When you think of creating more energy in your life, you may think about slowing down, getting more sleep, or even making time for exercise. But did you know that your diet affects your energy level as much as (and maybe more than) those other things? If you need to create energy in your life, it’s time to take a look at the foods you eat.
(This article is part of our Create Energy and Passion in Your Life, Health, and Marriage series.)
For example, has this ever happened to you?
- The holiday season was over months ago, but you’re still eating lots of high-sugar, high -carb foods – and you’re feeling tired, bloated, and more than a little cranky.
- Your week has descended into chaos, you’ve eaten fast food for lunch and dinner for the past four days, and now you just want to eat everything in sight.
- You’re visiting your mother, she’s stuffing you with comfort food three times a day, and you’re starting to feel more and more sluggish by the minute.
I’ve experienced #1 and #3 many times (too many times!), and while I probably haven’t eaten fast food four days in a row, I definitely know what it feels like to eat too much fast food. (Not good!)
What about you? If you’ve experienced any of these things, you know the power of food. For better or for worse, food affects the way you look, the way you feel, the decisions you make – even your overall mood.
In other words, food is powerful – and one of its powers is that it influences how much energy you have to get through your busy days.
Which seems like it might be bad news but is actually good news. Because once you know the power of food, you can put it to work for you – to help you feel better, look better, and increase your energy levels.
So if you want to create more energy more energy in your life, what should you eat? The answer to that question can be confusing – I’ve been studying nutrition for years, and at times I still find it confusing. But I think we can simplify it.
Pick a Plan and Start
Lots of eating plans claim to be healthy, and it can hard to know which one to follow.
You can eat three times a day or six times a day, or you can fast intermittently and eat all of your meals in a six- or eight-hour period.
It’s really hard to know what to do.
If you know that you need to improve your diet but aren’t sure where to begin, take a bit of time to research several eating plans and see which one seems like it would work for you. Then try it out for two weeks and see how you feel.
Or if you want to simplify things, start with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans or the Mediterranean diet, both of which are generally considered to be healthy and relatively easy to follow, and follow the plan for two weeks. Then assess how it’s working for you.
Or – Start with These 4 Simple Changes
If you’re not quite ready to commit to a specific plan – or you want a quick-start plan that you can implement now – start with these four simple changes. These are things that seem small, but they can boost your energy level and help you feel better fairly quickly:
• Stop drinking soda. Regular or diet, just stop drinking it. Soda is full of chemicals and either sugar or artificial sweeteners, and you just don’t need it. If you drink a lot every day, you may need to wean yourself off over a few weeks.
To replace it, drink more water. And even if you don’t drink soda, make sure that you’re drinking enough water. Because sometimes when you’re feeling tired or lethargic, your body is telling you that it needs more water.
• Eat at least two fruits or vegetables at every meal. The Dietary Guidelines recommend 1.5 cups of fruits and 2.5 cups of vegetables per day (for an 1800 calorie diet), which may seem like a lot. Plus, exactly how do you figure out how much you’re eating? So start with two servings at every meal and go from there.
Adding fruits and vegetables to your diet doesn’t have to be complicated. Start with things that require little or no prep, like apples, oranges, bananas, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, and sugar snap peas.
And cut up vegetables on the weekend so that you can quickly make salads or roasted or stir fried vegetables during the week.
• Eat less sugar. Sugar and sweets provide lots of calories, but not much in the way of good nutrition. And they put you into a cycle of craving more food every few hours. (When I eat very little sugar, I’m amazed at how much less hungry I feel.) So start cutting way down on sugar and foods that are high in sugar.
Cut out desserts and sweet snacks on most days – and avoid altogether the ones you don’t even really like. (No mindless snacking on packaged cookies or the candy your kids brought home from a party!) Eat low-sugar fruits, like berries, for dessert, or train yourself not to need dessert except on special occasions.
Get rid of stuff you like to eat but don’t want to eat – or at least put it where you can’t see it. And consider having small amounts of healthier sweets (like dark chocolate) on hand, for those times when you really, really need something sweet.
• Eat most of your meals at home. Eating out makes it hard to eat healthy. Many restaurant meals are loaded with things you don’t really want to eat, like sugar and unhealthy forms of fat, and they tend to be high in salt and calories.
So focus on making simple meals at home so that you don’t have to eat out as often. Put your Crockpot or InstantPot to work, bake some chicken breasts, roast some vegetables, and do some food prep on the weekend so cooking doesn’t feel like a burden on busy week nights.
I know that eating healthy isn’t easy. It takes time and thought and preparation. And I freely admit that I often want to ditch it in favor of something easier.
But I think it’s worth the effort. If you feel like you need more energy this year, consider switching to a healthier diet for two or three weeks and see how you feel.
If you’re ready to give it a try, here are some resources that can help:
- Healthy Eating 101 (4-part series)
- 10 Healthy Food Prep Tips
- The Busy Moms Guide to Healthy Family Meals (ebook, use the code FRIEND50 at checkout to save 50%)
- Healthy Pantry Staples Checklist (free download)
Are you thinking about changing to a healthier diet this year? Or have you already made some changes? Leave a comment and let me know – I’d love to hear from you.
Healthy Life, Happy Marriage
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