When your energy is low, you may instinctively reach for a cup of coffee or a handful of candy to provide a quick boost. Unfortunately, the effects of both are short-lived and can set you up for a crash. The key to a snack that will provide lasting energy is one that’s rich in protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates. Here are 10 of the best options: Some are great as on-the-go snacks, while others are smart choices for a lunchtime meal that will power you through the afternoon.
Almonds are a superstar in the snack world, as they contain important nutrients likemagnesium and B vitamins that help convert food to energy. “Research shows that people with low magnesium levels tend to tire more quickly during exercise due to magnesium’s role in energy metabolism,” explains Rachel Berman, RD, CDN, author of Boosting Your Metabolism for Dummies. Insufficient B vitamins can lead to fatigue, irritability, and poor concentration. Stick to one serving — 1 ounce, or about 23 nuts — to keep calories in check.
Whole-grain carbohydrates are a snack with staying power. “Thanks to fiber, whole grains help prevent the blood-sugar crashes that happen after consuming refined or simple carbohydrates,” Berman says. Popcorn is a smarter pick than crunchy snacks like chips since it’s a whole grain that’s low in calories — as long as you don’t douse it with butter, salt, or oil. It also provides volume and so tends to keep you satisfied longer than chips and crackers. Ditch flavored microwave popcorn and try popping your own kernels, then season them with herbs and spices.
Salmon isn’t called a “brain food” for nothing. The rich-tasting fish earns the moniker from its omega-3 fatty acids: nutrients that have been found to improve memory and reduce depression, as well as boost energy and mood, Berman says. The healthy fats also make salmon a smart choice for your heart, as they help lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol that can raise your risk for cardiovascular disease. Plus, the high protein count promotes satiety, which makes it a great energizing dinner option for those trying to lose weight.
Bananas are nature’s prepacked and portable healthy snack. They’re filled with fiber, B vitamins, and potassium — nutrients that promote sustained energy and muscle function, Berman says. Bananas are particularly appealing as a pre- or post-workout snack. Pair a banana with a glass of low-fat milk or a cup of yogurt for an energizing combination of fiber and protein — a combo that also makes a great breakfast to start your day.
Skip iceberg lettuce and add an energy-boost to your salad by using nutrient-rich kale as a base. Kale is also great sautéed as a side dish, chopped into soups, and tossed with whole-wheat pasta. Kale contains the amino acid L-tyrosine, which helps give you a mental lift, as well as a number of antioxidants and fiber to fill you up and help keep your blood sugar stable, says Berman.
Ask any nutritionist for healthy and simple breakfast ideas, and oatmeal is sure to make the list. It’s high-fiber content is the reason it’s such a filling meal that provides lasting energy. Because fiber takes so long to digest, having oatmeal for breakfast will power you through the entire morning, compared to a breakfast of white toast and jelly, explainsMelinda Johnson, MS, RD, and president of The Arizona Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. With stable blood-sugar levels, you’ll feel energized and focused without feeling the need to down another cup of coffee.
Powerhouse pistachios have a combination of protein, fiber, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats that adds up to a perfectly satisfying snack. Pistachios’ rich protein content makes them an ideal food for energy all day long, says Kari Kooi, MS, RD, a dietitian at Methodist Hospital in Houston. Though nuts are calorie-dense, 25 pistachios have only 100 calories, and the fact that you have to remove the shell slows you down and prevents overeating.
Hummus is a Mediterranean dip with only a few simple ingredients — puréed garbanzo beans, sesame-based tahini, olive oil, and lemon juice — that all contribute nutrients for energy. The fiber and protein that the beans provide stabilize blood sugar, take the edge off hunger, and boost energy, Kooi notes. When used as a dip for nutrient-rich veggies, such as red pepper strips or carrot sticks, hummus makes a great mid-afternoon snack. You can also use it as a sandwich spread instead of mayonnaise.
When it comes to yogurt, Greek varieties deliver twice the amount of hunger-satisfying protein as regular (with 17 grams per 6-ounce container), making it a super-charged breakfast, lunch, or snack. “The thick, indulgent texture is the perfect canvas for a variety of toppings that can make it even more substantial,” Kooi says. Mix infresh berries and chopped nuts for a nutrient-packed treat. Make sure you select nonfat or low-fat Greek yogurt to keep calories at around 100 per container.
Article courtesy of EverydayHealth.com