If you’re gearing up to go back to school or the office (or if you’re just settling back into a routine after an, ahem, gloriously structure-less summer), you’re going to need one very important ingredient: energy.
But as much as you might love coffee, that probably shouldn’t be the only thing powering you through your busy schedule this fall. Registered dietitian Melissa Rifkin, RD agrees.
“It is important to differentiate between short-term spikes in energy and long-term sustained energy,” Rifkin says. “One may feel a quick boost in energy after consuming caffeine or a sugar-dense food product. While that energy boost may be welcomed, it is often short-lived and results in a fairly quick and noticeable drop in energy within a couple of hours.”
The secret to long-term energy to help you juggle all the things? Eating a balanced diet full of ultra nourishing ingredients. “For more sustained energy, each meal should contain a combination of carb, fat, protein, and produce,” Rifkin says. “This balance of nutrients promotes a more even level of blood sugar which can result in more sustained energy, rather than the energy peaks and valleys often associated with caffeine and refined sugar.”
To help you identify some of the easy-to-stock-up-on ingredients you’ll want to have on hand this fall, we teamed up with Simple Mills to ask Rifkin for her intel on some of the best foods for energy to help fuel your best low-stress, high-energy life this season and all year long.
Keep reading for few of the best foods for energy that are easy to keep on-hand in your pantry.
Almonds are an MVP grab-and-go snack for a reason: Rifkin notes they’re a source of fiber, vitamin E, and unsaturated fats (the good kind), which makes them filling so even just a handful will help tide you over between activities. Plus, since they’re high in protein (about seven grams per quarter cup) and loaded with B vitamins (which help convert nutrients to energy), they can help with that sustained boost.
Almond flour scores you many of those same benefits, which is why it’s the star ingredient in Simple Mills’ Almond Flour Crackers, Crunchy Cookies, and Soft-Baked Bars. Keep a box of each stocked in your pantry, and you’ll have lots of options (besides just that handful of almonds) for a nutrient-dense, on-the-go snack.
Small but mighty, sunflower seeds provide vitamins and minerals like iron, B6, and magnesium, along with a balance of fat, protein, and fiber—a nutrient that promotes digestive regularity and satiety, Rifkin says.
“Fiber-containing foods, like Simple Mills crackers [which contain sunflower seeds], oatmeal, and popcorn are foods that will help you feel full and satisfied between meals,” says. “One of my tips for snacking to sustain energy is to always pair a carb source with a fat or protein. This helps to promote more stable blood sugar, and, in turn, more sustained energy. For example, dip [crackers] with avocado or enjoy with a slice of cheese.”
“Coconut contains some unique properties…due to the unique form of fat found in coconut, called Medium Chain Triglyceride, or MCT,” Rifkin says. “This MCT fat is digested and absorbed differently than most other forms of fat, and because of this, is able to provide a more immediate form of energy.”
With so many different forms of coconut available (flakes, flour, oil, sugar) you have options on how you tap into that energizing power. It’s also one of the ingredients in Simple Mills Crunchy Cookies, so you can score that energy and satisfy your sweet tooth, too.
Flax is buzzed about as a “super seed,” says Rifkin, and it’s easy to see why: “Flax is a source of heart-healthy omega-3 fat, which is thought to reduce inflammation and promote brain health,” she explains. “Flax also contains lignans, which possess antioxidant properties that promote healthy cells throughout the body.”
Healthy cells = cells that are more equipped to use energy efficiently, which is what makes flax rank among the best foods for energy. Flax is a key ingredient in Simple Mills’ nut and seed flour blend, which serves as a base in the crackers, cookies, and bars, so you can get your dose of flax at snack time daily.
“One of the uniquely beneficial aspects of chia seeds is their capacity to absorb water,” Rifkin says. “So, when you consume chia seeds and fluid, the chia seeds processing through your digestive tract increase in volume and promote a feeling of fullness and satiety.”
If you’re not a fan of chia pudding or adding seeds to your oatmeal, hit up Simple Mills Soft Baked Bars (which come in flavors like Dark Chocolate Almond, Spiced Carrot Cake, and Nutty Banana Bread), which use chia in their seed and seed flour blend. Keep them stashed in your glove box, purse, gym bag, or back pocket (okay, anywhere) so that hanger and energy dips never stop you from hitting your groove—and fueling your fall.
Top image: Simple Mills/W+G Creative