Eat Bigger Meals, Healthy Snacks to Boost Energy and Lose Weight

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  • A 35-year-old woman submitted an average day of eating to be reviewed for Insider’s Nutrition Clinic.
  • A nutritionist said to eat bigger, more balanced meals including carbs.
  • If you’d like to have your diet reviewed by an expert, fill out this form.

Keshia, 35, submitted her eating routine to Insider’s Nutrition Clinic, where qualified dietitians and registered nutritionists offer advice on readers’ eating habits.

She told Insider her goals were to lose weight, feel less hungry, have fewer cravings, sleep better, and have more energy and more stable blood-sugar levels.

Keshia wakes up at 5 am and works full-time for a hospital laboratory from 6 am to about 2.30 to 3 pm — where she’s mostly sedentary — and is too mentally exhausted to work out or cook when she gets home. She said: “I want to have more energy to be more active and healthier.”

She tries to go to bed by 8:30 pm — otherwise, she feels exhausted.

Rhiannon Lambert, a registered nutritionist, said Keshia should eat more, including carbs, to fuel her busy days.

“The more we restrict items enjoyed and under-fuel, the more likely we are to overeat and engage in unhealthy eating behaviors and patterns,” she said.

Hydrate in the morning

Keshia takes a breakfast break at 8.15 am to eat two individual containers of Chobani Less Sugar Greek Yogurt with one tablespoon of chia seeds and flax seeds.

Lambert said it’s important to hydrate in the morning, so it’s recommended sipping on water while getting it ready if you can’t stomach a full glass at once.

“If you are slightly dehydrated, you may feel tired and exhausted, as hydration affects all of the body’s cellular functions, including sleep and your circadian rhythms. Aim for six to eight cups over the day as a minimum,” she said.

Eat carbs at breakfast

Chia and flax seeds are sources of omega-3 fatty acids, unsaturated fats, and antioxidants, boosting skin and heart health, Lambert said, but she recommended eating a larger breakfast and including some carbs for energy.

“Our brain alone prefers glucose as its primary fuel and accounts for 20% of the calories you burn each day, not including rest,” Lambert said. “As it appears you have a demanding day, fueling it from the get-go with a balanced breakfast will help.”

She recommended adding complex carbohydrates, such as oats or a banana, to the yogurt. Another breakfast idea could be overnight oats topped with frozen berries alongside Keshia’s Greek yogurt, chia, and flax seeds, Lambert said.

Ensure lunch is a balanced, filling meal

Keshia eats a sandwich made of two slices of wholewheat bread for lunch at 11 am, either with PB&J or with cheese, such as provolone or cheddar; two slices of fresh-cut deli meat, such as turkey or chicken; and a generous amount of mustard and pepper. She’ll often have 10 tortilla chips or 10 herbed crackers on the side.

Wholewheat bread is a good source of fiber and peanut butter contains some healthy fats, but Lambert said Keshia should eat more calories to fuel her day and lessen hunger and cravings later on.

Jam may cause energy spikes so Keshia could try having one sweet and one savory sandwich, adding a fibrous apple to keep her full, or hummus and carrot sticks, Lambert said.

She recommends building a sandwich with leaner meats such as chicken or vegetarian proteins such as hummus, tofu and falafel. Wraps can often hold more filling than sandwiches, so Keshia could try two wholemeal wraps with avocado and chicken, Lambert said.

A wholemeal baguette filled with tuna and yogurt would be a higher-calorie option with a leaner source of satiating protein to keep Keshia fuller longer, helping her to avoid cravings and energy spikes and crashes, Lambert said.

It’s fine for snacks

After work, Keshia snacks on an applesauce pouch and 10 almonds. Lambert said after-work snacks were normal and could prevent us from making poor food choices, and he suggested Keshia add yogurt and fruit to the almonds to make a more balanced snack.

Almonds are a wonderful snack, containing vitamin E, unsaturated fatty acids and protein, which can help keep blood sugar levels steady, Lambert said.

“Try not to count foods; a handful is a large portion size for nuts. Enjoy but many that is,” she said.

Don’t turn to food to de-stress

“When I get home from work I usually want to have sweets and other bad snacks to relax from a stressful day,” Keshia said. “Sometimes I will eat a chocolate bar or go get a pint of ice cream. These cravings are the hardest to control and I often give in to something sweet. If I don’t give in to the sweet snacks at this point and I wait until dinnertime at 5 pm I am usually starving.”

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying ice cream while relaxing after work, but it’s important not to always turn to food for comfort and to have other ways to de-stress, Lambert said: “This will prevent food from becoming an unhealthy, disordered habit.”

She recommends mixing up sweet snacks with some less processed options that are more satisfying, such as dates filled with nut butter and dipped in dark chocolate.

Dehydration can also play a role in cravings, so again, ensure you’ve drunk enough water, Lambert said.

Another way to decompress after work that doesn’t involve food could be walking or a five-minute meditation, which could put Keshia in a more balanced headspace and could help with sleep, Lamber said.

Nutritious dinners can be quick and easy too

At 5 pm, Keshia cooks whatever’s convenient for dinner, such as pasta, rice, or pot pie from the freezer.

“On a good day when I have energy, I cook frozen meat like chicken and make rice and vegetables on the side. The end-of-the-work-day cravings and dinnertime meals are my biggest pitfalls and the hardest to overcome,” she said.

Lambert recommends quick and easy recipes like omelets, stir-fries, baked potatoes, wraps, or beans on toast, which is a surprisingly balanced and nourishing meal.

“If you are up for a challenge, keep trying new bases for your meals such as orzo, quinoa, whole wheat pasta and pearl barley,” she said. If you can find time to pre-cook and freeze sauces like bolognese or chili in large quantities, they’re easy to whip out after a busy day and serve with some vegetables and a source of carb, she said.