We’ve all been there — the mid-afternoon slump that has you dying for some coffee (or a bit of chocolate) and makes the end of the day seem years away. And while the occasional fatigue is no big deal, feeling drained every day may signal that your diet is to blame. Stay alert by incorporating these foods into your daily meal plans — they all supply hours of energy to help you power through your day.
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Quinoa might get more attention, but amaranth deserves a place in your pantry for its energy-boosting properties. It’s filled with high-quality carbohydrates, including plenty of dietary fiber. That fiber fills you up and helps stabilize your blood sugar levels, which means you’ll get hours of energy instead of that dreaded energy-zapping blood sugar crash. You’ll also get other nutrients, like iron — a mineral that boosts your energy by helping deliver fresh oxygen to your cells and tissues.
Use amaranth anytime you’d use quinoa or whole-grain rice — it’s a great base for stir fries or casseroles, as an addition to grain salads or burritos. Or even as a delicious breakfast porridge. Here’s a handy cooking guide to get you started!
Bring on the pumpkin (or butternut, or calabaza….)! Squash has the perfect mix of “fast” carbs, in the form of natural sugars, and “slow” complex carbs like starch. That means it’ll give you a quick burst of energy, as well as sustained energy to keep you feeling great for hours. Squash also supplies vitamin A (an immune booster, which can keep you feeling better throughout cold and flu season) and energy-enhancing minerals like iron.
Go for low-carb “spaghetti” using roasted spaghetti squash, or throw your favorite winter squash in the oven, seasoned with salt and pepper, and bake until tender for an ultra-easy side dish. Roast the seeds, too — they’re rich in healthy fat and fiber to keep you full!
Whether you prefer to start your day with an omelet, or just take a couple hard-boiled eggs with you to snack on on-the-go, eggs are one of the best (and most affordable) ways to stay energized all day. On top of high-quality protein, eggs supply filling fat to keep you satisfied. They’re also high in energy-enhancing minerals like iron and zinc, along with immune boosters like vitamin A. They’re also very low in calories, at around 70 calories per large egg, so you can keep you energy up even on a calorie-controlled diet.
Give this omega-3 omelet a try tomorrow morning — the vegetables add more fiber for long-lasting energy, while the hemp seeds add more healthy fats — or whip up a brunch-friendly crustless quiche. Alternatively, pack hard-boiled eggs in your lunch (see our guide for perfect eggs here!) to add to your salad or eat on their own.
When it comes to all-day energy, you can’t beat black beans. They’re one of the richest sources of fiber for sustained energy levels, and they’re also loaded with high-quality vegan protein to nourish and energize those hard-working muscles! Black beans also contain folate, a vitamin that helps you grow healthy red blood cells. Those red blood cells work hard to supply your cells and tissues with energizing oxygen, which is why not getting enough folate can zap your energy.
Use this guide to make delicious citrus-seasoned black beans from scratch. Add a handful of beans to your favorite salad, use them in place of chickpeas to make hummus (add a pinch of cumin to make the beans’ flavor really pop) or combine black beans with pumpkin in this yummy chili. (You can even sneak them into your brownies! Shhh — we won’t tell.)
After years of demonizing all saturated fats, nutritional scientists are discovering that some full-fat foods are actually healthy — and that includes energizing options like full-fat dairy. Fat not only adds richness and flavor to dairy, but also makes it a lot more satisfying, so you’ll get hours of energy from each serving (and, bonus, full-fat dairy might actually fight obesity). Dairy also supplies lots of high-quality protein, which helps stabilize your blood sugar, plus natural sugars for an energy boost.
Switch from using skim to using 2% or whole milk in your favorite smoothies, and use whole milk to make your own delicious full-fat Greek yogurt.
It may feel like every nutrition article steers you away from store-bought granola (we get it, it’s fattening!). But the homemade stuff is a great snack to keep you feeling energized for hours. Whole grain oats, nuts and seeds all supply slow-digesting carbs and fiber to keep you satisfied, fat keeps you feeling full and natural sweeteners (like maple syrup) add just a touch of fast-digesting carbs for instant energy.
Making your own granola at home is surprisingly simple and helps you easily control your sugar intake (as well as avoid preservatives!). Adapt this recipe to suit your taste — try adding a few tablespoons of cacao nibs to the granola after cooking to get your chocolate fix!
Looking for energy on the go? Sunflower seeds are an ultra-portable snack that will keep you going all afternoon. They have the perfect mix of slow-digesting carbs, filling protein and satisfying fat to provide long-lasting energy, and they’re rich in essential minerals — like magnesium and iron — to boot. Those minerals help you tissues generate energy, while iron promotes healthy blood flow to help fight that 3 P.M. slump.
Make your own “sunbutter” using sunflower seeds in place of almonds in this recipe, or make your own roasted sunflower seeds using our guide. Season your seeds with cinnamon and ginger for a warming snack, or sprinkle your seeds with turmeric and black pepper for an antioxidant boost.
If you’re feeling fatigued almost 24/7, make an appointment to talk to your doctor. You might have an underlying nutrient deficiency, or another health issue causing your tiredness.