But to get a better idea of the kind of food that will really keep us going throughout the day, we turned to an expert.
Chicago dietician Megan Tempest gave us some helpful tips for building energy and staying full. The first and most important one? It doesn't involve food at all.
Water – This is one element that often gets overlooked, Megan says. If you don't feel quite right, drinking water can make a big difference. "We all wake up dehydrated because we've been fasting all night long. A lot of hunger is actually dehydration, so I recommend people drink a couple big glasses of water first thing in the morning to replenish your hydration status. It makes a big difference in how you feel for the rest of the day. The morning is the best time to consciously drink a lot of water after not drinking any all night."
Sustaining energy – "All the major nutrients provide energy – carbohydrates, protein and fat – but what's really important is the type of foods we eat. Bad for providing energy are refined carbohydrates and simple sugars found in things like juice, Pop-Tarts, donuts and even a lot of granola bars. Your body breaks these refined carbohydrates down really fast. Foods like that cause a rapid increase in blood sugar and quick energy, but you lose it quickly and feel worse. The best energy-giving foods for sustained energy are whole grains and whole fruits, which provide carbohydrates and fiber and make you feel full longer. Even healthy fats like nuts or olive oil, low-fat cottage cheese, and eggs, tofu and yogurt. These are all good multi-nutrient foods."
Healthy combinations – To get a good mix of protein, fiber, healthy fats and carbohydrates, try one of these combinations:
- Whole grain bagel or bread with natural peanut butter and a slice of banana
- Low-fat Greek yogurt with chopped nuts and chopped fruits
- Steel-cut oats with fruit, nuts and any type of milk
- Brown rice with a poached egg or tofu with salsa and low-fat cheddar cheese
- An omelette or frittata with eggs, vegetables and goat cheese, served with whole grain toast
A little indulgence – If you want a little something special for a weekend brunch, indulge in moderation. "A straight up pancake breakfast with syrup isn't going to make you feel good for very long," Megan says. "If you want pancakes, have healthy eggs with vegetables and one reasonable size pancake, or put fresh fruit on it instead of syrup."
(Images: Megan Tempest)