You’re not alone if you feel like getting through a full day of work, social obligations, and ‘breaking news’ alerts is debilitatingly exhausting. Our minds and bodies are taxed more than ever — it’s easy to feel depleted by 3pm. But small tweaks to what we eat could make a world of difference. Food is fuel, after all.

Developing good eating habits isn’t about extremes like swearing off gluten forever, never eating fries again, or pretending dessert doesn’t exist. It’s about making a habit of choosing the better option (and even indulging once in a while). Here are some simple swaps you can make to keep you energized and alert all day long.

  1. Breakfast pastries for toast — Breakfast pastries (aka dessert in the morning—basically anything you can easily grab at a coffee shop) flood your body with a ton of sugar, and set you up for a mid-morning crash. Ditch the A.M. added sugar for some whole grains, protein, healthy fats and fruit, and you’ll be well-sustained until lunch. Try whole grain toast with nut butter and banana slices; avocado, olive oil and sea salt; an egg, sautéd spinach and Sriracha; or goat cheese and berries.
  2. Sugary cereal/granola for homemade muesliMuesli is a combination of raw oats, nuts, seeds, dried fruit and other whole grains. It is high in protein, low in added sugar, and delicious with milk or yogurt. It’s also quite filling, and keeps you feeling full longer.
  3. Soda for seltzer — While sugary drinks will give you an immediate surge in energy, you’ll hit rock bottom shortly thereafter. Staying hydrated with water will keep you on an even keel. Try seltzer aka soda water aka sparkling water—it’s cold and fizzy like soda, but without the chemicals or added sugar. If you need some sweetness, try adding frozen or fresh pieces of fruit to the bottom of your glass. Or if you rely on caffeine, opt for green tea paired with your fruit-filled seltzer.
  4. Hamburgers for veggie burgers — A thick slice of grilled mushroom or eggplant is a sustainable, meaty burger alternative, with less fat, and more vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Try these Eggplant Sliders the next time you get a hankering for a burger, and you’ll feel satisfied without the food coma.
  5. Spaghetti for spiralized veggie noodles — Spiralized zucchini or squash is a great vehicle for your favorite pasta sauce without the refined carbs that immediately turn to sugar in your body. Spiralized noodles give you the vitamins, minerals and fiber you need to sustain you throughout the day, plus extra flavor too. Try this recipe for Zoodles with Basil Pesto.
  6. French fries for sweet-potato “fries”Baked Sweet Potato Fries are lower in fat and higher in antioxidants. Plus, they’re naturally sweet, and help curb sugar cravings, preventing that late-in-the-day energy crash.
  7. Chips for crispy chickpeasRoasted Chickpeas are craveably crispy and salty, but without the bad fat from the fryer. Plus, they’re protein-rich, and higher in fiber so they’ll fuel your afternoon and keep you full, longer. Plus they’re nutrient-dense too.
  8. White flour cookies for almond flour cookies — Wouldn’t it be great if your afternoon cookie was more than just an indulgent treat? Almond flour is packed with protein which will help sustain energy levels and prevent the post-cookie sugar crash. Plus, making the cookies yourself lets you control the amount of sugar you add. Try these Sesame and Anise Cookies that are sweetened with maple syrup.
  9. Ice cream for banana “ice cream” — Store-bought ice cream is packed with added sugar and saturated fat. Making Banana “Ice Cream” at home in your food processor is equally as sweet and creamy, no added sugar required. Plus you’ll add an extra serving of fruit to your day.
  10. Candy bars for dark chocolate + nuts — Candy bars are often packed with sugar and chemicals. If you want a chocolatey treat, try dark chocolate (70% cacao or higher) with a handful of toasted almonds. Dark chocolate has less sugar, and nuts are full of protein to help your body manage the sugar load.

If you want to build healthier eating habits that keep you energized (e.g. cutting out added sugar, quitting soda, or eating more mindfully), join a Foodstand Challenge with friends.

Originally published at on February 1, 2017.