Stay fuelled up, hour by hour, with nutritionist Amanda Ursell’s recommendations for energy-boosting meals and snacks
Wake up and get moving
Enjoy an early morning drink to top up fluids – it will give you an almost immediate lift. Tea, a milky coffee, glass of skim milk or unsweetened and fortified dairy alternative are all good, or simply have a glass of cool water.
Include protein, carbs and fruit or vegetables. Try these:
- ½ grapefruit, followed by 2 poached or scrambled eggs on a slice of wholemeal toast. Evidence shows eggs are especially sustaining and even help reduce the amount you go on to eat during the rest of the day.
- 2 boiled eggs with wholemeal soldiers and a 150ml glass of juice.
- Sugar-free oat-based muesli with skimmed milk or unsweetened and fortified dairy alternative, topped with grated apple and fat-free Greek or soy yogurt – a great mix of slow-release carbs, protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals.
Top up fluids again after your journey to work or the school run. It’s easy to forget to drink regularly, but doing so helps to keep you feeling energised, balanced and focused. Making sure you have water at this time of day will help you establish a hydration habit.
Schedule in a fruit or nut snack – for example:
- a 30g serving of dried mango.
- 1tsp peanut butter on a couple of oatcakes.
Have your snack with another glass of water or a herbal tea and make this a routine: a quick break will help you re-focus on what you have to get through before lunchtime.
- Consider the protein part of your lunch first, then build the rest of your meal’s components around this. Try these:
- A good serving (100–150g) of tuna, chicken, Quorn, pulses or tofu.
- Add a portion of wholegrain carbs, such as a small serving of brown pasta (60–70g uncooked weight), brown rice or quinoa (60g uncooked weight) or a small wholemeal pitta or tortilla wrap.
- Complete your plate with at least one serving of vegetables – salad or crudités are good, such as carrot, pepper, cucumber or cherry tomatoes.
- Have a glass of water with a dash of lemon as this enhances our perception of the saltiness of foods and helps us cut back on salt itself. Water also slows down the process of stomach emptying, helping us to stay fuller during the afternoon ahead.
Time to enjoy coffee with a splash of milk, or tea or green tea. The judicious use of caffeine can help combat mid-afternoon energy lows.
Have a nut or seed-based snack to bridge the hunger gap. Try these:
- 30g sunflower seeds
- 30g cashew nuts
These options give you protein, good fats and fibre, plus iron and B vitamins needed for energy. Have with water or herbal tea to maintain hydration and boost your mood.
Have slightly less protein (lean red meat, poultry and dark oily fish, pulses, eggs, tofu or Quorn) and a slightly larger serving of carbs than you had at lunchtime, to help you get a good night’s sleep. Eat wholegrain pasta and rice to maintain intakes of fibre, or try baked sweet potatoes, spelt or bulgur wheat. Pile on the veg.
Try a calming, warm herbal tea such as chamomile, but if drinking now is likely to wake you later for a trip to the loo, stick to a small cup.
Stick to a regular bedtime. Chances are, by following this eating plan you’ll start to sleep a whole lot better.
For more ways to boost your energy, you might also be interested in:
Article sources and references
- BDA. Food Fact Sheethttps://www.bda.uk.com/ foodfacts/fluid.pdf
- EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition, and Allergies (NDA).Scientific Opinion on Dietary Reference Values for water. EFSA Journal 2010; 8(3):1459https://efsa.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.2903/j.efsa.2010.1459
- Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Military Nutrition Research. Caffeine for the Sustainment of Mental Task Performance: Formulations for Military Operations. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2001. doi: 10.17226/10219https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK223802/