In my last blog, I started to discuss the four ways to maximize energy. The most important of the four is sleep. The second way to increase and sustain our energy level is through the food that we eat. If you take a look around when you are out on the road, you will find people driving while holding a sandwich in one hand, a coffee in the other, and most likely steering with their knees. The drive thru for Dunkin Donuts and McDonald’s is rarely empty and society continues to be in a rush to wherever it is that they are going. These behaviors indicate that we don’t truly value food. We quickly eat, are unaware of how our food choices impact our body, and move on with whatever task it is that we were doing. Shortly after we have a spike in energy, we may start to experience fatigue, muscle weakness, irritability, headaches, and impaired decision-making and judgement. It isn’t until we develop a healthier connection with food and change our food choices that we will overcome this pattern of behavior. Here are some tips that may help you do this.
Be mindful of food
Often at times, people eat without thinking. We scarf our food down and before we have the chance to realize what happened, it is gone. Slow down! Savor each bite that you take of your meal. Take a break and sit down to eat as opposed to eating in the car or on the run. The experience will be much more enjoyable.
Eat food that takes your body longer to break down
If you reach for foods that are higher in sugar or break down quickly, your body will experience a spike in insulin and crash shortly after. In order to increase and sustain energy, select foods that metabolize slowly. Vegetables like spinach, breads with whole grains, peanuts, almonds, oats, and other food that is higher in protein are all choices that will help you maintain energy until your next meal.
Grow or pick your own food
I strongly suggest that you find the time to build your own vegetable garden. Not only will nutritious veggies be more readily available to you, but growing your own food will strengthen your connection with the food you eat. If you have kids, they will be much more likely to eat their vegetables if they are involved with the process of growing them. They will be happy to harvest and eat whatever is ripe as they are playing outside. Kids will also be excited to share with and educate their friends about their knowledge of vegetables and gardening!
In addition to growing your own food, purchasing a share at a local Community Sustained Agriculture (CSA) is a great option. CSA’s typically cost around $400 for an individual share per season (May-Oct) and provide plenty of fresh veggies for a family of four. Pickup is once per week and includes a large variety of nutritious fruits and vegetables. Many even have the option to pick additional produce yourself each week which can be a fun family activity. My family has been members of Honey Brook Farms in Chesterfield, NJ for the last 4 seasons and have been very happy with it. Fernbrook Farms is another popular CSA in the Allentown area.
Stock nutritious food in your house and cook more often
When we are looking to snack after work, school or at night, we choose to eat whatever is stocked in the pantry. If potato chips or cookies are accessible, you better believe this is what we will lean for. However, if mixed nuts, hard boiled eggs, fruit, granola bars, or other nutritious foods are readily accessible, we will select one of these to satisfy our hunger instead. By keeping whole foods in and keeping more highly processed foods out, you and your family will be making better choices in the pantry.
It is also helpful to cook more often as opposed to eat out as you will have more control over your food choices. This can be challenging as most people get home from work late and don’t want to start preparing a meal for themselves and/or their family. However, by preparing weekly meals ahead of time, using a slow cooker, or an electric pressure cooker, you can still cook nutritious filling meals for your family on busy nights. We have owned an Instant Pot for a few years now and it has definitely made it easier to make homemade, nutritious, “set it and forget it” meals on busy weeknights. I highly recommend them!
Once you begin to eat more nutritious food, you will find that you will have more energy, a well balanced mood, and an overall stronger mental and physical health. Keep reading next week when I introduce the 3rd tenet to maximize our energy level in order to help with life management – engage in some form of activity on a daily basis!