It seems all of us, parents and kids alike, are struggling with fatigue year-round. A common topic of conversation with other mothers is how there are never enough hours in a day to accomplish the busy schedules we have and it leads to fatigue or even exhaustion. As a working mom, this a struggle for me too. I work full time but also want my child to be involved in activities, prepare and share healthy family meals, and take care of the needs of my family, but it can be exhausting and often feel impossible to do it all. As a registered dietitian, I know there are some healthy habits my family can adopt to help fight fatigue. As the school year approaches, here are 5 tips to fight fatigue in your household.
Break for Breakfast
Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. A morning meal ignites metabolism and fuels the brain and body with calories for energy. What we eat for breakfast makes a difference in our energy levels too. Foods at the top of researchers’ list to fend off fatigue include high-fiber whole grains like oatmeal, dairy foods such as milk and Greek yogurt as well as walnuts and bananas. These foods contain fiber and protein, which will help sustain our energy throughout the morning. Jump start your day with this Greek yogurt bowl or overnight oats. As the new school gets underway, remember breakfast is brain power. Research show that children who start the day with breakfast perform better in school, are better behaved and have less visits to the school nurse.
Energy levels can take a dive when we go more than 4-6 hours without eating, or consume high fat, high sugar snacks in an attempt for fast fuel. Healthy snacks should supply essential vitamins and minerals most Americans are missing like calcium, potassium, vitamin D and dietary fiber. Some fatigue fighting snacks include string cheese with apple slices, yogurt topped with a small amount of nutty granola and fresh fruit, or a glass of milk with a buttermilk banana bread muffin. Looking for something more sophisticated? Try this creamy avocado hummus served with crispy vegetables for an afternoon snack. It’s a perfect combination of protein from the Greek yogurt, carbohydrates from the chickpeas and healthy fats from the avocado. Dairy foods provide more than just calcium; they are packed with high-quality protein and carbohydrates, which together help revive energy to fuel you through the rest of the day.
Caffeine, energy drinks and sugary beverages may send your energy soaring at first, but you’re destined to plummet back into fatigue. To boost energy, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends Americans skip the soda, sugary coffee and energy drinks, and instead quench thirst with water, fat-free or low-fat milk, low-calorie flavored water, or unsweetened tea.
While the old adage “drink eight glasses of water a day” has been suggested as a diet myth, science proves that even mild dehydration can result in significant dips in energy levels. For proper hydration, a person needs to consume six to eight cups or 48 to 64 ounces of fluid each day.
Can’t cut the caffeine? You are not alone. According to the National Coffee Association, Americans drink an average of three cups each day with more than 60 percent enjoying their first cup in the early morning hours. However, new science suggests if people want to get the most out of their caffeine, they should shift their cups of Java to 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. when natural cortisol levels are lower and caffeine will have the biggest impact.
Overall, Americans are too sedentary. It’s hard to find the energy to exercise when you are tired. But skipping that nap and lacing up those tennis shoes may better provide that boost of energy we are all looking for. Studies show that physical activity can actually increase energy. Get up and take a brisk walk, park further from the door for a boost in exercise, or best, incorporate 60 minutes of mild to moderate physical activity into most days for good health and increased energy.
Go to Sleep
In order to fit in all the demands of life, sleep often gets compromised. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that adults 18 and over get at least 7 hours of sleep every night. Do you? Lack of sleep is not only the number one cause of fatigue during the day, but it can also lead to obesity, decreased concentration and mood swings. To help establish healthy sleep habits, keep a consistent sleep schedule, create relaxing bedtime rituals and shut down technology before getting into bed.
Stephanie Yow, MS, RD, CSP, LD: Stephanie Yow is a mom, wife, registered dietitian and board certified specialist in pediatric nutrition. She serves as a nutrition affairs program manager for the Southeast Dairy Association in Louisiana and Mississippi where she is responsible for providing health education on the importance of dairy in the diet to health professionals, educators and consumers.