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4 ways to top up your energy levels

Janine McGee by Maddie Waters
Janine McGee by Maddie Waters

by Janine McGee

Janine McGee (Dip CNM, BANT) is a Nutritional Therapist who works with women on their motherhood journey. In this piece she gives us some brilliant tips on how to keep our energy levels high (as well as two delicious recipes for curry and cookies!) THIS ARTICLE IS FOR GENERAL INFORMATION PURPOSES ONLY AND IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR MEDICAL ADVICE OR TREATMENT. 

I’m passionate about all things health and wellness, particularly nutrition. I studied at The College of Naturopathic Medicine and graduated in 2018 when I was 8 months pregnant with my now 18-month-old son. Since my son arrived, it’s become increasingly apparent how motherhood can take its toll on our health at times. In fact, becoming a mum hit me like a ton of bricks (like it does most new parents). My training and studies in Nutritional Therapy helped immensely and, after restoring my own health, I’ve made it my mission to support as many mums as possible.

When working with other mums, one of the most common concerns I hear is that keeping energy levels high is a struggle, so I wanted to share a few top tips: 

1. Cut the Caffeine

You won’t like what I’m about to say, but avoid coffee and black tea and opt for water or herbal teas. As much as you feel like you need caffeine to power through the day, it actually makes things worse. It not only dehydrates but also impacts your cortisol levels, which can make you feel incredibly stressed, anxious and also have a negative impact on your sleep.

2. Include more magnesium

Magnesium helps convert food into energy. When we’re stressed we use up our magnesium stores very quickly so regular top ups are important. Include magnesium rich food in at least one meal per day (ideally two!). This includes; leafy greens, brown rice, quinoa, nuts, seeds, avocado, oats. You can also buy magnesium salts that you can use in the bath. The skin absorbs magnesium very well… I love any excuse to have a soak in the tub!

3. Prioritise protein

Aim to include protein in EVERY meal… breakfast is especially important (egg on toast, omelette, porridge with nut butter and seeds, protein smoothie). Including more protein can help keep your blood sugar stable, which in turn can support energy levels. Protein doesn’t have to be animal based; you can get plenty of protein from plant sources too (lentils, chickpeas, beans, nuts, seeds).

4. Remove the refined sugars

Avoid the white sugary carbohydrates as much as possible – the chocolate, biscuits, cakes, snacks, croissants and mass-produced refined food. Unfortunately, stimulants such as sugar give us a quick fix when we’re feeling tired but that feeling wears off just as quickly, making us crave additional sugar to get that ‘high’ again. Not only do these foods leave us feeling tired but they also deplete us of the nutrients that actually support energy boosting too! Instead, opt for complex carbohydrates such as oats, brown rice, or sweet potato. For a sweet fix try having a medjool date with some almond butter.

I’ve included a couple of my favourite recipes for this time of year; both are high in magnesium, protein and contain zero refined sugars. 

janinemcgee.co.uk

BUTTERNUT SQUASH & LENTIL CURRY by Janine McGee

Butternut Squash & Lentil Curry

Serves 4 (vegan)

Ingredients

1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1 inch chunks
1 low salt vegetable stock cube
1 tablespoon of coconut oil
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2cm of ginger, peeled and grated
1 red chilli, chopped or 1 teaspoon of mild chilli powder (using chilli powder makes the curry less spicy) 
400ml coconut milk
250g red lentils
2 teaspoons of turmeric
Juice of 1 lime
Large handful of spinach
Handful of coriander, finely chopped
Cooked brown rice to serve

Method

Heat the oil in a large saucepan set over a medium heat.

Add the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli and fry for a few minutes until the ingredients are soft. Whilst the ingredients are softening dissolve the stock cube in 700ml of water.

Turn up the heat and add the squash, stock and coconut milk to the pan and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. 

Add the lentils and turmeric and then simmer for 20 minutes until the squash and lentils are tender. Add a little more water if needed. 

Take the curry off the heat and stir through the spinach, limejuice and coriander. 

Serve in large bowls with some brown rice.

janine’s Oat Cookies. Photo credit Maddie Waters

Oat Cookies

Serves 10

Ingredients

160g gluten free oats
100g buckwheat flour
1 tablespoon of ground ginger
1 teaspoon of cinnamon 
30g ground almonds
1 teaspoon of almond essence
1 egg, beaten
150g melted coconut oil
70g coconut sugar 
50g coconut flakes or desiccated coconut (optional)

Method

Preheat oven to 180C and line a baking tray with baking paper. 

Add all the ingredients to a bowl and mix well.

Shape into little patties and place on the tray.

Bake in the oven for 10 – 12 minutes. (Lightly touch the cookies; they should still be slightly soft).

Cool on a rack before serving. 

THIS PIECE WAS REVIEWED BY sophia cooper AND EDITED BY ANNA CEESAY.

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Urgent Warning

Some of the material you read on this website is potentially upsetting. Or you may read an article that makes you realise that you are struggling more than you thought.

If you need further support, please speak to your GP or another healthcare professional within or outside of the NHS. If you are seeking help outside of the NHS, make sure you see someone registered with an appropriate professional body.  There is also lots of information available online via MIND or the NHS website.

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Please note: some of this content was written in 2019. Please follow current coronavirus government guidance at all times.

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