Eating for energy: eight top tips

Nutritionist and Centre Manager at Bupa UK
11 December 2018

Feeling whacked and lacking energy all the time? It could be down to what you’re eating. Here I give my top tips around eating and drinking to fuel your body for the day ahead.

An image of breakfast porridge

1. Eat breakfast – the most important meal of the day (so they say)

Kick-start your metabolism in the morning with a slow energy releasing carbohydrate breakfast like porridge. The slow release of energy into your body will help keep you fuller for longer and your energy levels stable.

Inject some excitement into your porridge by adding fruit and some nut butter. Aim for varieties with no added sugar. Almond or peanut butter are both tasty options.

2. Avoid skipping meals

Keep those annoying hunger pangs at bay and don’t leave your body guessing when its next meal is going to be. Eating three regular meals a day, along with a couple of snacks, helps to sustain your energy levels by keeping your blood sugars within a healthy range. It may help you to make healthier choices and control your portion sizes better too.

3. Get your 5-a-day

As we’ve seen, you can pack a fruit punch by adding fruit like mixed berries or banana to your porridge in the morning. No time for hot oats? Pop a slice of wholemeal bread in the toaster and add sliced (or mashed) banana for the topping. Not a fan of banana? Try avocado instead.

Fruit and veg are packed full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre – all of which allow your body to function as it should. High-fibre foods take longer to digest and so help to keep you feeling fuller for longer too.

4. Make sure you get enough iron

Foods like red meat, poultry, fish, beans and pulses, dark green leafy vegetables and fortified foods such as high-fibre breakfast cereals are all high in iron.  

Prep a bean chilli to have for lunch or rustle up some sardines on wholemeal toast to keep your iron levels topped up.

Iron is really important in the production of haemoglobin, which helps your red blood cells to transport oxygen around your body. Eating foods rich in iron also helps to prevent iron deficiency anaemia and its symptoms, which include feeling tired and weak.

Two bean chilli

5. Stay hydrated

Dehydration can cause you to lack energy (both mentally and physically) throughout the day, so stay hydrated by drinking six to eight glasses of water. Keep tabs on how hydrated you are with our hydration infographic.

Image showing hydration level by urine colour

6. Limit alcohol

Alcohol is a diuretic (it increases the amount of urine your body produces) – too much can leave you dehydrated. Alcohol can also disrupt your sleep, causing you to feel groggy and unrested, so take care over your alcohol consumption.

7. Watch out for added sugar

Sugary food and drinks cause a spike in your blood sugar which can then lead to a drop shortly afterwards. This rollercoaster effect can play havoc on your energy levels.

If you need something to keep you going, choose a balanced snack that is low in ‘free’ or added sugar. Here are a few ideas.

  • Apple slices with peanut butter. Remember to choose no-added sugar and healthier varieties as some peanut butters contain lots of added sugar and fat
  • Toasted pitta bread and some hummus
  • Mango slices with lime and Greek yoghurt
  • Pear slices with a warm sprinkling of cinnamon

8. Eat foods rich in B vitamins, zinc and magnesium

Make sure you eat a variety of different foods to maintain optimum levels of these vitamins and minerals. Include lean meats and fish, wholegrains, yeast extract (eg marmite,) lentils, green leafy veg, quinoa, milk, eggs and unsalted nuts in your diet where you can.

B vitamins such as thiamin, niacin and riboflavin and minerals like zinc and magnesium are important as they help to break down and release energy from the foods you eat.

Try this salmon and quinoa dish. It’s a great option after a hard day’s work.

 (Serves 2)

Ingredients

  • 2 salmon fillets
  • 4 sundried tomatoes
  • 4 spring onions, roughly chopped
  • 100g quinoa
  • 200ml vegetable stock
  • Handful of fresh chopped herbs (parsley and thyme)

Method

       
  1. Rinse the quinoa and put it in a saucepan. Add the hot vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10–15 minutes. Once cooked, fluff the quinoa with a fork and add the sundried tomatoes, spring onion and herbs.
  2. Heat the oven to 180 C gas or 200 C fan. Cut out two sheets of baking paper and put them on a baking tray. Separate out the quinoa on to the sheets of baking paper and place the salmon fillets on top. Wrap the paper over the filling and bake for 15 minutes.

Overall, having a healthy, balanced diet should give you all the energy and nutrients you need to see you through your day. But it’s important to remember that there may be other factors at play too. Staying active and getting enough sleep can also help you to avoid those energy slumps.

Victoria Evans
Nutritionist and Centre Manager at Bupa UK

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