A boy once saw a gleaming jar of hazelnuts. He loved hazelnuts and, just at the sight of them, he could taste them already. So he stuck his hand in the jar and gathered a huge fistful of the nuts. But he’d made such a big fist that when he tried to pull his hand out of the jar, it was stuck.
This is one of Aesop’s lesser-known fables, and of course there’s a moral. It’s: “Do not attempt too much at once.”
Can you see yourself in this fable? I sure could. In seeking good things, I try to grab too many good things at once. I overestimate what I can get done in a day.
We all want to get good things done in the new year and have more energy to do it. Admittedly, a lot of the secrets to having more energy are probably not food related. They involve crossing events off the calendar. Or exercising (of course!). Or spending more time doing the things that recharge us emotionally.
But food helps. “Those enviable people who effortlessly drift off to sleep, wake up with the birds and charge through the day full of enthusiasm almost certainly have their daily diets nailed,” says health editor Roxanne Fisher of bbcgoodfood.com.
Here are a few ways I plan to infuse more energy into 2017. My plan includes not just what to eat, but how to make sure I choose to eat those healthy, energy-giving foods.
Breakfast steers the course for the day. If I make good choices about what I eat for breakfast, it’s easier to make healthy, energizing choices throughout the day. If I opt for a sugary breakfast, or not enough breakfast, my choices tend to continue downhill.
Here are a few healthy breakfast options:
Compared to carbs, the protein in yogurt provides a longer-lasting source of energy. Magnesium, found in yogurt, helps convert sugars into energy. Choose plain yogurt to reduce the amount of sugar and avoid an energy crash later.
Protein always needs to be balanced with other calorie sources (you can have too much of a good thing, even protein), so it’s important that this parfait includes homemade granola, made from whole grains that give you an energy boost right away.
And then you can add whatever fruit you like. We’re getting Florida strawberries right now at Wolff’s, and fruit is always a good option for fiber and the healthy carbohydrates you can get from fruit. And all that vitamin C keeps sickness at bay, so you won’t lose days from all the foggy thinking that comes with having a cold!
Like the parfait above, this recipe mixes proteins with healthy carbohydrates that come from whole grains. And, as a whole grain, chia seeds can give you energy. In fact, legend has it that ancient Mayans and Aztecs used chia seeds to boost their energy! Also like the parfait, this lets you start your morning with energizing fruit.
One of the best things about egg dishes is that they let you start your day with vegetables. Most of us are probably not going to chow down on carrot sticks for breakfast, but starting with a frittata, omelet or egg-vegetable scramble lets you sneak those veggies in early. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables is a key to sustained energy.
2. Snack Healthy.
Plan ahead to have healthy snacks on hand, so you won’t reach for junk foods or hear the siren song of the vending machine. Studies have linked junk food not only to longterm health problems, but to short term complications, too–like fuzzy thinking and reduced physical endurance.
Sliced apples or other fruit, or carrots, cucumbers, nuts or hummus are all great options to boost your energy, and they’re easy to pack if you need to snack on-the-go.
3. Time Your Snacks Strategically.
Have you noticed that you tend to have peaks and slumps of energy throughout the day? Part of that has to do with the body’s natural production of the hormone cortisol. It tends to peak–and thus give you energy– early in the day, around lunchtime and then around supper time. So mid-morning and mid-afternoon are the times you are most in need of an energy boost.
4. Make Soup from Scratch (Or let our chef Chuck Smith make it for you)
It’s easy to load homemade soups with vegetables, especially the leafy greens and root vegetables that proliferate this time of year. And did you know that leafy greens are rich in magnesium, that mineral that helps convert sugars to energy?
Soup is also great for keeping hydrated, which is essential for having enough energy.
And since soup is very filling, it’ll keep you from opting for energy-draining junk food to satisfy the hunger pangs.
We love Chuck’s Curried Cauliflower Soup recipe, Rutabaga Carrot Ginger Soup from vegan blogger Susan Edelman, Leek Soup with Tomato and Potato, Spicy Salsa Soup and Ashley Wolff’s Sausage Lentil Stew.
5. Prep Your Veggies
Want to eat more energy-boosting veggies this year? Prep them in advance. You know how it goes. You’re looking through the fridge for something healthy to pack for lunch. You have every intention of opting for a vegetable. But then you look at your watch. You have to leave now. So you turn from the fridge to the cupboard and take the pre-packaged easy way out.
Try setting aside a few hours to cut some veggies over a weekend. Then they will be ready to go when you’re looking for a snack, or need to rustle up a main dish. Slice peppers and onions and they’ll be ready to sauté for fajitas. Cut carrots and cucumber and they’re ready to dip into hummus for a healthy snack. Chop sweet potatoes and you’ve got a side dish ready to roast.
We all know how easy it is to let veggies languish in the crisper. But once you’ve done the prep work, you’ll want to put that work to good use.
And that little bit of work will yield big returns, giving you the energy you need to power through 2017.