As you head back to the classroom, consider the foods you’re choosing to fuel your body. Do they best support maintenance of energy levels, concentration and overall health? Or do they leave you feeling lethargic, hungry and sick? The foods you eat on a daily basis can have a significant influence on your performance in the classroom. Research shows that students who go to class properly fueled experience better cognition and concentration. Use the following recommendations to help you select healthy foods to add to your back to school shopping list.
White protein: Foods such as skinless chicken, white-meat turkey, pork tenderloin, egg whites, tuna and tilapia are rich in protein and low in fat. These lean proteins are slow digesting and will provide your body with a consistent source of energy over many hours.
Fatty fish: Salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout and sardines are great sources of protein, and are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to benefit heart health, reduce inflammation and improve mood in those with depression.
Whole-grain carbohydrates: Whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, corn tortillas and brown rice contain vital vitamins and minerals necessary for energy, including B Vitamins and iron. Whole-grains are also rich in dietary fiber, allowing them to be digested slowly. These foods will keep you fuller for longer periods of time.
Nuts and natural nut butters: Almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews and pecans are great sources of unsaturated fats, which are healthy fats. Unsaturated fats support brain health and maintain consistent energy levels. Nuts are high in calories, so keep portion sizes to under an ounce and look for natural, non-salted varieties.
Non-starchy vegetables: All greens, bell peppers, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower and mushrooms are amongst the many non-starchy vegetables that are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. These foods will help support energy levels, keep you full and assist in weight maintenance.
Low-fat dairy and non-fat milk: Greek yogurt and fat-free cottage cheese make great high-protein snacks or meal additions. All contain a certain protein, casein, which is slow-digesting and can help you feel full and focused for hours. Look for non-fat or low-fat dairy products to keep calories and fat to a minimum.
Water: Although it’s not nutritive, water is essential for supporting energy levels and concentration. Carry a bottle of water with you to serve as a reminder to drink regularly. However, bottled water is not necessary, filtered tap water is just as healthy and much less expensive.
Plant proteins: Legumes (peas and beans) are nutrition powerhouses packed with vitamins, minerals, protein and slow-digesting carbohydrates. Plant proteins are staples in the diets of vegetarians, but enjoyed by many carnivores as well. Add some chickpeas to your salad, have a cup of lentil soup for lunch, or enjoy a tofu and veggie stir-fry.
Salt-free seasonings: Herbs, spices and salt-free seasoning blends add a lot of flavor to foods such as chicken breast, ground turkey, egg white omelets and steamed vegetables. Have a few varieties on hand for endless flavor combinations.
Low-sugar protein powder: Protein powders are a convenient source of protein, ideal when you have back-to-back classes and may not be able to eat real food. When mixed with water or another low-calorie liquid such as unsweetened almond milk, these supplements provide high quality protein that’s readily digested. Look for low-sugar varieties of whey or casesin protein.
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