Quick tips to help avoid the midday crash:
1) Don’t skip breakfast.
2) Eat a well-portioned lunch. Not eating enough will leave you with few nutrients and little energy. Eating too much will make you bloated and sluggish.
3) Get at least eight hours of sleep at night.
4) Avoids sweets, which will cause your blood sugar to spike and then crash.
5) Get up and move every hour to help the blood flow and reduce fatigue.
6) Avoid foods that are high in sodium and fat. They can make you feel bloated.
7) Exercise regularly to rev up your energy levels.
The best fare for preventing or defeating the afternoon skids combine fiber and protein, are low in fat and sugar, and provide less than 200 calories.
Walnuts and Almonds – Stave off the blood sugar roller coaster ride by grabbing a healthy handful of almonds — about 23 — in the morning. Almonds help stabilize blood sugar levels for the rest of the day, according to a study by Purdue University researchers published in the January 2011 issue of “Nutrition and Metabolism.” And the next time you’re under a deadline, try snacking on a handful of walnuts, or 12 to 14 walnut halves, to help improve your mood and brainpower. Omega-3 fatty acids found in walnuts may boost brain areas that help bring mood into balance. For a treat with a kick, toast 2 cups of walnuts in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper in an oven set at 375 degrees F. The cayenne pepper adds heat and anti-cancer fighting properties.
Low-Fat Dairy – The milk sugar, or lactose, in low-fat dairy foods give you instant energy, while the high amount of protein helps fend off hunger afterward, says Susie Garcia, a registered dietitian based in Oakland, California. For a healthy morning boost, add a dollop of yogurt to a bowl of oatmeal. The pairing of a prebiotic and probiotic food contributes to healthy digestion and immunity, and prevents bloating. Make low-fat yogurt or string cheese a part of your morning routine, because while those cups of Joe offer the caffeine boost to kick-start your day, regular consumption may affect bone health over time. According to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, caffeine increases the amount of calcium lost in the urine.
Avocado and Olive Oil – An avocado a day keeps hunger pangs away, especially helpful when your midday funk includes the munchies. Heart-healthy monounsaturated fats in avocado and olive oil slow down the emptying of the stomach so you feel satisfied longer. And according to a study published in the October 2008 issue of “Cell Metabolism,” the oleic acid from olive oil helps suppress hunger between meals. Avocados are also rich in potassium, which regulates kidney function and blood pressure. For a mid-morning or afternoon snack, halve a small avocado and remove the pit. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
Hard-Boiled Egg – With just 80 calories, one protein-packed hard-boiled egg can curb your appetite for hours. In a study published in the June 2010 issue of “Appetite,” participants reported higher levels of satiety and satisfaction three to four hours after eating a high-protein, low-carbohydrate breakfast than after a low-protein, high-carb meal. “Protein takes longer to digest than carbohydrates, so it provides longer satiety and sustained energy levels,” said Garcia. When it’s time to enjoy one, sprinkle it with paprika, pepper and salt, then squeeze a bit of lemon juice on it to taste.
Blueberries – After lunch, treat yourself to a cup of blueberries topped with low-fat whipped cream. At just 80 calories per cup and no fat, blueberries will sharpen your focus for the rest of the afternoon. Blueberries are one of the most antioxidant-rich foods. Their compounds fight free radical damage and trigger the growth of new brain cells. Or consider switching your afternoon coffee to a glass of blueberry juice. In a study published in the April 2010 issue of the same journal, people with age-related memory problems performed better on learning and memory tests than the control group after drinking blueberry juice every day for two months.
Dark Chocolate – If your afternoon workday collapse is accompanied by stress, reach for a piece of dark chocolate, which triggers the release of endorphins that will pick up your mood. Serotonin, the calming neurotransmitter, is also affected by chocolate, Rarback says. Dark chocolates have antioxidant power that helps resist cell damage caused by free radicals, and according to a study published in the June 2010 issue of “BMC Medicine,” dark chocolate may help lower blood pressure. But snack in a serving-controlled manner. Limit yourself to only one or two dark chocolate drops or squares.
Citrus Fruits – When you’re about ready to doze off at your desk, smell an orange. Sniffing citrus scents can stimulate alertness, according to research published in the November 2003 issue of “Experimental Biology and Medicine.” Then eat the fruit. Its natural sugars are digested within 30 minutes, providing quick and enduring energy. Enjoy grapefruit by cutting it in half, scooping out the flesh and topping the grapefruit sections with a half-cup of cottage cheese.
Nutrition Newsletter, LiveStrong