MIAMI (CBS4) – Did you know eating certain foods can help regulate your mood? What you eat may help you sleep better at night and stay energized throughout the day. In addition, the first thing you often reach for though may not be the best.

Terry Hertenstein, like many of us, always turned to caffeine for a quick pick-me-up.

“I was a person that just got up, had coffee, left the house,” said Hertenstein.

But dietitian Jennifer Ventrelle says the caffeine in that cup of Joe may actually have the opposite effect.

“By the time the feeling of the caffeine wears off, you kind of get hit with this feeling of low energy,” she said.

Ventrelle says there are better choices to keep you filled with energy.

Start with a balanced breakfast that combines two key nutrients. On her menu: carbohydrate-rich fruit and whole grains. Add to that: protein-packed eggs, Greek yogurt and almonds.

“The carbohydrate gives you energy and then the protein sustains the energy,” said Ventrelle.

Terry Hertenstein’s choice is another protein-filled and pro-energy food: peanut butter.

“I don’t even clean off the tablespoon on a plate or anything,” she said. “I’ll just dip it in there so I get every little bit. It’s really good.”

You can snack on those energy-boosting foods all day long.

Hertenstein learned not only how to adjust what she eats, but how she eats. Enjoying several small meals a day helps her feel more energized, alert and focused.

“I always say eat about every four to five hours, these good combinations to keep your blood sugar stable, your hunger level regulated, your metabolism going,” Ventrelle said.

And when it’s time to wind down from a busy day, grab foods rich in vitamin B6, like bananas. The vitamin helps the body make serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating sleep.

Sipping chamomile tea may also help you relax.

“Some studies show that chamomile can actually have a calming effect on the nervous system,” Ventrelle said.

You can also try foods rich in tryptophan, an amino acid which triggers production of serotonin. You’ll find it in foods like dark chocolate and turkey.

And always avoid sugar and caffeine later in the day. That’s advice Hertenstein has taken to heart. She says she has not given up her cup of coffee. But, she says, “I’ll drink decaf after my morning cup.”

Ventrelle says one of the worst things you can do to start your day is to eat refined carbohydrates in the morning, such as pastries or other sugar-laden foods. It keeps the cycle of bad eating going throughout the day.


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