4 Simple Tips to Feel More Energized

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It's true.  We are all in an energy crisis.  There is work, school, family responsibilities, caring for a home, caring for parents and/or children and the pressure to get everything on the never-ending To Do List completed better, quicker, and more efficient than before. 

Cartwheeling with enthusiasm through it all might be more of an aspiration than a reality, and at the end of the day, we may be left with wishing we had more energy to do more, see more, and be present more. 

So, we turn to energy drinks. 

From late night studying to working third shift, poor quality energy drinks may give you the stimulant boost you want to get through it all, but they just don't deliver on their promise of bringing you the real energy you need (case in point: this product). 

So, instead of looking for more energy (you just can't get "more") and instead of choosing poor quality stimulants as your liberation, focus on saying YES! to these four simple things to help you get better energy, more often.  

1.) Choose Real Energy

The word "calorie" is a unit of ENERGY! That means that when you are looking for energy, you must get it through calories - and to get calories, you must eat food! I recommend choosing whole foods in a balance of carbohydrates (they give your body quick energy!), proteins (they give your body communicative and power-energy), and healthy fats (they give your body sustained energy!) and choosing to eat in a frequent manner (likely every 3-4 hours or when hunger cues prompt eating).  Eating frequently and choosing a balance of nutrients helps avoid the highs and lows of blood sugar to keep your energy more stable throughout the day. 

2.) Get Better Sleep

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults between the ages of 26 and 64 get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night (no less than 6, no more than 10). (1) Along with numerous other benefits, sleep -- specifically REM (rapid eye movement) sleep -- helps restore and prep the body for handling social and emotional activities for the next day. (2) Can't seem to fall asleep at night? Cut caffeine in the hours before bedtime, power down electronics before bed (or turn on "night-shift" on your phones and tablets), adopt a bedtime routine, and make sure your bedroom is a cool, dark environment. 

I find that many people will turn to caffeine if they didn't get enough sleep. But, although caffeine from energy drinks, coffee, or otherwise may provide a bit of a stimulant boost, research suggests that "the effects of caffeine are limited and caffeine does not protect against all the adverse effects of sleep loss." (3)  For better energy and better health, you must get your ZZZs. 

3) Exercise for Better Energy and Better Sleep

Get more movement for better energy! According to one 2011 study, more physical activity means more alertness, excitement, and enthusiasm. (4) Struggling to make exercise part of your day? Do something you love - whether it's walking on your lunch hour (short 10 minute bouts of exercise count!), biking with a friend, dancing on the weekends (yep, that counts too!), or exercises during your favorite TV show - every little bit adds up!  

Worried that exercise might hinder your sleep? Some research shows that physical activity helps support a longer duration of sleep and better quality sleep - even in shift workers! (5)

4.) Energize Yourself by Doing What You Love

Do activities you love - activities that give you a sense of purpose - and energize you from the inside out. Simply spending time thinking about the ones you love can improve energy, confidence and alertness. (6) Spending time DOING what you love can be important too - research demonstrates that volunteering, though it takes time and energy, can foster a better sense of balance and may positively alter health. (7)

What helps you feel more energized? Share it with me in the comments below - I love hearing what YOU have to say! 

References:

  1. https://sleepfoundation.org/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times/page/0/1
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4286245/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4264529/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22059484
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2784228/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24924647
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25654517

Cauliflower Steaks with Pesto and Hemp Seeds

From cauliflower rice to cauliflower pizza crust, people everywhere (including me!) are getting crazy about cauliflower...and for great reason!

Cauliflower Steak with Pesto and Hemp Seeds

This cruciferous vegetable is home to fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate and vitamin B6. Plus, its versatility as an ingredient makes it a fun and nutritious solution to help you get more vegetables more often.

So if you love cauliflower and love creating healthy, delicious meals with vegetables (or are looking for ways to eat more vegetables daily), or perhaps you are looking for more healthy recipes with cauliflower, you're going to love this Cauliflower Steak with Pesto and Hemp Seeds. 

This recipe is hearty, full of flavor, and it's a combo you'll keep coming back to again and again.  It's SO simple to make and it's PACKED full of good-for-you nutrients from cauliflower, plus a healthy amount of protein and omega-3s from hemp seeds.

Watch below to learn how to make Cauliflower Steaks with Pesto and Hemp Seeds!

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cauliflower from Foxy Produce
  • 1/2 cup avocado oil 
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Your favorite pesto - homemade or store-bought
  • Hemp seeds
  • Fresh parsley (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375°F. 

  2. Wash one head of cauliflower, remove cauliflower leaves, and cut the cauliflower into 1/2 inch thick slices.

  3. Create the cauliflower steak basting oil by stirring together 1/2 cup avocado oil, 1/2 teaspoon basil, 1/2 teaspoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

  4. Lay the 1/2 inch thick cauliflower slices on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

  5. Baste the cauliflower with the oil/herb mixture. Flip. Baste again. 

  6. Bake at 375°F for 20 minutes.

  7. Remove from oven. Baste with remaining oil/herb mixture.

  8. Bake at 375°F for another 20 minutes, or until cauliflower is golden brown.

  9. Remove from oven. Transfer cauliflower steak onto a plate. Top with your favorite pesto and hemp seeds. Garnish with fresh parsley and dig in! 

Like this recipe? Plan to make it? Share your photo of it on Facebook when you do and tag @YESNutritionLLC so I can see your creation! 

 

[Disclosure: This video was made in partnership with Foxy Produce. Thank you for supporting brands that support YES! Nutrition]

 

Healthy Back-To-School Fruit Snacks

Back to school...back to sugar? As a former junior high cheerleading coach, I've seen firsthand the multitude of sugary snacks teens choose for after school eating- and as a Registered Dietitian, I know we have lots of room to improve!  In fact, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Committee shared that nutrients including potassium, calcium, fiber, magnesium, and vitamin E are of concern for children (plus folate and iron for adolescent girls!). So, yes, LOTS of opportunity to improve!

But, common "fruit" snacks simply do not deliver on the important nutrition, unlike their name would have you believe.  In fact, from "fruit" rolls to "fruit" snacks, some food products hide behind the name of "fruit" and contain little to no fruit at all (like this Fruit Roll-Up, which was recently added to the Health Hall of Shame...its flavor may be "Strawberry Sensation" but it contains ZERO strawberries!)

Look, I get that if you want to enjoy sugar on occasion -- or even serve it to your children -- you can do so in a balanced fashion. But when a package would have you believe that you are getting fruit (or at least some fruit), but instead eating something far from it, that's just not right. 

So, when it comes to "fruit snacks" here are some of my top recommendations to help you stock your kitchen shelves...and their backpacks!


whole fruit for a healthy back-to-school fruit snack

CHOOSE WHOLE FRUIT MOST OFTEN FOR A HEALTHIER FRUIT SNACK

Simply put, when it comes to selecting the top choice for a healthy fruit snack, say YES to whole fruits more often! Whole fruits are portable and packable, full of good-for-you nutrition, and can be easily served alongside any meal or snack. Crowd favorites like apples and bananas pair wonderfully with nut butters (make mini peanut butter sandwiches with apple/pear slices, or dip banana coins into almond butter) and exciting additions - and certainly worthy mainstays - like kiwi and blackberries are great when served alone, with a handful of nuts/seeds, or as a topper on oatmeals, yogurts, and salads. For children: ask your child which fruit he likes best or use the "this or that" technique (say, "would you like strawberries or pineapple with lunch?") to decide which to pack in his lunchbox. For teens: have plenty of produce available for them to select.


Healthy Back To School Fruit Snacks - Smoothies

FREEZE A FRUIT SMOOTHIE AND PACK IT FOR SCHOOL

Make a fruit smoothies, store it in the freezer in a freezable jar (like these!), and pack in the lunchbox makes for a thawed smoothie by lunchtime. If your child likes fruit smoothies at home, certainly consider sweetly sippable smoothies for school time lunches or after school snacks!


TIPS FOR CANNED/JARRED FRUIT

healthy back-to-school fruit snacks - canned/jarred food tips

When it comes to selecting canned or jarred fruit, the better option with the least amount of added sugars are fruits packed in water followed by fruits packed within their own juices. If you see fruit packed in light or heavy syrup, it means that an added sugar is part of the mix. 


HEALTHY BACK TO SCHOOL FRUIT SNACKS

WHEN SELECTING FRUIT SNACKS, FRUIT STRIPS, FRUIT ROLLS, FRUIT TAPE AND OTHER PACKAGED FRUITS

Must your child have a "classic" fruit snack, fruit roll, fruit strips, or fruit tape? Check the ingredients label to see if 1) fruit is included (hint: it should be!) and if 2) fruit is the first ingredient (yep, you want this too!). Despite a multitude of fruit snacks whose first ingredient is some type of syrup or sugar, these from Stretch Island, Annie's Homegrown, and Simple Truth Organic are items to say YES to more often as compared to others!


What are your favorite back-to-school fruit snacks? Do your students love a certain type of fruit or food combination? As always, share your thoughts (or questions!) with me in the comments below! 

4 Delicious (& Healthy) Ways to Enjoy Dark Chocolate For Breakfast

Dark chocolate for breakfast? You don't have to ask me twice! That answer will almost always be "OF COURSE!"

Turns out, dark chocolate can actually be quite good for you. Its polyphenols may help boost endothelial function and support healthy blood pressure. In fact, chocolate may actually help reduce blood pressure in those with prehypertension! (Source)

And, compared with milk chocolate, dark chocolate may provide a greater satiety boost. (Source)  That means that, you'll likely feel satisfied for longer after indulging in that rich, decadent chocolate goodness.

But not all chocolate (and not all dark chocolate) is created equal. Yet, when products are made with "real" chocolate, you may believe otherwise....that's the tricky, confusing part about food marketing. Terms like "real," "pure," "natural," and "clean," are not regulated terms, which means they can be used to describe almost anything. Case in point: this Keebler Cereal which was recently added to the Health Hall of Shame

When selecting a dark chocolate, I recommend at minimum 68 or 70% cacao most of the time. At the farthest, darkest, most health-promoting end of the spectrum you get 100% cacao, found in cacao powder and cacao nibs. There's no added sugar, milk, or cocoa butter added here, and these two cacao foods can easily be added to oatmeal, DIY energy bars, over fruit, in trail mix, or in/on smoothie bowls. 

So when you want to enjoy chocolate (real chocolate!) for breakfast, here are my top 4 delicious -- and nutritious -- ideas for you to enjoy dark chocolate for breakfast.


Easy Breakfast Waffles

Ancient Grain Waffle with Peanut Butter, Cacao & Berries

Waffles with Berries and Cacao

On top of two toasted ancient grain, whole grain or gluten-free frozen waffles (I like these from Nature's Path), spread your favorite nut butter, slice and layer over 4-5 strawberries, then sprinkle with a tablespoon of cacao nibs. Delicious! 


On-The-Go Chocolate Breakfast Fix

Dark Chocolate Almond Perfect Bar

For those mornings you need to get out the door quick, grab-and-go options like a Dark Chocolate Almond Perfect Bar provide a nutrient-balanced way to enjoy a satisfying breakfast with the dark chocolatey flavor you crave.  Beyond the benefits of dark chocolate, each Perfect Bar is loaded with 20+ organic superfoods, like tomato, spinach, kale, and flax seed - but don't worry, you can't even taste them!

 


Dark Chocolate Smoothie Bowl

Triple Chocolate Smoothie Bowl or Chocolate Cherry Smoothie

Mix cacao powder into your smoothie or top your favorite smoothie with cacao nibs to get that chocolate taste, without the sugary syrup! This Triple Chocolate Smoothie Bowl (click to get the recipe!) is becoming a classic in my house, as is this Chocolate Cherry Smoothie.


DIY Energy Bites

Energy Balls with Cacao Nibs 

Energy Bites with Cacao

I like making a big batch of energy balls (like these Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookie Energy Bites from Ambitious Kitchen) and storing them in my refrigerator or freezer for easy options when I crave a chewy, sweet, chocolatey bite (or two) in the morning. 


Well, there you have it! 4 delicious (and healthy!) ways to enjoy dark chocolate for breakfast. 

Now tell me: what are your favorite ways to enjoy the foods you love, like dark chocolate, first thing in the morning? Share it with the world in the comments below so we can all get more of the healthy ideas we crave!