“Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.” Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, 1826
Countless studies show the impact that food has on our bodies and how we feel. Every nutrient that we consume has some impact on our some part of our body and our mental or physical well-being. This holiday season have a diet plan that that revolves around healthy meals. With the following tips, you can expect to improve your families energy levels and also sleep quality.
You may be buried in things to do for the holidays, but keep in mind that sleep is one of the most important things that you can do for your body. Lack of sleep not only releases hormones that make us want to eat more not so healthy choices, but it also slows down our metabolism so we aren't burning off those holiday pounds!
Getting a Good Start
The key with breakfast is not only to replenish our bodies but to also ensure that we get the right nutrients to sustain our blood sugar levels through the course of a busy morning of work or school. Why is this important? Foods that cause blood sugar to rise rapidly also cause levels to crash just as quickly. This leads to problems like energy slumps, poor concentration and irritable moods. In the long term poor blood sugar regulation can cause memory problems and lead to type 2 diabetes. We can keep our blood sugar levels by eating a combination of the following nutrient dense foods.
- Low Glycemic Index (GI) complex carbohydrates like oats or low GI cereals or breads. Low GI foods have been shown to release glucose into our blood at a slower, steadier rate and will help keep our sugar levels stable throughout the day. Blood sugar levels in response to various foods have been tested and given a glycemic rating out of 100. Lower ratings mean that the food will not cause spikes in sugar levels.
- Include protein in the form of eggs, cheese, yogurt or nuts or nut butters. A 2003 study found that protein helped improve blood glucose levels in diabetic patients. The same is true even if you do not have issues with diabetes.
- Include healthy fats in the form of nuts and seeds, avocado, olive oil, coconut oil and butter. Eggs are a good source of omega 3 fatty acids too.
- Fiber from fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Berries are an excellent choice as they are low GI and bursting with antioxidants and flavor. Chia and Flaxseeds provide fiber and boost of good fats.
- Cinnamon also helps to regulate our blood glucose levels, which means sustained release energy throughout the morning.
Some of our favorite breakfast suggestions are:
Oats with cinnamon and apple. The apples add natural sweetness and can be added to the water just before the oats. Then simply add protein and fats in the form of nuts, seeds, nut butters or plain yogurt.
- Bircher Muesli. Soak oats in milk or apple juice overnight. In the morning, simply add berries, nuts or seeds.
- Eggs on Rye or low GI bread
- Smoothies. Blend together your favorite combination of fruit, nuts and plain yogurt. Yum!
Keeping up the Good Work
So, you had a super healthy breakfast jam packed with nutrients, what do you need to do to maintain your energy levels and mood throughout the day? The key here is about balance and good choices.
- Choose natural and unprocessed foods where possible.
- Eat a variety of colored fruits and vegetables. Generally dark leafy vegetables contain more nutrients than their light colored counterparts.
- Choose low GI, whole grain carbohydrates and include healthy fats and protein.
- Don’t forget to keep well hydrated with lots of water. Add lemon, cucumber, fruits or mint if it helps you drink more and keep a water bottle in sight as a visual reminder. Remember that if you feel thirsty, you're already dehydrated!
Just as our food choices can boost our energy levels, they can also have a big impact on our quality of sleep. The following nutrients have been identified as crucial in getting a good night’s sleep. Remember that although these foods can be eaten throughout the day they are better consumed in the evenings in order to help regulate our circadian rhythm.
- Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps relax our bodies in a similar manner to serotonin and melatonin (the sleep hormone). It also helps our bodies to make both of these hormones. Tryptophan can be found in turkey, chicken, red meat, nuts, seeds and tart cherries. Perhaps this one reason why we feel so relaxed during the holidays. Tryptophan is delivered more efficiently into our bodies with carbohydrates which is why we feel sleepy after a meal that includes potatoes or rice. Try and stick to low GI options like sweet potatoes, barley, lentils, beans, and basmati rice.
- Vitamin B6 helps convert tryptophan into melatonin. Good sources are fish, meat, sunflower seeds, prunes, bananas and avocados.
- Calcium helps us to relax. A glass of milk before bed may not just be an old wives tale after all.
- Magnesium has been shown to be crucial for promoting calm moods. It is a natural muscle relaxant and also helps our bodies recover after exertion. Deficiencies can cause sleepless nights. Foods rich in magnesium include dark leafy greens, dark chocolate, bananas, nuts and seeds. Yum!
- Melatonin. There are some foods which naturally contain the sleep hormone melatonin. Good sources are tart cherry juice, tomatoes, corn, broccoli, cucumbers, barley, rice and oats. Nuts and seeds also contain melatonin in particular walnuts and flaxseed.
Based on these recommendations some healthy eating meal choices:
- Chicken or beef stir-fry on basmati rice. Add flaxseed for melatonin and baby spinach for magnesium.
- Chicken soup with barley and lentils.
- Turkey salad. Add cherries, cucumber, and rocket.
Snack and drink suggestions to help your body wind down:
- A glass of tart cherry juice.
- Warm milk.
- Chamomile tea.
- A square of dark chocolate and a few walnuts.
Our food choices can have a big impact on our energy levels during the day and our sleep at night, but we should also remember that diet is only a part of the puzzle. We also need to get enough exercise and expose our bodies to natural light in the mornings to regulate our sleep/wake cycle. In addition to that, we need to manage our stress levels and take time out to relax and unwind. Limiting screen time before bedtime and minimizing blue light sources like led lights, which are so often found in night lights and bedrooms, will help our bodies to produce melatonin. Red light sources, on the other hand, do not have an impact on melatonin production. Look for red wavelength night lights like those found in Tick Tock Turtle which is a battery operated kids alarm clock and sleep trainer. Read a book and create a comfortable and soothing sleep environment. With a bit of luck, you and your family will soon be sleeping like babies.