Fighting fatigue with food

Pandemic fatigue – it can impact how we think, how we feel, and what we eat.

Do you feel uninspired to cook after a long day of Zoom-ing from class to class? Is preparing a healthy dinner the last thing you want to be doing after a long day? Popping in a frozen pizza or making Kraft Dinner may save you time but will only leave you feeling sluggish.

I know because I have done it a thousand times – not that I’m advocating against that, I’m not a monster.

As a fellow student I can relate to learning and working remotely. Not being able to go out and recharge with friends has put a damper on feeling energized after a long virtual day.

But what if I told you making dinner and getting fuelled with a nutrient-filled dish is not only possible, but super simple?

Including certain proteins and fibres in your diet can keep you pumped throughout the day and help you avoid those sugar crashes.

I don’t want to preach to you about eating healthy because we have all heard it before. Instead, I want to show you how adding the right type of food to your diet can have a big impact when it comes to battling fatigue.

How Food Affects our Energy

A downside to virtual learning is that we are not moving as often and tend to work longer hours with fewer breaks.

Don’t do it. Caddy Ledbetter, a nutritionist at Caven Nutrition Group, says when we don’t eat for long stretches of time our blood sugar drops to the point where our cells are screaming for glucose. This makes it difficult for you to reach for the right kind of fuel.

What do you do then? Ledbetter suggests that instead you eat, “A balanced breakfast that has a lot of protein, that’s going to sustain you for longer and balance your blood sugar better.”

Let’s talk about creating that healthy balance. Don’t try to throw out all the carbs and fatty foods, instead pace yourself. “People always feel like they’re doing a bad job because their meal is not 100% healthy, but that’s not the main point. It’s just to eat better,” says Kaydian Black, an Algonquin College business administration student.

Black recommends when students like herself want to get healthier, the key is to start small and transition slowly, instead of throwing everything in their pantry out. For instance, find a recipe you love such as pizza and swap out the dough for cauliflower dough.

In the past, Black has struggled to eat well but she is trying to make more meaningful food choices since the pandemic started. “I find myself repeating the same thing over and over again, which gets annoying. And then, I don’t have much of a variation, I just stick to what I know,” says Black.

One thing students can do is build their meals with fibre, fat and protein together. This combination slows the glucose uptake into your cells, which allows you to stay fuelled longer.

An example of a good snack is apple slices with peanut butter or almond butter, and mixed nuts. This snack combines a bit of protein, fibre and healthy fats from the nuts.

It is recommended to check in with yourself. “When you do take your breaks take a snack break, take a water break and a quick five minute outside break at the same time,” says Ledbetter. These practices are important to help you boost your energy.

How to Maintain Healthy Practices

Starting can be very daunting because it can be hard to stick to a routine. So, be realistic and be kind to yourself. Don’t be too restrictive. “When it comes to improving your health, the changes that you make through diet [or] lifestyle…they have to be sustainable and they have to be long term,” says Ledbetter.

To sustain healthy habits you should build it around a purpose to help you maintain that lifestyle. “People know what to do but they don’t know why they need to do it,” says Black.

One thing we tend to forget about is hydration! I cannot stress enough the importance of drinking water. Stay hydrated all you kings and queens!

Ask yourself, am I stressed, am I sad or am I actually hungry? Simply taking a moment to ask yourself those questions also will help you navigate those unhealthy eating habits that we carry around with us.

“There are stresses we don’t really realize being at home all the time, being alone and working these long hours or the boredom that some people are experiencing,” says Ledbetter.

Lastly, are you sleeping? Sleep is huge when trying to boost energy, creativity, and fighting fatigue.

During this unpredictable time we are in, our health and wellbeing is the one thing we can control. Let’s choose to get through yet another year with our minds and bodies feeling great.

Examples of High Protein Meals and Snacks

Simple lunch recipe to keep you fueled throughout the day.

Simple lunch recipe to keep you fueled throughout the day. Photo credit: Zainab Al-Mehdar

Simple snack recipes to get you excited about trying new things.

Simple snack recipes to get you excited about trying new things. Photo credit: Zainab Al-Mehdar

For more information check out, Healthy at 100: How You Can- at any age- Dramatically Increase Your Life Span and Your Health Span, by John Robbins.

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