When the 3 p.m. slump strikes and your energy is zapped, it’s tempting to down a cup of coffee and ride the caffeine jolt until your day is over. While drinking a cup of caffeinated Joe can help perk you up, it can also disrupt your sleep, which in turn can make you feel tired the next day and in need of a caffeine boost—wash, rinse, repeat. So, what can you do to help combat heavy eyes and awkward midday yawns? Instead of being dependent on caffeine, leaning on certain foods may give you the natural energy boost that your body is craving. Here are eight foods you can include in your diet to help you stay energized without leaning on caffeine or sugar.
Related: 4 Foods to Ditch for More Energy
1. Pure Maple Syrup
Pure maple syrup is a natural sweetener that is derived directly from the maple tree’s sap. When consumed in moderation, it can be part of a healthy diet and may help support your energy levels naturally. A 1-tablespoon serving of maple syrup is an excellent source of manganese (35% of the Daily Value). Manganese helps activate many enzymes involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates to help fuel your body with natural energy.
Use pure maple syrup as a topping for pancakes, as an ingredient in smoothies, or even as a sweetener in coffee instead of sugar. For a quick and satisfying salad dressing, making this Maple-Mustard Vinaigrette can be a nutrient-rich addition to a salad with minimal effort. Just make sure to use 100% pure maple syrup in the recipe to reap the natural benefits that this natural energizer offers.
Pictured Recipe: Egyptian Lentil Soup
Loaded with essential nutrients, pulses—chickpeas, lentils, dry peas and beans—are great ingredients to add to your plate for boundless energy. These affordable, versatile superfoods can easily be added to salads, pastas and more for a boost of iron, potassium, plant-based protein and fiber, and more—all nutrients that help fight fatigue and those midday slumps. Enjoying EatingWell’s Chickpea Salad for a satisfying lunch, or opting for store-bought roasted chickpeas for a quick snack, can help keep you going on busy days when you feel like you really need that extra cup of coffee.
3. Goji Berries
You may have seen bright red goji berries—those little red berries you see pictured at the top of this page—appearing in trendy recipes and popular social media feeds, but they are far from simply being a trendy food. These berries have been used as a solution for many health ailments in certain cultures for many years. Rich in antioxidants and loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber, they are a convenient addition to many diets that may help you stay energized. According to one study, people who consumed a goji berry juice for 14 days felt more energy, better quality of sleep and improved ease of awakening compared with those who did not consume the goji berry juice.
To enjoy goji berries, sprinkle them onto your oatmeal, add them to smoothies or try this Hibiscus & Goji Tea.
Pictured Recipe: Easy Loaded Baked Omelet Muffins
With 6 grams of high-quality protein per large egg and all nine essential amino acids, eggs are a valuable protein. The high-quality protein in eggs also helps support strong muscles and bones while providing sustained mental and physical energy throughout the day. Eggs are also chock-full of B vitamins like vitamin B12, which is a nutrient that supports cellular energy production.
Eggs are a fantastic energy-supporting food to eat at breakfast time. In fact, when compared to a bagel-based breakfast, eating eggs for breakfast may help people lose more weight, feel more energetic and eat fewer calories at lunch.
Not a scrambled egg fan? Try them hard-boiled, fried or in an Eggs Benedict Casserole for a breakfast that will be sure to please.
Prunes (aka dried plums) not only make a sweet and satisfying snack, but they have also been shown to promote satiety and help with weight control. At only 100 calories per serving (40 grams or about 4 whole prunes), prunes contain 3 grams of dietary fiber. Compared to other dried fruits, prunes are lower in sugar, and they have a low glycemic index of only 29—meaning they are digested and absorbed slowly by the body, which helps to sustain energy over a longer period of time compared to foods with a higher glycemic index. And, a recent study shows that compared with other snack foods, prunes may help to lower blood glucose levels, increase satiety and suppress hunger.
Prunes can be a convenient grab-and-go snack, or can be a surprising addition to a more savory dish like this Chicken with Green Olives & Prunes recipe.
Pictured Recipe: Peanut-Butter Energy Balls
Not only tasty and versatile, peanuts also have a variety of vitamins and minerals in every bite, allowing you to enjoy more energy in a delicious way. Peanuts are a good source of magnesium and phosphorus, nutrients involved in energy production in the body. Peanuts are also an excellent source of niacin, an important B vitamin that helps to convert food to energy.
The combination of healthy fats and protein allows this legume to be a perfect solution to energy crashes—especially when paired with a carbohydrate source like fruit or whole-grain bread. Or try peanut butter as an ingredient in treats like Coconut Peanut Butter Balls to satisfy any sweet tooth.
As if you need another reason to love seafood like clams, enjoying these delicacies of the sea can be an excellent energy-booster in certain cases.
Clams are a source of iron, a mineral that is key for helping move oxygen around the body. If you don’t have enough iron in your blood, oxygen may not get to where it needs to be to help your body feel energized and perform certain roles efficiently. Since 44% of people with iron deficiency experience fatigue, it is important to eat iron-rich foods like clams if you have a deficiency to prevent weariness.
You will also find a boost of other energy-supporting nutrients when you are enjoying these mollusks—namely vitamin B12 and coenzyme Q10. Including clams in your diet is a low-calorie way to support your energy naturally. Next time you need a boost, enjoy this Red Curry Clams recipe for a spicy and satisfying dish, or make a pot of comforting Clam Chowder with Broccoli Stems & Corn.
Pictured Recipe: Pear, Gorgonzola & Walnut Salad
Who knew that enjoying a fresh and juicy pear can help you feel revitalized and fueled? Pears are a natural source of energy. Because of their balance of natural sugars and fiber, pears provide the body with sustained energy that will keep you going without spiking your blood sugar. One medium pear contains 15 grams of natural sugars and 6 grams of fiber.
This Crunchy Pear and Celery Salad fuels your body with nourishing pears along with a boost of protein and healthy fats for a satisfying and balanced lunch or dinner accompaniment.