9 Can't-Live-Without Energy Boosting Foods

We eat food for many reasons—to socialize, to show love, to ease stress—but most fundamentally, we eat food for the energy it provides us. But not all calories are created equal, and an improper nutritional balance will undercut this basic function of nutrition, leaving you feeling sapped and bloated. Over my own personal fitness journey, I’ve created a core of staple foods that I rely on to keep my energy high throughout the day. Here are my top 9 can’t-live-without-them foods to boost my energy and mood throughout the day.

1. Bananas. What’s not to love? They’re portable, cheap, filling, and absolutely packed with nutritional value with almost no caloric drawback. As a sugar fiend in recovery, I love to use fruits as a guilt-free sweet snack throughout the day. Pair with almond butter if you’re feeling decadent.

2. Lean deli turkey. Low energy often stems from an insufficient amount of protein in your diet. Turkey offers a boost of protein that will stabilize blood sugar levels, and a single serving tends to have fewer than 80 calories. My go-to lunch features turkey with mustard in a whole-wheat pita that I then cram full of greens.

3. Arugula. These are my favorite greens. They’re vitamin dense, sure, but more importantly, I find their aroma and flavor to be a perfect way to inject life into a dish.

4. Coconut water. It’s like nature’s energy drink. The electrolytes help keep your fluid balance in check during sweaty activities, and it’s chock full of potassium.

5. Salmon. You got your protein, your omega-3 fatty acids, your B12, and most of all, it’s absurdly easy to make. Coat a pan with olive oil, stick in your salmon filet, squeeze some lemon over it and sprinkle on some salt and herbs, and stick it in the oven at 425 for 20 minutes—and you’ve got a low calorie, high protein shot of energy.

6. Eggs. How do I love eggs? Let me count the ways. They’re cheap, standardized (a medium egg is about 80 calories), versatile, and protienlicious. If you’re concerned about your cholesterol, don’t go overboard with them, but for a typical diet, eggs are the perfect way to get protein into your meal in just a few minutes.

7. Seltzer water. It brings me no joy to admit that there are very few people I wouldn’t sell to Satan in exchange for an unlimited supply of seltzer. If you’re anything like me, you don’t drink enough water because drinking water is boring. Seltzer doesn’t replace water intake, but it does function as a perfect pick-me-up throughout the day for times when you want a treat but don’t want to increase your caloric intake. Instead of going for a sugary snack that is going to cause a spike-and-crash in your insulin levels, grab a flavored seltzer (remember real seltzer doesn’t add aspartame and sodium) and let the bubbly goodness re-energize you.

8. Buckwheat. Buckwheat is dense with proteins and fiber. Add it to beef recipes to stretch the meat, saving yourself dollars and calories.

9. Fresh basil and cilantro. Like seltzer, this doesn’t offer anything phenomenal nutritionally, but I find that incorporating these two fragrant herbs energizes my day. These two herbs can turn almost any dish into a flavorful creation, and their robust and complex flavor always help me feel more awake and energized.