What should I be eating each day, particularly at breakfast and lunch to help reduce the fatigue I usually feel in the afternoons? It doesn't seem to matter whether it is a salad or sandwich, I still find that by 3pm my body wants to take a nap!
Answer: The most important thing with fighting fatigue is to eat regularly (every three to four hours) and to fill up on low-GI foods that slowly release energy into your body. This is opposed to other foods which may provide an initial burst of energy followed by a tremendous lull that leaves you wanting a nap later in the day.
Try these healthy tips to keep your energy levels up during the day:
1. Eat a power-packed breakfast
After 10-12 hours without food, it’s important to eat a healthy breakfast to kick-start your body into gear for the day. It will help you to think clearer and eat healthier for the rest of the day.
Research has also shown that breakfast eaters have higher intakes of important nutrients like fibre, calcium and vitamins and minerals compared to non-breakfast eaters. Those who eat breakfast are also more likely to have healthier body weights. A few good reasons to eat breakfast!
The ideal breakfast should contain:
- Low-GI wholegrain carbohydrates (i.e. cereal, porridge, muesli, wholegrain toast). Wholegrain carbohydrates help to keep your energy levels up.
- Protein foods or reduced-fat dairy products (i.e. eggs, yoghurt, milk). Protein foods help to satisfy your appetite so you stay feeling fuller for longer.
- Fruit and/or vegetables (fresh fruit, fruit canned in juice, grilled mushrooms or tomatoes). Provide a range of vitamins and minerals to help your body produce energy.
2. Sustaining snacks
If you are hungry in between meals, have a small snack to keep you going. This will ensure your brain gets a constant supply of carbohydrates for energy.
Some healthy snack ideas are listed below:
- A piece of fresh fruit
- A pottle of yoghurt
- A handful or unsalted nuts/seeds/dried fruit
- A slice of fruit toast topped with lite cream cheese
- One slice of wholegrain toast topped with peanut butter
- Four wholegrain crackers topped with sliced avocado and tomato
3. The right lunch
Eating a lunch filled with low-GI carbohydrates, some lean protein and plenty of vegetables will help to get you through the afternoon without needing a nap.
The easiest way to get all of these foods in the right amount is to divide your lunch plate into four equal sections.
- Fill ¼ of your plate with wholegrain carbohydrates (this also includes any starchy vegetables like potato or kumara). Wholegrain bread, rolls, wraps, rice, pasta, potato, kumara.
- Fill ¼ of your plate with lean protein foods and/or reduced-fat dairy products. Skinless chicken, beef, lamb, fish, canned tuna/salmon, legumes, tofu, eggs, nuts, seeds, cheese.
- Fill ½ of your plate with non-starchy vegetables or salad. Lettuce, tomato, carrot, cucumber, peppers, broccoli, peas, courgette.
If you are always looking for something else after lunch, try having a piece of fresh fruit. It’s sweet, juicy and will signify the end of the meal to your brain.
Not drinking enough water or fluid can make people feel drowsy and lethargic. Dehydration is also often mistaken for hunger so make sure you get enough fluid, especially water throughout the day. Most adults need about two to three litres of fluid each day. While some of this fluid can come from watery foods (fruit, soup) and other drinks such as tea, it is still important to drink plenty of water. Try to keep a water bottle near you and sip away at it all day. If you find water too bland, try a dash of freshly squeezed lemon juice for some zing!
5. The wonders of fresh air
While eating the right food and drinking enough fluid can help to combat fatigue, sometimes there is no better solution to tiredness than a quick walk outside. Try a 10-15 power walk in the sunshine and fresh air to blow away that fatigue.
|Emily is the Nutritionist at Healtheries. For more information about Healtheries, one of New Zealand's most trusted health brands, visit www.healtheries.co.nz or phone 0800 848 254.|