe, which calls for soy protein powder and low-fat plain yogurt, contains 9 grams of protein; swap in Greek yogurt to add even more. Frozen berries add fiber (4 grams total), and honey provides sweetness. All this for only 139 calories!
Warm pear with cinnamon ricotta
Ricotta cheese is rich in protein, and pears are a good source of fiber. Together with a teaspoon of cinnamon, they make a delicious snack for any time of day. Each serving contains 8 g protein, 5 g fiber, and 170 calories.
Chicken pita sandwich (half)
There's no reason you can't have smaller portions of "real" food as snacks, "Oftentimes, the healthiest and most balanced snacks are the ones that start as full meals—like a half a sandwich, or a plate of leftovers put together from dinner the night before,
Whip up this chicken and veggie pita in the morning, and split it in half for two snacks throughout the day. Each half contains 200 calories, 3 grams of fiber, and more than 20 grams of protein
Asparagus and hard-boiled egg
It's no wonder this classic combo goes so well together: Fiber-rich asparagus balances out eggs' natural protein. Thanks to its folate and vitamins B6 and E levels. Talk about fun ways to burn fat!)
Pair 15 asparagus spears (cooked or raw) with one hard-boiled egg for a 126-calorie snack, complete with 11 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber.
After you eat a meal or snack, your blood sugar levels rise and then decrease. You can start to feel tired if your blood sugar levels get too low. Snacks can prevent your blood sugar levels from dropping too much between meals. While sugary snacks can lead to sugar highs and subsequent energy crashes, healthy snacks promote more sustained blood sugar levels and energy. High-fiber, high-protein snacks, such as carrots with bean dip, are slow to digest so your blood sugar levels do not fluctuate much.
Whole fruit, cut vegetables, cottage cheese and whole-grain pretzels are examples of easy snacks to have on hand. Even healthy snacks can lead to weight gain if you eat too much of them, so monitoring your portions should become a habit when you serve yourself snacks.
Note; Always discuss with your Doctor before you make any changes to your diet.
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