There are many “diets” people can choose between nowadays, many of which are quite limiting and, in turn, intimidating. Severely restricting your food intake is downright scary for many of us, not to mention impractical. For many, sticking to a super strict diet isn’t feasible between work, parenting and household duties.
If you find yourself distracted or discouraged by the many rules in the latest fad diets, it’s time to go back to the basic principle of nutrition: food is fuel. You should be thinking of food as a way to maintain your daily schedule in the most successful way possible, whether you are busy all day at the office, maintaining your household, participating in high-impact sports or all of the above. Strategic eating isn’t just for professional athletes and dietitians, and it definitely isn’t just for people on a “strict” diet. We should all be eating strategically according to our goals for that day, week, month and throughout our lifetimes, even if that goal is simply to feel good in our own bodies.
What we put into our bodies should not be making us feel uncomfortable, tired or starved. All foods are not processed equally; the majority of foods are broken down into glucose and then that glucose is released at different rates depending on the type of food. Foods high in sugar, such as white bread and pasta, candy, processed food, etc. all release glucose rapidly, causing your blood sugar to spike. Sure, you’ll get a sudden rush to get you through the next couple hours, but your blood sugar levels will plummet, leaving you in what we all know as the afternoon slump.
We often attribute our feelings of fatigue, hunger and lack of focus to being genuinely tired or overworked, but in many cases it is because of what we ate that morning and early afternoon. When we start to feel low, our instinct is to then reach for more sugar, caffeine or processed foods because our brains think that is what will give us a “pick-me-up.” In reality, we are just continuing the cycle of rapid glucose release, all while never truly fulfilling our bodies’ nutritional needs.
Every day, our bodies depend on healthy doses of vitamins, protein, fat, carbohydrates and–you guessed it–glucose to function optimally. Glucose is not the culprit here, but rather how it is released. You want to consume foods that result in a slow, steady release of glucose to optimize brain function, focus and energy levels throughout the day.
Here are some great foods to keep on rotation throughout your day:
- Lean meats and fish
- Fruits and vegetables
- Complex carbohydrates (nothing “white” or processed)
Having a hard time kicking that sugar craving? Feel free to indulge in moderate amounts of dark chocolate. Though the above list looks limiting, think outside the box! Eggs aren’t just for breakfast, and fruits or vegetables don’t have to be eaten plain or by themselves. Try out different seasoning, recipes, snack ideas and smoothies. Though it might be hard at first to overcome cravings and habits, you will find that your energy levels increase along with your focus and overall function.
Keep in mind that these tips are for all ages! If you have a student athlete in your household, keep their glucose levels in mind, especially before and after big games and practices. I will address the importance of athlete nutrition in a later post, as well.
Let’s talk about your personal nutrition goals. Set up a consult with me by calling 920-499-3333 or emailing me at DrChadMHoffman@gmail.com.
Best of health,