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Eat Right to Boost Your Energy

 Montefiore Nutritionist Offers Tips to Keep You Going Throughout the Day

NEW YORK CITY, NY (September 29, 2010) -- As summer turns into fall, school is back in session, work schedules are picking up, and every day is more tiring and exhausting than the previous day. Sometimes it feels like all the coffee in the world is needed just to get through the morning. Well it turns out that a slight change of diet might be all you need to feel more energized. Suzanne Geraghty, MS, RD, CDN, clinical dietician at Montefiore Medical Center, gives the following 10 tips to help boost your energy and increase productivity:

Fuel up - The most important thing for maintaining energy is to provide our body with a consistent supply of high quality fuel. This means eating something every 4-6 hours is necessary to stay at a high energy level. If you start with breakfast around 8 a.m. and then lunch at 12 p.m., you're off to a good start. But then if you have dinner at 7 p.m., you've waited too long between meals, which will make your blood sugar drop and make you feel sluggish. It's important to try to have a snack sometime around 3 or 4 p.m.

Eat breakfast - If you have dinner at 7 p.m. and then don't eat breakfast the next day, but have a noon lunch, you've gone a whole 17 hours without food! Skipping breakfast causes you to run with an empty tank all morning and could cause you to over eat during other meals.

Maintain a balanced diet - Eating every 4-6 hours is important, but it's also important that you're eating the right foods. Ideally, you'll maintain a balanced diet that incorporates different food groups like whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats. Don't eat too many sweets because the sugar may give you an initial boost of energy, but it is short-lived and will cause your energy to go down again very quickly.

Carbohydrates are key - A complex carbohydrate like whole wheat crackers takes longer for your body to absorb than simple carbohydrates like candy. As a result, the complex carbs will give you a longer lasting boost of energy.

Energy boosting foods - These are healthy foods that give you a long-term energy boost: whole grains (wheat bread and crackers, pasta, brown rice), whole fruits and vegetables, lean protein (chicken and turkey without the skin, eggs, nuts, beans, peas, tofu, soy) and low-fat dairy products (low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese).

Energy zapping foods - Avoid eating large meals, which can make you feel tired because a lot of the energy in your body is used to digest the food. Though lean protein is good, eating too much meat can also make you feel tired, similar to the feeling after a large turkey dinner on Thanksgiving. Also, avoid fatty foods like deep fried foods, cream sauces and whole fat dairy products.

Stay hydrated - The process of converting food into energy uses up a lot of the body's water, so it's important to replenish it. Don't allow yourself to get thirsty because thirst is the first sign of dehydration. Generally, you want to drink at least eight glasses of water a day. Keep in mind, a glass is 8 oz., so a bottle of water (which is 16 oz.) counts as two glasses.

Caffeine is good in moderation - Caffeine is a natural stimulant that makes you more awake and mentally alert. There are actually health benefits to drinking coffee and tea because of the antioxidants they have. It is ok to drink 2-3 cups of coffee or tea a day. But again, a cup is only 8 oz., so a large cup of coffee from Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts will count as almost three cups.

No alcohol before bed - Although it may be relaxing and help you fall asleep, drinking alcohol before bed interferes with your sleep cycle and will leave you less refreshed in the morning. Try to avoid alcohol within three hours of going to bed.

Stay healthy - Eating all the right foods can only take you so far. It's also important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It's good to do some type of exercise at least three times a week. By reducing stress, eating healthy and getting enough sleep, you will be able to perform at a high level all day long.

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