It’s that time of year when the days seem to get shorter, but the "To Do" list gets longer. For that much needed energy boost to get through your lists start with foods that pick you up rather than drag you down. Complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruit, and vegetables will provide long-term energy; lean protein foods such as legumes, nuts, seeds, meats, eggs and diary will support a healthy immune system; and, healthy fats such as those found in avocadoes, nuts, nut butters, and seeds will provide a steady energy supply.
If you’re feeling moody or craving sweets you may benefit from eating foods high in the amino acid tryptophan, along with complex carbohydrates. This combination helps restore brain serotonin levels and stabilize mood. Foods rich in tryptophan are nuts, seeds, legumes, salmon, lean meats, eggs, and nonfat or lowfat dairy. So the next time you are feeling moody try a snack of 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese, ½ banana and a tablespoon of sunflower seeds.
You can also try eating smaller meals regularly to ward off cravings and fatigue. Keeping your body supplied with energy, but not overdoing calories, is key to feeling your best. For example, a small can of chilled tomato juice with whole grain pita chips, veggie sticks and hummus or a piece of fruit with two tablespoons of your favorite nut butter and an ounce of whole grain crackers.
If you are finding yourself having trouble concentrating because of the extra demands, focus on eating foods rich in B-vitamins, zinc and choline. These nutrients help nerves communicate with your muscles and are essential in energy production, especially when you are fatigued. Foods rich in these nutrients include whole grains, peanut butter, almonds, legumes, wheat germ, lean meats, and eggs.
It may be extra challenging during the holidays, but avoiding excess sugar is key to feeling your best. The short burst of energy you may feel from a sugared beverage or food is only temporary at best. Instead opt for spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom to satisfy your sweet tooth and act as energizing aromatherapy for your brain. Don’t underestimate the energy boost from a cup of chai tea, but make sure it’s a low-sugar version.
No getting around it, physical activity is a natural energy booster. During the holiday rush it may seem harder to get in 30 minutes a day, but this is the recommended minimum. It will boost serotonin levels making you feel refreshed.