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Want more energy? Turn your diet upside down

Posted May 23 2011 12:41am

Remember the days when people would routinely sit down to a full cooked breakfast? Our ancestors had a good intuitive understanding of the fuel needed to get through their day. It’s true, their lifestyles were more physically demanding, but fewer suffered the chronic health disorders that we have today, like insulin resistance that can progress to adult onset diabetes. I think we can learn a lot from their eating styles.

A modern western diet often begins with grain-based breakfast cereal. Even if you choose a low GI cereal, you’re likely to be hungry again mid-morning as your digestion has quickly processed the meal. You may reach for coffee and a cake to hold you over until lunch. Even if you stop for lunch there’s a long gap until dinner, by which time you’re ravenous.  You consume a huge meal, perhaps dessert, and some snacks in front of the TV. In the morning you’re not hungry, so you just have a bowl of cereal, and the cycle starts again.

The problem with this style of eating is that it can lead to an energy ‘slump’ mid afternoon, and a tendency to reach for sweet snacks to keep you going. Here’s how to arrange your meals so that you have steady energy right through the day. The idea is to fuel up well in the morning, and gradually reduce your meal sizes as the day progresses.

Start by reducing the portion size of your evening meal; routinely avoid dessert and TV snacks. This will give you a better appetite for breakfast.

The transition to a ‘real’ breakfast will take some extra time and effort, but it’s worth it. To get results, you must include some animal protein, some fibre, and a little fat, as these take longer to digest and provide sustained energy. Eggs are ideal: Try a vegetable based omelette; or  poached eggs with baked beans. Savoury mince on toast is great, and takes only moments to heat up.

Ensure you have a lunch including animal protein (even a chicken and salad sandwich is good), and have healthy snacks on hand like fruit, nuts, or carrot sticks with hummus dip.

Within a few days you’ll notice that your mid-afternoon energy ‘slump’ is diminishing, and you’re not ravenously hungry by dinnertime. After a couple of weeks your energy during the day will be steadier.  Just turn your diet ‘upside down’ and reap the rewards.

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