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4) Eating Fat is Ok. Despite the bad rap that fat gets, it is an essential macronutrient the body needs for day-to-day maintenance and repair. Rather, it’s the kind of fats that you eat that really matter. You want to avoid trans fats (i.e. vegetable shortening, packaged and processed snack foods) and limit certain saturated fats (i.e. fried food and commercially processed baked goods) as these have been shown to increase your risk for heart disease. Healthy fats on such as monounsaturated fats (i.e. olive oil, avocados), polyunsaturated fats (i.e. corn oil, walnuts) and omega-3’s (i.e. salmon, anchovies) have the opposite of effect of bad fats and these will help you to fight fatigue, manage your mood, and focus more effectively.
5) Eat Local and In Season When Possible. One of my favorite food shopping destinations has to be the St. Lawrence farmers market (especially on Saturdays) where fresh produce is brought in daily. Personally, I like to support the local agricultural community when I can, and the thought of the massive carbon footprint from shipping in food from the rest of the world (i.e. asparagus from Peru) makes me very uncomfortable. Food that has been harvested within the first 48 hours is at it’s most nutritious peak — which means more nutrients going into your body!
6) Frozen Can Be As Good As Fresh. While it is not often feasible to eat local or in season fruits and vegetables, frozen foods are a convenient source of nutrients. Fruits and vegetables that are destined for the frozen food aisle are frozen shortly after they are harvested, locking in nutrients as they make their way to the grocery store and into your home. Keep a few bags of peas, broccoli and corn in the freezer handy — in a only a few minutes you will have an energy-boosting snack or side dish.
Where Food Energy Comes From. Before we being, it’s important to point out that there are 3 macronutrients in food where energy (calorie as a unit of energy) comes from: fat, carbohydrates, and proteins. Fat is the most calorie dense macronutrient with 9 calories per gram while carbohydrates and protein both contain 4 calories per gram. Daily calorie requirements depend on age, gender, height, weight and exercise level. An average adult female requires between 1,500 – 2,000 calories per day, while an average adult male requires between 2,200 -2,500 calories every day. Your food calories come from four basic food groups – 1) vegetables and fruit, 2) grain products, 3) milk and alternatives, and 4) meat and alternatives. We will discuss general guidelines to energy boosting nutrition and keep in mind not all calories are created equally!
1) Have Balanced Meals And Snacks. Remember the four food groups we mentioned earlier? Well, eating a variety of food across all groups daily is not only going to keep your body fueled all day long, but the variety is also going to keep you from getting bored from eating the same types of food day in and out. The concept of balance considers the timing of meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and snacks throughout the day, consisting of a diverse range of nutritious ingredients. Consistently fueling your body throughout the day will help sustain your energy levels.
2) Reduce Sugar Intake. It is easy to reach for foods such as donuts, candy bars and pop for that quick hit. The sugar (a simple carbohydrate) in these products is a simple carbohydrate that is easily absorbed by the body, providing you with that burst of energy, however, this also means that your blood sugar levels will fall just as fast leaving you feeling sluggish and tired. While carbohydrates are an absolutely critical macronutrient for your body, choose other simple carbohydrates such as honey or fruit to fix that sweet-tooth energy craving, or eat more complex carbohydrates such as yams and other whole grains.
3) Don’t Skip Meals. Missing a meal deprives your body of the food energy it needs to function and maintain itself. Often times, you may end up over compensating by eating more the next meal, or making unhealthy food choices by picking a more convenient option (i.e. fast food) over a more nutritious one. While it is often easy to get caught up in day-to-day activities, schedule time for meals and snacks. Do keep snacks such as nuts and fruits around in case you need to grab something quickly.
We will continue our discussion on food energy in our next post.