"With an average of 11 to 14 grams of slowly digested protein per 5.3-ounce container, [Greek yogurt is] one of my favorite energy breakfasts. And snacks. And desserts," Camilla Saulsbury says. It’s great to add to smoothies and is also perfect for stirring other energy-boosting foods like nuts and seeds into, as well.
Protein powders are often seen in a negative light, but Saulsbury has a solution:
"If you are leery of protein powders (as I was for many years), pea protein is for you, too. Why? It’s neutral in flavor (add it to smoothies, hot cereal, even soups for thickening), inexpensive, naturally vegan, easy-to-digest, and packs a wallop of protein (upward of 20 grams per scoop, for about 75 calories). Power to the pea!"
Maintaining the same level of nutrition as traditionally cooked brown rice, quick-to-eat varieties are easy to use as a base for whole-grain salad, quick soup, or as an accompaniment to vegetables.
Rolled oats are a staple in Saulsbury’s household. "They are far more than oatmeal fare at my house. I stir them into yogurt or milk with fruit for instant muesli, add them to smoothies for an energy boost, and use them as a nondairy alternative to thicken soups and add some instant whole-grain action," she says. The best part is, they’re mild-tasting and dissolve into soups and shakes, making them undetectable to children and husbands alike, she adds.
While nuts are a common go-to for many people looking for an energy snack, Saulsbury prefers seeds.
"I became addicted to seeds in graduate school because they are a fraction of the cost of nuts and yet have as many, or more of the nutritional benefits, including protein, healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Sunflower seeds and pepitas (green pumpkinseeds) are my favorites, but I am partial to hemp seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, and flaxseeds, too. I use them in place of nuts in baked goods, add them to smoothies, make dried fruit and seed trail mix, and eat larger seeds straight up," she says.
Sometimes all it takes is making it easy on yourself, and Saulsbury shares her secret to how she does it with kale:
"Kale is my secret weapon for fueling my super-long days; still, I’m not brave enough to munch on plain leaves. Here’s what I do to keep the über-healthy vegetable handy: I throw a big bag of pre-chopped kale in the freezer. That way I can easily grab a handful anytime I need it for adding to smoothies, soups, casseroles, and egg dishes. It’s great because the frozen kale will crumble in your hands — no need to finely chop — and makes the flavor milder."
Having Greek yogurt pre-workout and a banana post-workout is Saulsbury's go-to energy plan.
"Is there a more amazing food that you can buy for a quarter? If I need energy after a workout, I turn to the humble banana for the mega dose of potassium they deliver," she says.
It’s not just about eating foods that give you energy, but about making sure they’re utilized correctly, too. A practically free ingredient, water’s hydrating powers are crucial to maintaining energy levels throughout the day, says Saulsbury.
"You’ll start to feel sluggish from lack of water far sooner than lack of food; even if you eat superstar superfoods, you cannot properly metabolize it into fuel if you don’t get enough water. I find it hard to drink a lot of cold water all at once, so I actually prefer to drink room-temperature water," she explains.
Yes, it’s OK to say yes to the can sometimes, and Saulsbury explains why:
"My pantry is bean central. I make quick salads, chili, soups, dips, and even bars and brownies with beans. Ready-to-eat, inexpensive, versatile, delicious, and super-healthy (high fiber, low fat, high protein), what’s not to love? I eat white beans and chickpeas, but for maximum energy, I opt for dark-colored beans because they are rich in antioxidants."
Of course, another great way of taking most of the ingredients on this list and packing them all into one, convenient snack that can be taken on the go is making homemade power bars. Saulsbury’s book, Power Hungry, is loaded with delicious, easy, and energizing recipes, and she shares nine of her favorites here with us.