Have you ever gone out for a big, celebratory meal and wound up feeling less than great afterward? It's not just in your imagination. Big, festive meals are almost always high in carbohydrates, sugar and rich ingredients that can leave you feeling wiped out and drowsy.
"As soon as we finish our meal, our body begins to direct blood to our digestive tract to help us actively digest food," explained Abby Sauer, RD, a dietician with Abbott. "While this happens, our blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rate are kept at a lower level to maintain and restore energy, and before you know it, you're ready for a nap."
So how can you take part in the festivities without feeling crummy afterward? Here are seven healthy ways to keep your energy up — and keep your eating plan on track.
1. Have a Snack
If you've got a big dinner or event coming up later in the day, you might think that it'd be a good idea to skip meals and save your calories. But arriving on an empty stomach is a big mistake.
"A healthy snack could be your secret weapon," Sauer said. "You'll be less likely to overeat at dinner or feel not so great afterward."
A few hours before the main eating event, try having a healthy snack that has between 150 and 200 calories. Good choices include coconut water and some fruit, Greek yogurt or low-fat curd with fresh fruit, chana, or a healthy aloo chaat.
2. Pick Protein
Protein-rich foods, such as dal, paneer, chicken kebabs or sprouts, will keep hunger at bay and your blood sugar levels steady, and they'll give you plenty of energy.
"Foods high in protein can kick-start the orexin neurons in your brain — the sensors responsible for keeping you alert and active — and give you the extra boost you need to keep moving after a large meal," Sauer said.
3. Fill Up With Fibre
Eating fibre at every meal will help you feel full and prevent you from overindulging in foods that'll leave you sluggish. Kidney beans, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, berries and leafy green vegetables are rich in fibre and filled with nutrients that'll give you an energy boost.
4. Stay Hydrated
Given the myriad celebratory drink options, water isn't always your first choice. But if you don't drink enough water, dehydration can quickly zap your energy. So when you're out and about, bring a refillable water bottle with you to rehydrate. And if you're at a party, remember to alternate water with any sharbats, soft drinks or alcoholic indulgences. You can enjoy a sugar-free or low-sugar version of the refreshing nimbu pani by adding lemon, cucumber or fresh mint to plain water. That'll give your water a kick and make your glass look festive, too.
5. Be Picky
With so many delicious foods at the table, it can be tempting to fill up your plate with everything. But overeating will leave you exhausted in no time. Instead, fill half of your plate with fruits, vegetables and protein. Be picky when filling up the other half. Ask yourself: "Is this worth it?" If there's a special dish you won't eat any other time of the year, go for it! Just watch your portions. Take a spoonful or use an appetizer plate for easy portion control.
6. Make Time for Exercise
You might feel like you're too busy for your exercise routine, but it's important to keep it up. Exercise fights fatigue and boost energy, and the surge in endorphins you get from a sweat session will make you feel happier and less stressed. For example, yoga can help you control excessive body fat, improve your posture and metabolism, and reduce your risk of contracting certain diseases.
To stick to your plan, make your workout the first thing you do in the morning. Or schedule it on your calendar and make sure nothing else gets in the way. Head out for a brisk walk or a bicycle ride before your party or after a meal — inviting a family member along can be fun — or start an exercise tradition that gets the whole family outside, such as a game of cricket or badminton.
7. Choose Green Tea
Instead of downing huge amounts of coffee, or turning to an energy bar or a sports drink to get you through the day, try a hot cup of green tea. Green tea is rich in antioxidants and can help calm your stress level so you're less likely to overeat. And because green tea has less caffeine than coffee, it can give you an energy boost without making you feel jittery.
Disclaimer: This publication/article/editorial is meant for awareness/educational purposes and does not constitute or imply an endorsement, sponsorship or recommendation of any products. Please consult your doctor/healthcare practitioner before starting any diet, medication or exercise.