There are days when keeping up with emails, dishes, laundry and my boisterous 2-year-old daughter leave me completely drained. Like every day. I’ve tried going to bed earlier, managing my time better and even grabbing an afternoon nap when my kid takes hers, but nothing has upped my energy. So I asked Elisa Zied, R.D., author of “Younger Next Week: Your Ultimate Rx to Reverse the Clock, Boost Energy and Look and Feel Younger in 7 Days,” to help me put together an eating plan to maximize my energy throughout the busy day.
Zied gave me a general rule to follow: Focus on eating more protein-rich foods during the day when I need the most energy and to fill me up, and carbohydrate-rich foods by night to provide a steady stream of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in mood, appetite and sleep. By eating more balanced meals and snacks throughout the day, I could keep my energy levels steady—as opposed to the old spike-and-crash routine I’ve been used to.
Here’s Zied’s energy-boosting meal plan:
6-8 a.m.: Scrambled eggs with whole wheat toast, ½ cup fruit of choice, such as blueberries, strawberries, cherries or ½ banana, and coffee with non-fat milk and low- or no-calorie sweetener
Why it works: “The eggs satisfy with high quality protein, while the whole wheat toast and fruit provide fiber and carbohydrates,” says Zied. “Fiber is filling and carbohydrates are the key source of energy needed by the brain, red blood cells and entire central nervous system as well as muscles.”
More breakfast options: Non-fat plain yogurt topped with ½ cup fresh berries and 2 tablespoons of walnuts or almonds. Or try a whole grain cereal with nuts and fruit and non-fat milk.
9-11 a.m.: 1-2 tablespoons of nuts and ½ cup fruit, such as a small apple, clementine, kiwi, peach
Why it works: “The nuts provide protein and healthy fat, while the fruit adds the fiber and carbohydrate element,” says Zied. “This timing is good for a snack because it’s important to space out eating throughout the day to keep energy levels steady.”
More snack options: 5 Triscuit crackers and 1 ounce cheddar or 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and ½ cup fruit of choice—both snacks are rich in protein, healthy fat and fiber.
12-2 p.m.: Tuna canned in water with 2 teaspoons of mayo on top of a colorful salad with lots of vegetables such as carrots and tomatoes, plus 2-3 tablespoons of salad dressing and one small whole grain roll.
Why it works: “The tuna is a source of high quality protein, and the roll is a carbohydrate that adds fiber to the mix,” says Zied. “The veggies also provide fiber, plus tons of vitamins and minerals. Their high water content helps keeps you hydrated, too.”