Get More Energy by Eating Smart


Fatigue is a common complaint among caregivers. The stress of a hectic lifestyle, giving so much to others and not taking care of yourself as well as you should manifests in physical, mental or emotional overexertion.

One key to keeping energy levels high all day is maintaining a good diet. After all, you are what you eat! The foods you choose to eat have a critical impact on how energetic you feel. But beware. That morning cup of coffee (or two…or three) or that candy bar for a mid-morning snack may give you a temporary burst of energy, but the crash afterward leaves you feeling even more tired, fatigued and lethargic.

The trick is to choose foods that release energy more slowly and give you a gradual boost of long-lasting energy. Stay away from high-glycemic foods that deliver an immediate, short-lived boost but leave you feeling sluggish and tired.

How do caregivers ensure they get the nutrition they need to keep up with their busy lifestyle, with energy throughout the day?

The Forgotten Meal

You've heard it before: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Most people dash off to work or start their caregiving duties without a thought to their body's dietary needs. Who has time to eat in the morning anyway? The morning rush we all experience makes breakfast an easy meal to forget. But if you are skipping breakfast and find you are tired by midmorning, then it's time to re-evaluate that eating habit.

Even if you don't have time to cook in the morning, a quick "meal-on-the-go" is better than no breakfast at all. Some "grab-and-go" choices for caregivers on the move:

  • Whole grain bagel with cheese
  • Cereal with fruit and yogurt
  • Whole-grain toast with peanut butter and fruit
  • Oatmeal with raisins

Carbohydrates Get A Bad Rap

Carbohydrates are the body's preferred source of energy. Carbohydrates are basically sugars, which, despite their bad rap are essential for good health. In fact, carb energy is very much essential for a human body so that it is able to perform and withstand various tasks. Our bodies are capable of breaking down carbohydrates very quickly and with efficiency.

So why do carbs have such a bad reputation? There are good carbs and bad carbs. The good ones are essential for good health and high energy. Good carbohydrates are the foods which have neither been processed, nor or they altered either by human being or machines.

To make the most of "carb" energy, eat a combination of complex and simple carbohydrates. Most of the carbs you eat should be complex carbohydrates, which are slow burning. Foods such as:

  • Whole grains
  • Starchy vegetables such as potatoes, squash, pumpkin, and carrots
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Grain cereals and grain breads

Refined and processed foods are "bad carbohydrate" foods. Bad carbs are found in processed foods that aren't in their natural state. Nutrients have already been removed from this kind of food. Generally bad carbohydrates are added with lots of additives. These additives may be in the form of colorings, flavorings and preservatives. Bad carb foods are, unfortunately, the foods most people love the most:

  • White rice
  • White bread
  • Pasta
  • Candy
  • Baked goods
  • Soda

By choosing good carbs over bad, you will see a noticeable increase in your long-term energy and endurance.

Fat: Another Nutrient with A Bad Reputation

Fat has also gotten a bad reputation – and for good reason. Too much of the "bad" fats are associated with heart disease, cancer and some chronic illnesses. The right types of fat in the right amounts, however, can make food taste good, and is a concentrated source of energy. Here's a primer on fats:

The Good Fat

Monounsaturated Fats - Nuts including peanuts, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and avocado as well as canola and olive oil.

Polyunsaturated Fats - Seafood like salmon and fish oil, as well as corn, soy, safflower and sunflower oils are high in polyunsaturated fats.

The Bad Fat

Trans fat – packaged foods, candy, commercially fried food such as french fries, packaged snacks such as microwave popcorn

Saturated fat - butter, lard, and cream, coconut and palm oil

Pack In the Protein

Protein maintains cells, assists in growth, transports hormones and vitamins, and preserves lean muscle mass. Protein also strengthens the immune system. So replenishing the body's source of the nutrient is very important. Good sources of protein include:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Low-fat dairy products

When we eat these types of foods, our body breaks down the protein that they contain into amino acids (the building blocks of proteins).

Never Underestimate the Power of Water

Fatigue is often a sign of dehydration because the body depends on water to distribute and make use of iron and other fatigue-fighting nutrients throughout the body. Water is an essential ingredient in the production of energy molecules.

Your body needs water to regulate body temperature and to provide the means for nutrients to travel to all your organs. Water also transports oxygen to your cells, removes waste, and protects your joints and organs.

The Institute of Medicine recommends that women get about 11 cups of water from food and drink each day, and men get about 16 cups daily.

Feed the Fatigue

Feeling tired with no energy makes it hard to get through the day, but simple changes in your diet, including choosing energy-boosting foods, can make a big difference.

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I agree the article is a little out of date. The latest research shows, in fact, that there is no correlation between saturated fats in the diet and heart disease and there is a correlation between carb intake and heart disease. This is not to put down healthy carbs - veg, some fruit and some whole grains or the occasional treat. It is the white stuff that is not good for you - sugar, white flour, white rice, white potatoes. It is apparent to me that many people have no idea what a healthy diet is, or what the effects of eating an unhealthy diet are. People are living longer with diseases than were not known years ago and are surviving for various reasons including improvements in medical care. There is an epidemic of obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart/artery disease in North America and spreading to Europe and beyond. I think it is clear that this is due to poor eating habits. Exercise is good but eating habits are far more responsible for weight, and, exercise cannot make up for poor nutrition.

This afternoon, before I saw this, I looked up articles related to diet and dementia. It appears that diet does affect the likelihood of developing dementia. Eating properly is not difficult, but the will to learn has to be there. To me, not providing your children, or your seniors, or yourself for that matter, with a proper diet is a form of neglect if not abuse. We are such a pill -oriented society, we look to meds for solutions rather than lifestyle, while lifestyle may well have better solutions, and certainly less costly

.I have taught this at college for years and many students have been introduced to good eating habits and inevitably tell me they feel so much better when they eat properly. When will people wake up???
@jeanne Any change is hard, It is not that eating well is that hard, it is changing habits of a lifetime which is hard. I understand that.

I don't think many nutritionists, dieticians or doctors know as much truth about a healthy diet as we need. I believe that most still go by older standards/recommendations of higher carbs and lower fats. The whole fiasco about saturated fats was an assumption as it turns out and not based on scientific examination. The proof of this is recent. I have suspected it for years.

An example of poor advice - a student of mine was a brittle (meaning having difficulty controlling blood sugar) diabetic - type one - from childhood and was recommended to have a complex carb snack at night. It didn't help. I told her if she trusted me, to try a protein snack at night instead. Her next set of tests showed a well stabilized blood sugar for the period she had the protein snack and the dietician told her to keep doing what she was doing.

jeanne or anyone - If you would like any suggestions/ideas/support in making changes in eating habits I would be glad to be of whatever assistance I can. The fact is that we are what we eat and the body gets its materials for repair and maintenance from the foods we eat, If the nutrients are not there, eventually we will suffer. Our body is a large chemical factory and needs the right materials to function properly at the cellular level,

example of an easy healthy meal
chicken breast sliced into a few pieces, saute in a little coconut oil in a non stick pan, chop up a little sweet pepper ( red, green, yellow or orange, some asparagus and some bok choy and saute with the chicken) could throw in onion and garlic too just didn't this time, or other veggies, season with lemon pepper and a little low sodium soy if you want. I saw a lonely mandarin so chopped it up and threw it in peel and all, Add a little water - or pure orange juice, put the lid on and simmer for a few minutes and it is ready - veggies still nice and crunchy. Done in probably 10-15 minutes while I was putting away the groceries.
To that, depending on your calorie requirements add a whole wheat pasta, (cooks in about the same time) or brown/wild rice mixture (cook in large batches and freeze portions which can be warmed up in the microwave) or a nuked yam. Yams do not cause the blood sugar spikes that white potatoes do - and a white potato is one with white flesh no matter the colour of the skin. Blood sugar spikes are not good for the blood vessels.

and so on...
Hi jeanne - of course there are individual responses, White potatos are very high on the glycemic index and re glycemic load, yams are lower so as a general rule they are a better carb choice. Despite individual variations there still are valid principles that an be followed and then tailored to one's own situation, preferably before having blood sugar problems in order to prevent them. I gather you have a blood sugar problem. Have you tried a protein snack at night? I have managed to keep my blood sugar in a good range through diet and exercise. I have followed low carb for years as I felt it suited me and it does get rid of cravings. I do not tolerate carbs well at all and gain weight slowly if I eat more than about 40 gms a day, So I too choose my carbs very carefully but for their nutritional value mostly from the veg and fruit groups - very few grains. I will be 74 in a week, My BP was 128/67 this morning ( I am not on BP med). My blood sugar has gone slightly over the recommended level a few times from stress (e.g. when my youngest son was killed) and it came down again through proper nutrition and exercise. I am not an exercise or diet freak - don't care for tofu much, though I do like veggies, walk mainly for exercise and do the stairs in my house more often rather than less, walk the aisles in the grocery store whether I need to buy from that aisle or not type of thing.
I was reading this morning that brain health is related to cardiovascular health, and we know that cardiovascular health is related to, amongst other things. obesity and diabetes type 2. It all fits together to me and the solutions lie in lifestyle. I would rather be healthy than eat cake, bread, rice or pasta - simple as that. I myself like brown and wild rice and it is pushed because it is nutritionally a better choice than white rice - not ever talking about the carbs here but that there are more nutrients in brown rice and whole wheat bread than in the white versions. Agreed there are lots of healthy things to eat in this world - unfortunately many do not seem to be chosing to eat them. I do not eat what I don't like either.

a story relating to food and energy

my daughter recently has undergone a lifestyle change which started with changing how she ate. She found that she was eating several peanut buttter sandwiches in a row and was still not satisfied. and was gaining weight, was depressed and tired all the time. She has chosen a "paleo" diet and looks and feels like a new woman. The difference in her is amazing. She is 5'7", 123 lbs, now and looks many years younger than her age. She is 46 with 2 young (6 and 8) and extremely active children, so has a hectic life. She is not depressed any more, has energy and it even doing exercises at home like reverse pull ups. She never had a problem with carbs or weight when she was younger, but finds she has to restrict them now. I am so delighted for her success with her choices. I know that others can make these changes too and receive the same benefits and that is why I sing my song,