The foods you eat are so much more than for keeping hunger at bay. They provide feelings of comfort. They give you energy. And they power your always-working mind. Here are the ways the food you eat fuels your mind, body and soul.
It’s hard to concentrate on an empty stomach. Your brain and body need a steady supply of energy to function. Without it, productivity, creativity and overall mood can take a hit.
The type of energy from foods and beverages that you give your body makes a difference. Simple carbohydrates like chips, white bread, pasta and soda are used up by the body very quickly. These foods may give you a quick burst of energy, but it doesn’t last long. This can leave you feeling more tired and just as hungry as before.
Fueling up with fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats can provide more steady energy. Here are some additional ways to put your best brain forward.
Everyone’s eating habits look different. Check in with yourself to see how you feel. Some foods may give you more energy than others. You may find that eating or exercising at certain times of the day feels best. Do what is best for you to keep your energy levels high and mind sharp.
Plan what you’re going to eat ahead of time. It can be hard to pick a balanced meal when you are running on empty. Having your meal or snack made or planned out can also make it a convenient and easy choice. If you don’t have time to meal prep, then make your next meal choice right after you finish the previous meal. Research supports that choosing your next meal at least one hour ahead of eating helps you consume fewer calories overall. Your brain has more energy to make a balanced choice than when it is tired and hungry.
Having something to eat before your tank is empty is a good rule of thumb. It’s hard to concentrate on an empty stomach. Eating before you get to that point can prevent energy levels from getting too low. If you find you’re getting hungry at a similar time of day, plan for it. Pack or plan a healthy snack for that time to keep energy levels up and satisfy your appetite before your next meal.
Giving your body the nutrients it needs can impact energy levels and overall body function. That doesn’t have to mean only eating boiled chicken and steamed broccoli for dinner. Certain foods do give you more long-lasting energy than others. Adding more of these foods to your plate is a step in the right direction to filling up your tank for the day.
When planning any meal, think of the plate method. Fill half your dish with non-starchy veggies, ¼ with whole grain carbs and ¼ with protein. This provides a balance of nutrients your body needs to function optimally. It will also help keep you feeling satisfied for a longer time between meals. Some of the nutrients that help fuel up your energy levels are:
Fiber–Found in all plant foods. Fiber takes longer to digest, helping you stay full for longer and slowing the release of carbohydrates into your blood.
Protein–Found in foods like chicken, eggs, tofu and tuna. Protein foods are super satisfying. Including ¼ of your plate with them helps increase your meal’s fullness factor.
Healthy fats–Adding a serving of heart-healthy unsaturated fats to your meal is another way to fuel your body for the long haul. Some examples include nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocado and olives. Healthy fats can also help your body absorb more fat-soluble vitamins in your meal.
Speak with a dietitian today
Drinking enough water plays a role in how well your body feels. Staying hydrated is a healthy behavior that can have an impact on mood, energy and overall feeling good. Keeping a water bottle within reach can remind you to stay hydrated. It’s important to drink more water if you are regularly physically active.
Besides energizing your body and mind, food also nourishes the soul. It brings people together. It provides a feeling of comfort or nostalgia. And it is often a part of celebrations. No matter the day, you can make cooking or enjoying a meal a moment of self-care.
When it is mealtime, make it an event. Turn off the TV. Silence your phone. Step away from your computer. Whatever you must do to make it feel special. Eating with distractions can make it hard to notice when you are full. Take the time to enjoy the meal in front of you. Turn on some music or light a candle to create an enjoyable environment.
If you are used to multitasking while eating, it can take some adjusting. Take this time to be mindful about eating and really focus on your food. Use all your senses when eating. How does your food smell, taste and sound? This can make meals more satisfying. You may find that foods even taste different when you really focus on the eating experience.
Eating a meal or snack can be a form of self-care. If you enjoy cooking, that can be self-care too. Give yourself the time and space to fully enjoy these moments. Give yourself space to enjoy the foods that bring you feelings of comfort or happiness.