Have you ever experienced a drain of energy in the afternoon? Do you feel a crash-and-burn after lunch? Many factors can influence your energy level in the afternoon, some more obvious than others: the quantity of sleep you had last night; what time you woke up; physical activity earlier that day; and (try to guess… ) food! Okay, this is a nutrition blog: that was an easy one! With too little food consumed, you will run out of energy and feel tired. How to find the balance? What is a healthy lunch that will give you energy for the whole afternoon? Here are some tips for you:
Go low on fat.
Fatty foods take time to digest. Your digestive system needs blood to be able breakdown the food. This process directs a large portion of blood (and oxygen) to your digestive system muscles. Result: less oxygen is available for the rest of your other muscles, organs and brain, making you feel tired.
Give plenty of room for the rainbow.
Vegetables and fruits are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. These nutrients and compounds help you to stay healthy. Choose whole fruits and vegetables rather than juices: they contain more nutrients and help you feel fuller longer.
Eat your carbs.
Potatoes, pasta, rice, quinoa, bread and crackers: they all share a common nutrient -- carbohydrates. Carbs are the source of fuel used by your brain and muscles. Limiting your intake of carbohydrates would have detrimental effects on your level of energy. Keep your level of energy high by including at least one source of high energy food (carbs) in your lunch. Try to select those with high fiber content (i.e., whole grain bread or pasta, quinoa, brown rice). They reduce the rate of absorption of carbohydrate, making your energy level more evenly distributed over time.
Include a source of protein.
Whether your proteins come from chicken, meat, fish, eggs, legumes (i.e., lentils, beans) or dairy (i.e., cheese or yogurt), they all have an effect of satiety or satisfaction. This means your hunger will stay away longer.
Drink enough liquids.
Did you know that being dehydrated can impair both physical and cognitive (brain) performance? Be sure to include a drink in your lunch to stay hydrated. Water is a good option; and milk hydrates as well as provides many essential nutrients, like calcium and vitamin D.
Take time to eat your meal.
Lunchtime isn’t just time to fuel up, it is also time to relax. Wherever you are (school, home, work, restaurant, beach - hey, it is still summer!) try to take at least 20 minutes to eat your meal. It is the minimum time for your brain to receive the signal from your stomach saying it is full. After a little rest, you will have more energy for the afternoon!
Eat that healthy lunch to keep your energy level high in the afternoon! Need new ideas…. check out this website: WINforum.org!
Stay tuned for another Best Teen Diets blog!
By Genevieve Masson, RD (@nutgmasson)