Every day, dozens of times a day, we make choices about our well-being. Some of them are “must dos” — brush and floss teeth, exercise — but others are more negotiable. Seven or eight hours of sleep? Water or green tea with lunch? Broiled chicken or grilled fish for dinner? It’s the decisions we make about food that can be particularly vexing. We need food for energy — food is what fuels us, after all — but we tend to choose the calories we consume based on taste and convenience and not necessarily on how good they are for us.
So what do nutrition experts say we should put in our proverbial fuel tanks for long-lasting, nutritious energy? “There aren’t one or two or five perfect foods,” says Cindy Moore, MS, RD, director of the Nutrition Therapy Department at the Cleveland Clinic. “Variety is key,” she says, “and the more varied the better, because each food has its own nutrient profile.”
The other issue to consider is how much fuel — that is, calories — we need on a given day. The more active you are, the more energy you require for daily life — an aerobics instructor, for instance, will require more calories per day than a desk jockey. When eating to fuel your body (which, after all, is the most basic reason to eat), it’s important to keep your actual needs in mind, because when you “overfuel,” your body stores that energy in reserve as fat.