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Energy Assessment

Sure, it’s tempting to give in to the cravings for caffeine, sugar, chocolate—anything to help get you through the day and keep up with your kids. Not so fast. When it comes to your energy level, experts say eating the right foods at the right times can keep you at the top of your game. “Having high energy all day long is easy when you keep your body fueled with protein, whole grains or high fiber carbohydrates,” says Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD, National Spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. But do you know where to get the right fuel? Take this quiz and find out.

1. Which of the following is the best option for a quick breakfast to help you make it to recess without having hunger pangs?
a. Frozen waffles with light maple syrup
b. Bagel with a shmear
c. Instant oatmeal
d. Two hard-boiled eggs and a banana

Answer: d. Two hard-boiled eggs and a banana
Eggs consistently out-rank milk, beef, whey and soy in terms of protein quality. In addition to containing all nine essential amino acids, eggs are loaded with nutrients, especially the yolks, says Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, author of “The 150 Most Effective Ways to Boost Your Energy” (Fair Winds Press, Gloucester, Mass., 2009). “People avoid the yolk because they’re worried about cholesterol, but egg yolks contain choline, which helps protect heart and brain function and prevents cholesterol and fat from accumulating in the liver.” And a food that can do all of that will keep you going strong all day long.

2.  Need an afternoon snack to stave off cravings until dinner? Which of the following choices are most likely to keep you going strong?
a. Two cups of air popped popcorn
b. An apple and a handful of almonds
c. A bag of tortilla chips
d. A Snickers bar

Answer: b. An apple and a handful of almonds
“An apple a day really does keep the doctor away,” says Bowden. These nutritional powerhouses are packed with fiber (about twice that of other common fruits like peaches, grapes and grapefruit). Experts claim fiber manages hunger and slows digestion (which means you’ll feel satisfied for longer periods of time). Add some almonds to the mix and the combination of protein, fiber and healthy fats will hold you through until dinner. All nuts are high in protein and fiber, but almonds are particularly high in calcium, zinc, vitamin E and alpha-linolenic acid (a precursor to omega-3s). Each of these nutrients helps promote optimal brain function. Just watch the portion size since calories can add up quickly.

3. Which of the following snacks has the most sugar? 
a. One York Peppermint Patty
b. A cup of Honey Nut Cheerios
c. A 12-ounce glass of orange juice
d. One-half cup of granola

Answer: c. A 12-ounce glass of orange juice
A 12-ounce serving of OJ has a whopping 28.6 grams of sugar. Compare that to 25 grams in a York Peppermint Patty, 9 grams in a cup of Honey Nut Cheerios and 12 grams in one-half cup of granola. When it comes to snacking, Gerbstadt recommends keeping sugar to 12 grams or less. Even fruits, which are good for you, can be problematic in large doses—especially if it comes in the form of juice or dried fruit.

4.  How many times should you eat throughout the day?
a. Three squares a day (breakfast, lunch and dinner)
b. Six meals a day, all before 8 p.m.
c. Every three to five hours beginning one-half hour after you wake up
d. The longer you can go without eating, the better

Answer: c. Every three to five hours beginning one-half hour after you wake up.
Think of your school day like a marathon, says Gerbstadt. What good is it to go 26 miles if you can’t finish the last 0.2 miles and complete the race? She suggests snacking every three to four hours to maintain stable blood sugar levels and sustained energy.

5.  When it’s time for lunch, your best bet is to:
a. Hit the school cafeteria for a hot lunch of spaghetti and meatballs
b. Bring a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread loaded with lettuce, tomato and veggies
c. Have a bowl of canned soup and a few saltine crackers
d. Skip lunch—that way you’ll take in fewer calories

Answer: b. Bring a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread loaded with lettuce, tomato and veggies
“To really fuel the body, eat a balanced meal like a whole grain (whole wheat wraps, multi-grain bread or brown rice) plus a low-fat protein choice like eggs, chicken breast, lean meat, skim milk or tofu and top it off with veggies or fruit,” suggests Gerbstadt. Meals with too much fat sap your energy while too many carbs drops your energy too fast.

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