Stop Eating “Lazy Foods” and Get More Energy

Are you eating the same foods you always did, but feel as if you are dragging through the day?

Food gives your body energy, but some foods sap energy and make you feel tired. These are the “lazy foods” we all love to eat. We get a quick boost of energy but end up feeling tired.

How Does Your Metabolism Change After 50?

Your metabolism converts food into energy, but three factors change with age:

  1. Physical Activity: When you move throughout the day you burn energy. Reduced physical activity is the biggest factor that can change your metabolism.
  2. Muscle: The more muscle you have the more energy you burn. Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue. Muscle loss is often part of the aging process.
  3. Digestion: Older adults have a decreased ability to absorb and use the nutrients in food. The digestive system moves food more slowly through the colon. Muscles in the digestive tract also become weaker, stiffer and work less efficiently. Your body gets less energy from food.

Prescription drugs and ongoing health conditions also slow your metabolism.

One of the best ways to safeguard your health is to make sure that you are eating a diet that is high in nutrients. This improves your:

  • Physical condition
  • Brain function
  • Bone strength
  • Eyesight
  • Immune system

What Nutrients Do Adults Need?

Nutritional needs change as we pass 50. Adults 50+ should include these nutrients in their diet:

  • Protein
  • Omega 3 fatty acids
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Vitamins B6, B12 and E
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium

Protein is an essential building block in your diet as you age. When you eat enough protein, you are able to maintain your muscle mass. Muscle is important for every activity, from getting out of a chair to running a marathon. More muscle improves better function and increases metabolism.

Focus on getting enough of these important nutrients every day. Eat a diet high in vegetables, fruit, nuts, fish, lean meats, beans and healthy fats like olive oil. Then you will have less room for foods low in nutrition.

How Does the Body Process Food?

Your body transforms simple carbohydrates into glucose before it enters your blood stream. This spike in blood sugar signals the pancreas to release insulin.

Insulin returns your blood glucose levels to a normal range. Insulin lets your body know that energy is available. The body uses the carbs for a quick burst of energy. But that energy burns out quickly. Then you feel exhausted.

What Foods Should I Avoid to Have More Energy?

Cutting out these 5 types of food will provide you with more energy.

 1. Processed Grains

Foods that are white, sweet and come in a bag are usually highly processed grains. Grains are a source of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are a form of energy best eaten with the naturally occurring fiber, but these grains have been stripped of fiber during processing.

Foods that contain processed grains include:

  • White bread
  • Cookies
  • Cakes
  • Muffins
  • Pasta
  • Rice

Processed grains will cause a temporary spike in your blood sugar and insulin levels. You get the momentary boost of energy quickly followed by an energy crash.

Processed grains contain few nutrients and vitamins to sustain your body. Over the long term you will find yourself feeling more tired. Your energy levels will be more even if you avoid foods that cause spikes and crashes.

Photo: bagels

2. Breakfast Cereals

Is a bowl of cereal part of a well-balanced breakfast? Not necessarily. Breakfast cereals are one of the easiest foods to eat but can set you up for a vicious energy spike and crash.

Breakfast cereals are usually highly processed grains such as:

  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Oats
  • Rice

Often the secondary ingredient in breakfast cereals is sugar. Starting the day with a meal high in sugar and low in protein and fiber will set you up for sugar cravings all day. The high amount of carbohydrates are burned through quickly. Without the presence of protein, fats or fiber, your body is left without any nutrient stores. By lunchtime you are starving and ready for a nap.

 3. Sugary Drinks

Drinks that contain added sugars offer a quick pick me up but will slow you down later. The added sugar results in a high calorie content. Some examples are soda pop, fruit juices, flavored milks and even smoothies.

Some drinks, like soda pop, are completely void of nutrition and fill you up on empty calories. Fruit juice, milk and smoothies may provide some nutrition. But the sugar content might outweigh the benefit of the nutrients. The sugar content without the fiber of the fruit will provide a similar crash and burn effect.


Photo: Mountain Dew bottle

 4. Coffee and Energy Drinks

We all have days that start with “I just need a coffee!” When you drink coffee in moderation, there are positive physical and mental effects. But relying on coffee for that short-term mental boost in brain function is dangerous. It means you are not giving your body the proper fuel (and rest!) it needs to function.

Caffeine, from coffee or energy drinks, can stay in your system for 5-15 hours. Caffeine travels from your bloodstream into your brain, where it reduces your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

The caffeine you drink to keep you awake will also interfere with your ability to sleep later. You will be more tired and drained the next day.

 5. Alcohol

Alcohol is another drink that can interfere with the quality of your sleep. If you are drinking a high calorie alcoholic drink, such as orange juice with vodka or beer, then you get a double hit to your metabolism. Poor sleep quality slows down your metabolism. The empty calories also spike your sugar… and then you crash.

There are many changes to your metabolism and lifestyle that happen after you turn 50. You will benefit by focusing on meeting your body’s nutritional needs. Cut these five lazy foods from your diet. Instead, replace them with healthier choices so you can enjoy increased energy and a faster metabolism.

Photo: pouring wine into a glass

Find nutritious recipes for people 50+ on our recipe channel

Read: 6 Tips for Getting More Energy after 60


  1. Smart Food Choices for Healthy Aging
  2. 7 Foods that Drain Your Energy
  3. Important Nutrients to Know: Proteins, Carbohydrates and Fats
  4. How Nutritional Needs Changes as You Age
  5. Changes During Aging and Their Association with Malnutrition
  6. Nutrition Concerns for Aging Populations
  7. Metabolism and Weight Loss: How You Burn Calories


How Nutrition Impacts and Influences our Brain Longevity

Evidence-based lifestyle changes to improve your brain health

Nutrition is the cornerstone to your health. Without the proper fuel, your brain and your body will suffer. But when you think about eating healthy are you thinking about losing weight and looking good? That is often part of healthy eating but it is more important to think about eating for your brain health.

Maria Shriver, founder of the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement, is quoted in the LA Times saying, “We have all become so obsessed with our bodies that we have forgotten to take care of our brains.”1

Unfortunately, when you eat a diet that is only focused on making your body look better, your brain suffers. The brain is a unique and complex organ and needs special attention! Your brain:2

Has about 100 billion neurons (nerve messengers)
Has 1,000 to 10,000 synapses (connections between the neurons) for each neuron
Has 100,000 miles of blood vessels
Is one of the fattest organs in the body
Is 75 percent water
With such an individual make up, it is not surprising that the brain has specific nutritional requirements. The good news is when you are eating right for your brain, you will also be providing your body the nutrition that it needs.

How Nutrition Impacts and Influences Brain Longevity

There is one diet that has been highly researched for its impact on improving not only heart health but also brain health. The Mediterranean diet is a way of eating that embraces whole foods and healthy fats combined in a flavorful way.

Your brain’s nutritional needs can be met through eating a diet rich in:

Fruits and vegetables
Whole grains
Beans and nuts
Healthy fats like olive oil 3
Healthy Fats for Brain Health

Because your brain is made up of 60 percent fat, you will have better success keeping your brain healthy by including more healthy fats in your diet.

A large plain salad may have lots of nutrients, but those nutrients will be lost to your brain if they aren’t eaten with some fat. A study by Predimed found that the risk of stroke was reduced by 46% in those who followed a Mediterranean diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans but also included 30 grams of mixed nuts and olive oil. It was also found that the participants had better memory function and the ability to make plans and follow through with them.

Fruits and Vegetables to Eat for Brain Health

Polyphenols are micronutrients can be found in fruits and vegetables. They have the ability of reducing swelling, improving blood flow to the brain (remember all those miles of blood vessels?) and countering the effects of stress on the brain.

Berries such as blueberries, strawberries and blackberries are high in polyphenol. And delicious to eat in the summer months! Eating high amounts of berries was shown to slow the effects of aging by 2.5 years, again by reducing swelling and counteracting the effect of stress.4 Eat more berries and you could end up with better memory power and a strengthened ability to learn. That sounds like a winning combination!

Nitrates, which are found in high levels in lettuce and other leafy greens like spinach, are also essential for promoting brain health. Eating more leafy vegetables helps to protect the inner lining of your blood vessels (endothelial function). That means that the blood can get where it needs to go: to your brain! 4

Easy Summer Breakfast Recipe to Improve Your Brain Health

This summer, make it easy for your brain to be healthy by eating the foods your brain needs to function well. Aim for including more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, fish and healthy fats in each meal.

An easy breakfast to start your day of right is a homemade nut-based granola served with berries and Greek yogurt.

Here’s what you’ll need:

½ cup of walnuts
½ cup of almonds
½ cup of hazelnuts
½ cup of unsweetened coconut flakes
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
¼ cup of pitted dates
You can put all the ingredients into a food processor and process until it holds together well. Or chop finely and mix in a bowl. The nut-based granola can be stored in the fridge for a week.

Makes an excellent breakfast served with a ½ cup of fresh or thawed berries and a scoop of Greek yogurt!

This breakfast recipe will help you feel full for hours while providing your brain with the healthy fat it needs from the nuts and coconut, phenomenal flavor and a good dose of polyphenols from the cocoa and berries. All mixed together with another healthy fat from the Greek yogurt and a super-sized helping of probiotics.

Keeping your brain healthy is essential for your enjoyment of life and eating healthy is one of the most important lifestyle factors for improving brain health. Eating for your brain health can and should be delicious and enjoyable. Find more summer recipes for brain health here:


Nutritional Care for Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Promoting good nutrition supports mental well-being, energy levels and better health and is an important part of Alzheimer’s and dementia care. In our continuous pursuit to share educational resources for those providing care to individuals experiencing dementia, we’ve created 8 useful tips that may help with meal time preparation for a loved one living with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.

  • Sensory consideration. When preparing a table setting, attempt to create a soothing atmosphere. It is best to limit distractions during meal time and create a calming atmosphere while eating. Agitation may be minimized by using a tablecloth with a solid color and eliminating table patterns.
  • Eating as a social event. Make meal times a social event for those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other types of cognitive decline by enjoying dinner together and engaging in conversation. Endeavor to sit and eat with your loved one to oversee the quantity and the types of food he or she is consuming.
  • Nutrition first. A healthy, well-balanced diet is an important part of a brain-healthy lifestyle. Barring any dietary restrictions, fresh fruit and whole wheat bread or crackers may help in reducing complications such as constipation.
  • Coffee and teas. Caffeinated coffee and tea act as diuretics so these drinks should be consumed sparingly. As a result, caffeinated beverages can increase dehydration so be sure to offer water after caffeine consumption.
  • Drink water: Maintaining appropriate hydration is crucial for a number of reasons, including managing constipation and avoiding urinary tract infections (UTIs). Unless there is a specific restriction, individuals should try to consume about 1 and ½ ounces of water for each pound in weight every day.
  • Multiple meals a day: People with late stage Alzheimer’s and dementia may not recognize food nor remember when the most recent meal took place, so having multiple meals a day may help control hunger pangs, ensure they are meeting their daily intake of food and keep energy levels even.
  • Potentially hazardous foods: When a person’s cognitive decline persists, lack of recognition of food and how to swallow food may begin. Be on the lookout for “pockets” accumulating in the inside check to avoid choking. Also plan to eliminate iceberg lettuce, which can be a significant choking hazard, and introduce soft foods and smoothies.
  • Regular dental checkups: Be sure to keep up on regular dental checkups to avoid discomfort or pain with teeth or dentures.

In line with our Balanced Care Method™ and approach to healthy eating, we can change the perception of how meals appear while keeping in mind that no two people age the same.  When we look at people independently, we can best determine an individual’s dietary preferences and provide them with the happiest, healthiest and tastiest lifestyle!