Eat Your Way to Energy, Sleep and Happiness - Virtua Article

Eat Your Way to Energy, Sleep and Happiness

By Charlotte Genetta, RD, CDE, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator
Virtua Diabetes Care 

Do you feel sluggish around 3 pm each day but, when it’s time for bed, you’re wide-awake and ready to go? What you’re eating—and when—can make all the difference in how you feel. It’s all about controlling your own energy sources. If your sugar levels remain balanced throughout the day, the ups and downs will disappear. 

The key is to understand your glycemic load, which is a measurement of how many carbohydrates a food has and how it affects blood sugar. To keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day, you want to keep your glycemic load at 20 or less. Websites like can help you calculate it based on the foods that you eat. 

You also can make adjustments to your diet by adding foods that can energize or calm you, or lift your mood. 

Energizing morning foods

To feel energized in the morning, start your day with one of the following:

  • A flavored Greek yogurt
  • Any kind of whole-grain cereal such as Muesli, Cheerios or Life
  • A muffin made from a whole-wheat mix like Hodgson Mills; muffins can be frozen and microwaved
  • A whole-grain English muffin with peanut butter, a cup of coffee and a piece of fruit 

Mood-lifting foods

Sometimes, a little comfort food is just what you need to lift your mood—don’t feel guilty about it! Your life shouldn’t be one big diet—all things can be eaten in moderation. The question is how to modify what you’re eating so that your needs are met. 

Mood lifting foods that help get you through the day include:

  • Unbuttered microwave popcorn—a great whole-grain snack
  • A handful of unsalted, mixed nuts
  • A sweet at midday after a healthy lunch
  • Homemade cookies, which allow you to control the sugar
  • Hodgson Mills brownie mixes and Vitatop Muffins, which feel indulgent but are made with whole grains
  • One single piece of chocolate 

Calming night foods

If you can, try to reduce how much you eat after dinner. If you’re looking for a calming night-time snack, complex carbohydrates and tea are your best bets. Complex carbohydrates consist of anything other than sugar such as whole grain pretzels or fruit. Other calming food choices include: 

  • Green tea, which has a high level of theanine that has a calming and focusing effect
  • Low-fat warm milk
  • Cherries, which are high in sleep-inducing melatonin
  • A Greek yogurt and cherry smoothie with a touch of vanilla extract 

People tend to eat in fits and spurts. We don’t plan our meals very well so we get energy deficits as our sugar crashes. The key to a balanced mood is a balanced diet. 

Planning ahead and keeping our kitchen cabinets stocked with the right foods allows us to have control over our sugar levels and keep our energy balanced for the long haul.

Updated December 27, 2018

Registered Dietitian

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