When your energy is low, it’s tempting to give in to cravings for caffeine and sugar – anything to help get you through the day. Instead, choose foods that are rich in protein or fiber to give your body the fuel it needs to keep going. Here are ten of our favorites.
At just 78 calories and 6 grams of protein, the egg is a protein powerhouse. And it’s loaded with other nutrients as well, especially in the yolks, says Jonny Bowden, author of The 150 Most Effective Ways to Boost Your Energy. “People avoid the yolk because they’re worried about cholesterol, but egg yolks contain choline, which is critical for memory.”
Loaded with stress-reducing B vitamins and soluble fiber, oatmeal is the perfect choice for an energy boost. Dietary fiber fills you up without weighing you down, keeps blood sugar levels in check, and helps prevent the overwhelming desire to snooze come 3 p.m. Add a few nutrient-rich berries on top, and you’ve got the snack of champions.
“Not only are fiber-rich apples an excellent choice for a mid-afternoon snack, they’re also disease-fighting powerhouses,” says Pamela Nisevich, sports nutrition consultant at Swim, Bike, Run, Eat! What’s more, apples contain boron, a mineral that helps keep you alert.
How many other foods help protect your heart, boost brainpower, and make you feel happy to boot? Salmon is packed with vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 essential fatty acids which research suggests can boost your mood. Plus, it’s lower in fat and calories than most other protein sources.
While peanuts are high in calories, they’re also more filling than other foods, and they naturally curb your calorie intake throughout the day. A study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that when people consumed 500 calories of peanuts daily for 19 weeks, their resting metabolic rate increased by 11 percent – even without added exercise.
These quick-cooking legumes are a great source of soluble fiber, which gives you steady, slow-burning energy while stabilizing your blood sugar. That fiber – along with folate and magnesium – also helps protect your heart. Finally, lentils are a healthy source of iron, a nutrient you need more of when you’re pregnant or lactating. Serve them with whole grains for a complete protein – meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids.
Yogurt boasts higher concentrations of protein, calcium, and vitamin D than milk. Plus many brands of yogurt have live active cultures, which can aid digestion. Try organic or Greek yogurt since it’s less likely to be loaded with artificial ingredients, sugar, and preservatives.
Snacking throughout the day can help keep your energy up — and nuts are convenient to carry with you. They offer protein and fiber to keep you fuller longer, plus healthy fats (including brain-boosting omega-3s) and magnesium (you need 800 milligrams). Trying not to go too crazy with calories? Shell-on pistachios take longer to eat, giving your body more time to register that it’s full.
Most pregnant women are mildly anemic (which equals tired), especially during the final stages of pregnancy, when the body is prepping for birth and producing a ton of extra blood. Your lifesaver? Mangoes, says Largeman-Roth. “The natural fruit sugars in mangoes lift energy levels. Plus, fresh mango is an excellent source of folate, which can help prevent birth defects.” Mango also has vitamin C, which helps your body absorb the energy-boosting effects of iron-rich foods, like lean red meat and beans.
One cup of boiled spinach offers 6.4 milligrams of iron. Keep a bag of it on hand for salads and sautés, and even sneak it into your Sunday lasagna. Note that while spinach is high in iron for a veggie, you need a whopping total of 27 milligrams of iron each day during pregnancy. So keep taking your prenatal vitamin too.
Here’s another food to help you reach your iron quota one medium sweet potato offers 0.8 milligrams. The vitamin C and copper assist in its absorption too. Bonus: Your body uses a sweet potato’s beta-carotene to make vitamin A, which helps baby’s eye, bone and skin development. (If you’re eating well and still feel ridiculously sluggish, see your OB, who may want to test for anemia or check your thyroid.)