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10 Energy-Boosting Breakfast And Lunch Ideas To Avoid The Afternoon Crash

Fortune Well January 13, 2024


10 Energy-Boosting Breakfast And Lunch Ideas To Avoid The Afternoon Crash

Whether it’s mental burnout, lack of sleep, or just the early-setting sun, no one is safe from the mid-afternoon brain fog that sets in like clockwork. But, you don’t have to let it win—and kill your vibes and productivity to boot. While lots of factors are at play—from hormones to mental health—there is one piece to this energy-draining equation you do have some control over. And that’s what you eat. 

You’ve heard the saying that food is fuel. That quite literally is true in that food has calories and calories are energy, but it’s the makeup of the micro and macro nutrients in those foods that make the difference between you crushing it or crashing. Here, registered dietitian Amanda Holtzer reveals how to hack your breakfast and lunch eats to have the best chance at maintaining your energy until dinner. The best part? Holtzer is all about an anti-diet, unrestrictive way of eating that isn’t about following rules, but rather about sustainable, nutritious choices that work for you. Incorporating these tricks and meal ideas is both easy and delicious. 

Nutrition and energy basics

Understanding why and how food impacts your energy-levels can help you create sustainable habits. 

Aim for stable blood sugar 

Your energy level and your blood sugar go hand in hand, says Holtzer, who is also a staff dietitian for PB2 Foods. “Blood sugar very much determines where your energy is throughout the day,” she says. “In order to have consistent energy, you want to have consistent blood sugar. You want your blood sugar to follow this nice pattern of gentle, rolling hills, not high spikes and low dips.” The balance of macronutrients, particularly emphasizing slow-digesting foods that are low on the Glycemic Index, keeps those highs and lows to a minimum. 

Balance your macros

You want to ensure you have a proper balance of all three major macronutrients—protein, carbs, and fat—at every meal and snack, says Holtzer. The recommended amounts of each vary and depend on multiple factors including your sex, activity level, height, weight, age, and more, and a dietitian or certified nutritionist along with your doctor can help fine-tune those ratios for your body. Still, aiming to simply get all three on your plate is a great place to start. 

“Protein is very satiating; it keeps you full,” says Holtzer. “Protein is the building block of every single cell and process in the body,” which is why you want to make sure you have a good source of protein, such as Greek yogurt, eggs, turkey, or even protein powder, at every meal.

If protein is the log on the energy fire, carbs are the gasoline. “The body’s preferred source of energy is glucose, which you get from carbs,” explains Holtzer. Ideally, “those carbs would be filled with fiber, which helps slow down digestion,” which maintains fullness and reduces sharp blood sugar shifts. Fruits, veggies, and whole grains are all good sources of fiber. 

Finally, fats (particularly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) are helpful for slow digestion and satiation,” says Holtzer. Try olive oil, avocados, flaxseed, or chia seeds. 

Timing matters, too

You’ll want to pay attention to how long you’re going between meals if energy maintenance is the goal. Again, that’s because it all comes down to blood sugar, says Holtzer. Blood sugar naturally declines between meals, but going five to seven hours or more without eating will deplete those reserves so much that you’re more likely to overeat at your next meal, causing a sugar spike. 

“To combat that, it’s better to eat every three to four hours so that you’re giving your body this constant stream of energy, and more importantly, this constant stream of carbs and protein to keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day,” she says. 

5 energy-sustaining breakfasts

Set your day up for success with these satisfying breakfasts recommended by Holtzer.

  • Loaded yogurt bowl: Mix full-fat Greek yogurt with powdered peanut butter, such as PB2 or similar, for some added protein, then top with whole-grain cereal and berries for high-fiber carbs.
  • Smoothie: Blend frozen banana, frozen berries, and fresh spinach (all high-fiber options) with protein powder and almond milk for a well-balanced on-the-move choice. 
  • Veggie omelet and avocado toast: Whisk two eggs and two egg whites together and mix with a handful of chopped veggies of your choosing. Serve the cooked eggs with a slice of toast with half an avocado to balance out the protein and carbs with a healthy fat. 
  • Overnight oats: Mix old-fashioned oats with some chia seeds for an extra dose of fiber, a scoop or two of powdered peanut butter and a dollop of Greek yogurt for some protein. Add almond milk, let this sit overnight, then add fresh berries on top when you’re ready to eat in the morning.
  • Quick waffles: Spread peanut butter over a freezer waffle to add protein and fat to a quick and classic, carby breakfast. Add two hard-boiled eggs to your plate for even more protein. 
5 energy-sustaining lunches

No sad salads around here. Keep your energy high with these macro-packed lunches from Holtzer. 

  • Turkey sandwich: Stack turkey, cheese, and the condiment of your choice between two slices of whole-grain bread. That’s complex carbs from the bread, protein from the deli meat, and a little fat from the cheese. Baby carrots and cucumbers on the side add fiber.
  • Chicken Caesar salad wrap: Toss grilled chicken, crunchy Romaine lettuce, and croutons with a dollop of Caesar dressing before securing the salad in a wrap. Protein, fats, and fiber—check, check, and check. 
  • Chicken and vegetable soup: Whether homemade or store-bought this bowl is a balanced, warming lunch that will satisfy your tastebuds and a grumbling stomach. A slice of whole-grain garlic toast is the perfect complement. 
  • Mediterranean salad: Toss fiber-filled veggies including cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions with feta cheese, then top with a lean protein such as chicken, shrimp, salmon or tofu. Bring a carb into the mix with a side of pita bread or hummus and crackers. 
  • Cottage cheese toast: This viral recipe idea is a delicious, easy, high-protein, high-fiber lunch. Smear store-bought pesto on two slices of whole-grain toast, top with cottage cheese, sliced tomato, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. 

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