If I had to name my top nutrition tip it would be to focus on protein throughout the day. Not low fat or low sodium, probiotic foods or alkaline diets. No, for most of the people I see day to day, definitely protein. While the other diet suggestions are key in some circumstances, the average person has a busy stressful day and most of us (yes me too!) are so rushed with meals. Breakfast (if it happens) is a banana and toast or maybe just coffee as you rush the kids to school. Lunch is soup or a salad, as we escape work for a few minutes. Then dinner is the bigger focus, but really when you get home and get the kids organized who wants to cook something elaborate? Evenings? Yes, this is when we snack. This is when the cookies call to us from the cupboards and the treats look so inviting. After all, that was a really long day!
And that was a really good day! There were three solid meals, nutritious even! Maybe a little snacking but well deserved. But that’s a pretty healthy diet. True enough.. except for the protein. The problem is that we ask ourselves to be “on” and alert all day, ready to meet any challenge at work or to tackle any kid emergency at any moment. And by maintaining that level of stress, we need our adrenal glands to produce cortisol at a slighly higher level throughout the day. After a while of producing that slightly higher level of cortisol, our adrenals just run out of steam a little. Nothing horrible, but just a little and enough that the body conserves its cortisol production. At the end of the day, the normal energy slow down may turn into an energy crash. You might notice that is takes longer to get going in the morning and, perhaps, little more irritability and moodiness?
Ok, and what does that have to do with eating? Cortisol also has influences on metabolism, weight distribution and, most important, blood sugar control. After longer periods of stress many (especially women) notice that they start to store weight right on their bellies, they may crave sugar and have trouble skipping meals. Keeping a focus on protein at every meal and every snack helps to keep blood sugar stable. And that removes one big stress to the adrenals and decreases the amount of cortisol we need to keep up our energy. It doesn’t have to be much protein either. Adding some nuts to a snack, or switching to a higher protein bread for sandwiches or toast can make a huge difference for overall energy and sugar cravings. Check out SilverHills bagels, they have an astounding 15g of protein each! An easy option for lunches is to plan to keep leftovers from every dinner. Our Magnificent meat loaf makes a great lunch for adults and kids. Adding a handful of beans to pasta dishes or a stirfry is a fantastic and inexpensive choice and can be pureed for the picky kids. So, planning to have a little protein at every meal and supporting the body with small snacks with a little protein is the best start for overall fatigue and stress management.
Stay tuned for more health tips and please feel free to email if you have any questions you’d like to see answered here.
~ Dr Kellie