Healthy eating habits/Energy for Busy People

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This page describes why energy is important for our bodies and where good sources of energy come from. It is aimed at busy people who struggle to find time to eat breakfast and healthy snacks. The page also provides examples of some healthy breakfast and snack foods to try.

Background Info: Energy for Your Body

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Don’t skip meals and end up finding it hard to concentrate

Our bodies need energy for the performance of all body functions and to support physical activity. Energy gives the body’s cells what they need to be able to move, function, grow, and develop. The body converts chemical energy from food into mechanical, heat, or electrical energy. Anything from the movement of an eyelid blinking, to the stomach digesting food, to running a marathon will need energy.

Energy comes from our food and is measured in the form of kilojoules (kJs). The average estimated energy requirement is 8700kJ, however varies between individuals depending on height, weight, age, gender, and amount of physical activity.

When we have supplied our bodies with the right amount of energy, they perform the best they can. This means that our muscles have what they need to move and our brain and organs can function. Without the brain functioning properly, it is easy to become tired and drained, and unable to perform as best as possible.

If we don’t use all the energy that we consume, the body will use it as storage compounds and it will result in weight gain.

Porridge with some fruit and yoghurt is a great healthy and quick breakfast option

Breakfast for Energy

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Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It breaks the fasting state that out body goes into overnight. After a few hours of waking up, all of the stored glucose (from carbohydrate) has been used, this means that the brain doesn’t have anything to continue powering it.

Reasons why eating a healthy breakfast is the best start to the day:
- Helps us feel energised and alert
- Increases our ability to concentrate
- Increases performance and endurance
- Prevent fatigue
- Weight control
- Reduces hunger
- Help us avoid foods high in saturated sat and refined sugars

Some Lasting Tips:
- Having a nutritious breakfast will give you a lot more energy than an extra 10 minutes sleep
- Prioritise waking up a few minutes earlier to prepare and eat breakfast
- Eat breakfast within 10 minutes of waking up
- Eat a nutritious breakfast with complex carbohydrates and some protein

What if I can’t afford a healthy breakfast every day?

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Putting healthy eating as a high priority can increase overall quality of life. There are lots of delicious and healthy foods that cost under $2.50 per serve.
Some examples include:
- Porridge
- Eggs on toast
- Avocado on toast

A banana is a great snack to take on the run and boost energy levels

Snacking for Energy

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Eating healthy snacks throughout the day can have lots of beneficial effects on your body and energy levels and assist the good effects of having a healthy breakfast. It is best for our bodies to have a consistent source of energy, instead of our eating habits looking a bit like a rollercoaster ride.

Reasons why eating healthy snacks can benefit you:
- Helps maintain energy levels throughout the day
- Maintains concentration levels
- Can provide essential vitamins and minerals
- Reduces hunger
- Reduces cravings for energy-dense foods high in saturated fat and refined sugar

Snacks vary in energy. If you are more physically active, you should consume more energy. However, be careful not to overeat on days when you aren't doing so much activity.
Below are some healthy snack ideas.

Healthy snacks with lower energy (0 – 400kJ)
- Medium apple
- 2½ cups popcorn
- 2 tablespoons sultanas
Healthy snacks with higher energy (401-800kJ)
- Medium banana
- Celery and carrot sticks with hummus
- 3 pieces of dark chocolate

What if I don’t have time to have healthy snacks?

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Below are just a few ways that you could make healthy snacks more accessible in your daily life: - Keep bulk amounts of snacks in your car and slip them into your bag when you arrive - Prepare snacks the night before and when you leave grab them

Australian Guide to Healthy Eating

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The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating provides a guide to the types of food and serving sizes to eat every day. It also gives the number of serves of each group to eat throughout the day. The following table has the number serves to be eating each day for an average adult aged 19-50:

Male Female
Recommended average daily
number of serves from each
of the Five Food Groups
Vegetables and legumes 6 5
Fruit 2 2
Grain foods 6 6
Lean meats, etc. and alternatives 3
Dairy and alternatives
Additional serves for
taller or more active
men and women
Additional serves or discretionary choices 0—3 0—2½

For more information on the food groups and what a serving size is see Australian Guide Healthy Eating

Last Minute Tips

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- An average energy intake is around 8700kJ, however varies between individuals depending on height and weight
- You will need to consume more energy if you are more physically active—this includes incidental daily activity such as walking and standing on stage
- Aim to eat 6 smaller meals each day to help prevent feeling tired and hungry
- Consume a variety of foods from each food group of the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating, and try not to under-eat carbohydrate-rich foods
- Enjoying the food you are eating will encourage you to eat them; experiment to find breakfast and snack food you enjoy

Useful Resources

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Healthy Breakfast:

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Better Health Channel. (2014). Breakfast. Retrieved from
Better Health Channel. (2014). Breakfast Recipes. Retrieved from

Healthy Snacking:

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Better Health Channel. (2014). 10 Tips for Healthy Snacking. Retrieved from
Better Health Channel. (2014). Snack Recipes. Retrieved from

Australian Guide to healthy eating:

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National Health and Medical Research Council. (2013). Australian Dietary Guidelines. Retrieved from
See the ‘Summary’ for a quick overview

Other Resources:

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Eat Right. (2014). Handouts and Tipsheets. Retrieved from
Better Health Channel. (2011). Food and Nutrition. Retrieved from
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