Almonds: Full of Motivating Magnesium and Vitamin B
Almonds are a superstar in the snack world, as they contain important nutrients, like magnesium and B vitamins, that help convert food to energy. “Research shows that people with low magnesium levels tend to tire more quickly during exercise due to magnesium’s role in energy metabolism,” explains Rachel Berman, RD, CDN, author of Boosting Your Metabolism for Dummies. Insufficient B vitamins can lead to fatigue, irritability, and poor concentration. Stick to one serving — 1 ounce (oz), or about 23 nuts — to keep calories in check.
Popcorn: Packed With an All-Fiber, No-Guilt Crunch
Whole-grain carbohydrates are a snack with staying power. “Thanks to fiber, whole grains help prevent the blood-sugar crashes that happen after consuming refined or simple carbohydrates,” Berman says. Popcorn is a smarter pick than other crunchy snacks, like chips, since it’s a whole grain that’s low in calories — as long as you don’t douse it with butter, salt, or oil. It also provides volume and so tends to keep you satisfied longer than chips and crackers. Ditch flavored microwave popcorn and try popping your own kernels, then season them with herbs and spices.
Peanut Butter: High in Good Fats, Protein, and Satisfaction
Although peanut butter is a calorie-dense food, a little goes a long way in providing a great-tasting energy boost. Its healthy fats, protein, and fiber help stave off hunger and keep blood sugar levels stable. Instead of covering your morning toast with butter or jelly, which are devoid of protein and fiber, top slices with an all-natural nut butter that contains nothing but nuts, Berman suggests. Just be sure to avoid brands with added sugars, and stick to a 2-tablespoon serving.
Salmon: Rich in Brain-Boosting Omega-3s
Salmon isn’t called a “brain food” for nothing. The rich-tasting fish earns the moniker from its omega-3 fatty acids: nutrients that have been found to reduce depression as well as boost mood, Berman says. The healthy fats also make salmon a smart choice for your heart, as they help lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol, which can raise your risk for cardiovascular disease. Plus, the high protein count promotes satiety, which makes it a great energizing dinner option for those trying to lose weight.
Bananas: Potassium Pumps Up Your Workout
Bananas are nature’s prepacked and portable healthy snack. They’re filled with fiber, vitamin B6, and potassium — nutrients that promote sustained energy and muscle function, Berman says. Bananas are particularly appealing as a pre- or postworkout snack. Pair a banana with a glass of low-fat milk or a cup of yogurt for an energizing combination of fiber and protein — a combo that also makes a great breakfast to start your day.
Kale: Amino Acids and Antioxidants Will Keep You Alert
Skip iceberg lettuce and add an energy-boost to your salad by using nutrient-rich kale as a base. Kale is also great sautéed as a side dish, chopped into soups, and tossed with whole-wheat pasta. Kale contains the amino acid L-tyrosine, which may help give you a mental lift, as well as a number of antioxidants and fiber to fill you up and help keep your blood sugar stable, says Berman.
Oatmeal: Fiber Makes a Long-Burning Fuel
Ask any nutritionist for healthy and simple breakfast ideas, and oatmeal is sure to make the list. Its high-fiber content is the reason it’s such a filling meal that provides lasting energy.
Because fiber takes so long to digest, having oatmeal for breakfast will power you through the entire morning, compared with a breakfast of white toast and jelly, explains Melinda Johnson, RD, director of the didactic program in dietetics at Arizona State University in Phoenix, and president-elect of the Arizona Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. With stable blood-sugar levels, you’ll feel energized and focused without feeling the need to down another cup of coffee.
Pistachios: Packed With Powerful Protein and Fiber
Powerhouse pistachios have a combination of protein, fiber, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats that adds up to a perfectly satisfying snack. Pistachios’ rich protein content makes them an ideal food for energy all day long, says Kooi. Though nuts are calorie-dense, 25 pistachios have only 100 calories, and the fact that you have to remove the shell slows you down and prevents overeating.
Hummus: Protein-Rich Dip With a Nutritious Kick
Hummus is a Mediterranean dip with only a few simple ingredients — pureed garbanzo beans, sesame-based tahini, olive oil, and lemon juice — that all contribute nutrients for energy. The fiber and protein that the beans provide stabilize blood sugar, take the edge off hunger, and boost energy, Kooi notes.
When used as a dip for nutrient-rich veggies, such as red pepper strips or carrot sticks, hummus makes a great mid-afternoon snack. You can also use it as a sandwich spread instead of mayonnaise.
Greek Yogurt: A Creamy, Substantial Energy Solution
When it comes to yogurt, Greek varieties can deliver twice the amount of hunger-satisfying protein as regular offerings (with 17 grams per 6-oz container), making it a supercharged breakfast, lunch, or snack.
“The thick, indulgent texture is the perfect canvas for a variety of toppings that can make it even more substantial,” Kooi says. Mix in fresh berries and chopped nuts for a nutrient-packed treat. Make sure you select nonfat Greek yogurt that’s low in added sugar to keep calories at around 100 per container.