Energy Boosting Foods

Discover healthy ways to increase your energy level and keep it up.


Feeling fatigued or finding it difficult to concentrate?  When was the last time you ate?  Chances are you’ve gone more than 4 hours without food or you skipped breakfast and had a fast-food meal at lunch—and now you are feeling the effects of an energy slump.  Choosing the right foods at the right time can help you avoid low energy levels and promote healthier food choices throughout the day.


Carbs: Although carbohydrates have been given a bad rap recently, they are the most efficient fuel source for your body.  It takes your body 2 to 3 hours to break down the slow carbohydrates in the food you eat, release them into your bloodstream and convert them into energy. Going longer than that without eating again and your energy levels will start to fade. When paired with long-burning protein at a meal, carbohydrates can keep your energy levels up for 3 to 4 hours. Too much carb on the other hand can make you feel sleepy. So can eating fast carbohydrates like white bread, white rice, pop, sugar or candy.  Aim for a modest amount of carb at a meal with the plan that you will have a snack in a couple of hours to refuel your body.


Iron:  Iron is a component of the hemoglobin molecule which transports oxygen to your cells. If you’re low in iron, you’re low in energy, especially during exercise when your body depends on extra oxygen.  The best absorbed iron source is heme iron found in meat. Non heme iron or plant sources like beans, lentils, tofu, spinach, fortified cereals, and dried fruit are better absorbed when consumed with vitamin C-rich foods such as citrus fruit or juice.  The tannins and caffeine found in coffee and tea can interfere with iron absorption so have these beverages an hour before or 2 hours after a meal.  


Water: Avoid dehydration and decreased performance by drinking plenty of water during the day, especially with all meals and snacks.  Aim for 6-8 glasses per day and be sure to have water in a 1:1 ratio when consuming caffeine, alcohol, sweet or salty foods.


Breakfast: They call it breakfast for a reason. You haven't eaten for at least 8 hours. Your blood-sugar level is at its lowest, and now it's time to stoke the fire with a balanced meal which should include both protein and carbohydrate.  You don’t need to eat the minute you wake up but consider having breakfast within 2 hours.  Check out the Fruit Parfait recipe featured in this article.


Mid-Afternoon Snack:  Often energy levels seem to wane midafternoon. To keep energy levels going have a snack 3 hours after lunch. Chances are you won’t be starving by the time you get home from work and will be less likely to eat everything in sight before dinner.


Bottom line…plan to eat a balanced meal every 3 to 4 hours and keep well hydrated. Have a snack if you need to go longer than that.  Your body will thank you for it!






Fruit Parfait with Granola  Makes 6 Servings

This balanced dish can be an attractive breakfast meal or afternoon snack.  Blueberries, blackberries and other fruit are a great source of antioxidants which may help reduce your risk of cancer.


Fruit Parfait

3 cups granola (recipe below)


4 ½ cups mixed fruit (Summer use: blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, nectarines, peaches and plums. Fall/Winter use: bananas, oranges, pears, mango, grapefruit and canned pineapple.)


3 cups French vanilla low fat yogurt


  1. Prepare fruit into bite-size pieces.
  2. Layer fruit, yogurt and granola in dessert cup or clear plastic cup or glass cup, in two layers of each. Each serving contains ½ cup granola, ½ cup yogurt, and ¾ cup fruit.


Granola  Makes 20 Servings

5 cups rolled oats

1 cup raw sunflower seeds

2 cup wheat germ

1 cup instant powdered milk

1.2 cup brown sugar

2/3 cup canola oil

2/3 cup honey

1 cup slivered almonds

1 cup coconut

½ cup flax seeds

1 ½ cups mixture of chopped dried apricots, raisins, currants, and cranberries


  1. Mix dry ingredients except nuts, coconut and fruit.
  2. Combine and warm vegetable oil and honey.
  3. Mix oil and honey with dry ingredients.
  4. Spread on 2-3 cookie sheets.
  5. Bake on low oven at 275F (140 C) about 30 minutes, stirring frequently until slightly browned.
  6. Add nuts, coconut and fruit during last 10 minutes. Store in fridge.


Per serving: 430 Calories; Carbohydrates 59g; Protein 15g; Fat 17g


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