5 Great Foods to Snack on for All-Day Energy

These healthy foods will help give your day a lift.

While all food is technically designed to give us energy—calories are units of energy, after all—it can be deceiving. Even if a food is full of calories, it might not give us the healthy boost of energy we need. In fact, some foods can make us feel sluggish. It's also important to note that other factors impact our energy levels, too: sleep, exercise, and how often we eat.

"The foods that provide the best sources of energy are those with long-lasting carbohydrates and protein for steady blood sugar levels and nutrients that play an important role in energy production," says Mario Spano, M.S., R.D., sports dietician and consulting sports nutritionist for the Atlanta Braves.

So even though that morning coffee jolt may feel like the rev to your engine, it's really healthy foods, high in certain nutrients, that give you a sustained lift. For all-day energy, snack on some of these great foods.

Superfood lentil salad served on a plate
Victor Protasio

Lentils

Lentils have many health benefits, and giving you an energy boost is one of them. They are both high in fiber and carbohydrates that will keep you full and provide your body with fuel. Many beans will help accomplish the same thing, however, eating too many beans can contribute to bloating.

Get the recipe for superfood lentil salad.

Crispy Brussels sprouts with pancetta and lemon served in a bowl
Anna Williams

Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous veggies like arugula, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and Swiss chard have a slew of health benefits, and one of them is providing good energy. One recent study links these vegetables to lower risk of cardiovascular health issues and increased muscle strength.

Cruciferous veggies are also high in prebiotics, says Steven Gundry, M.D., cardiothoracic surgeon, medical director at The International Heart and Lung Institute Center for Restorative Medicine, and author of The Energy Paradox. "These foods promote the production of postbiotics, which literally turbocharge energy production by our mitochondria," says Dr. Gundry.

Other foods high in prebiotic fiber that have a similar impact, according to Dr. Gundry, include ground flaxseeds, radicchio, Belgian endive, asparagus, mushrooms, and pistachios. Studies suggest that the gut microbiota (micro-organisms in your digestive tract) affect energy balance by influencing the efficiency of energy harvest from the diet and how this energy is utilized and stored.

"Our energy production is dependent on a healthy and diverse microbiome," says Dr. Gundry. "The more we can get these sorts of foods into our regimen, the better the sustained energy."

Get the recipe for crispy Brussels sprouts with pancetta and lemon.

Lemon curd and berry parfait in a glass cup, clearly showing the different layers.
Greg DuPree

Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt also packs a lot of punch, especially in the protein department. "It also contains a good amount of carbohydrates and B vitamins," Spano says. B vitamins help us convert the food we eat into usable energy. Having a snack high in protein and energy can often help you fight off that mid-day slump.

Get the recipe for a lemon curd and berry parfait.

Two bowls of maple, pear, and pecan steel-cut oats displayed on a table with two spoons.
Instead of standing over the stove stirring your steel-cut oats, throw them in the slow cooker and let them cook overnight. The result is a deliciously spiced, creamy oatmeal that you can top with more peas and toasted pecans. Get the Recipe:Maple, Pear, and Pecan Slow Cooker Steel-Cut Oats. Brie Passano

Steel-Cut Oats

If you want to stay full and have long-lasting energy, steel-cut oats are a great choice since they're packed with iron, magnesium, and B vitamins. "Pair oatmeal with milk or yogurt to ramp up the protein in your meal or snack," Spano says.

Get the recipe for maple, pear, pecan slow cooker steel-cut oats.

Steak and beet salad displayed on a plate.
Vibrant and tender beets are a sweet contrast to the meaty steak pieces. The torn leaves of radicchio are slightly bitter, but mellow out with the creamy yogurt. Don’t skimp on the pepitas and freshly cracked pepper for the ultimate finishing touch to this satisfying salad. Get the recipe:Steak and Beet Salad. Greg DuPree

Beets

Even though beets are mostly carbohydrates, "they have a unique advantage over many foods: [Beets] are among the highest nitrate foods," says Spano. "Nitrates help expand our blood vessels for greater blood flow, and therefore, greater oxygen and nutrients to our tissues."

Get the recipe for steak and beet salad.

What to Avoid

This will come as no surprise, but avoid foods that zap your energy, including those high in processed sugar and low in nutrients. "Juices, sodas, processed foods, and even fruit smoothies all cause a literal traffic jam in the energy-producing organelles of our cells, the mitochondria," says Dr. Gundry.

When in doubt, reach for whole foods (the less processed the better) without added fats and sugar.

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