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Eat the Right Foods to Feel More Energetic


Updated February 16, 2014

Your brain and body need all three macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats and protein), and getting the right amounts of these nutrients can give you energy. 

About half your calories should come from carbohydrates, about 30 percent from fat and about 20 percent from protein. I know various nutrition experts argue about those percentages and you may find you prefer a diet that's lower in fat or lower in carbs, but nonetheless, you need all three macronutrients.

Healthier Foods for More Energy

With that macronutrient balance in mind, each of your meals and snacks should contain some amount of protein, complex carbohydrates and fat. The best choices are whole foods, or minimally processed foods rather than highly processed foods. Choose a fruit or vegetable (or more than one) for each meal, some type of whole grain, and something with a little fat.

For example, breakfast can be a slice of whole grain toast with peanut butter and a banana. The toast and banana provide complex carbohydrates you need for energy, along with some fiber, and the peanut butter adds protein and some fat. For a mid-morning snack, choose plain Greek yogurt and add fresh berries and nuts. Lunch can be a turkey sandwich with cheese on whole wheat bread with a salad on the side. For dinner, enjoy a salmon filet with brown rice and asparagus. See the pattern? Each meal or snack has complex carbohydrate, some protein and a little fat; and includes one or more fruits or vegetables, a lean protein source, and some fat.

Be Consistent with Meal Times

You might find that eating your meals at similar times each day helps you maintain a healthier diet, and skipping meals probably doesn't improve your energy levels. Find a daily meal pattern that works for you. You might prefer three larger meals per day, or maybe three smaller meals and two or three little snacks works better for you. All your meals don't need to be the same size. Maybe you prefer a big breakfast and smaller dinner, or maybe you like a small breakfast, a mid morning snack, and a big lunch and medium sized dinner. But whatever size meals or eating pattern you choose, be sure to stay within your daily calorie needs.

Healthier Beverages

So maybe you don't want to give up your morning cup (or two) of coffee. That's fine, but if you're drinking more, then it might be time to cut back, especially if the caffeine is making you jittery and irritable. Switch to green tea, which has less caffeine than coffee, or drink caffeine-free herbal teas. If reaching for another cup of coffee or can of energy drink is more of a habit than a caffeine addiction, try drinking water instead.

Watch your alcohol intake if you regularly enjoy adult beverages. One drink's fine, but even a little too much alcohol can interfere with sleep; and of course drinking a lot of alcohol is going to lead to a hangover and a rough, sleepy morning.

How to Eat a Balanced Diet for More Energy


National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. "Sleep, Sleepiness, and Alcohol Use." Accessed August 13, 2013. http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh25-2/101-109.htm.

United States Department of Agriculture Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010." Accessed August 13, 2012. http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/dietaryguidelines.htm.

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