Energize Your Diet

For today's post, we welcome Jason Kaefer, a case manager in Caminar's New Ventures Program with years of experience in human services. He also writes extensively on the use of coping skills to support independence, mindfulness, and happiness to those struggling with mental illness.  


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Protecting your mental health should be your first priority. To overcome barriers related to mental illness, you need support, you need coping skills, and, above all, you need good physical health. How often have you felt incapable of waking up at 6 a.m. to catch the bus clear across town? Many people experience this in the morning or feel sluggish toward the afternoon, and in response, tend to do the same thing: grab the coffee pot, open an energy drink, or employ our talent of keeping our eyes peeled while allowing our brain to fade away. Don't worry! There is hope!

The solution may be in your diet. To start, make a list of what you typically consume for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Got it? Each item below may give you higher levels of energy during the day and you can substitute them for your current food.

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds provide natural energy, sometimes even better than coffee, depending what you mix them in. The ancient Aztecs used them to sustain energy, so as you may have guessed, the plant is native to Mexico, but these tasty seeds can be found in any market or grocery store, and go great in yogurt, protein, and milkshakes. They are also low calories and have a nutty flavor. Try them out! Decide what you have already in your house (yogurt, peanut butter, etc.), and create something. Check out this blog post for a more extensive list of chia seed ideas.

Green Tea

Unfortunately, everywhere we go, coffee is readily available to us. It serves as the perfect morning fix, elevates mood, and even contains antioxidants. But coffee, however tasty and healthy, does come at a price when your body has had enough. The "jitters," upset stomach, and an increase in mental health symptoms are common after one too many cups of joe.

Try replacing coffee with green tea. Thymine is a natural compound that occurs in green tea, which keeps you focused and alert without experiencing the "jitters." Green tea also, in my opinion, tastes much better than coffee and energy drinks. 


Aside from being advantageous for your heart, nuts are a wonderful source of protein and healthy fats. Consider having a bag of them to keep with you during the day for when you get hungry. This, in conjunction with a bottle of water, may help to sustain energy levels. You can also blend nuts into yogurt or protein.

Understand, however, that nuts can cause severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis). If you have an allergy to nuts, you should avoid them all together and keep an epinephrine pen on you. If you suspect an allergy, visit your doctor and request an allergy test. 


Bananas are cheap, easy to find, and full of glucose, which is perfect for anyone who is physically active. Try two bananas for breakfast with oatmeal and two glasses of water. There is a notable difference between this and cereal. Another idea, if you own a blender, is to blend a banana with milk, yogurt, protein, and the above-mentioned chia seeds.


This is something that I stress daily: Water is key to life, or in this case, energy. Lack of energy can be attributed to dehydration. Signs of dehydration include a decrease in focus, rapid heart rate, and irritability. It's also important to remember to drink water first thing in the morning.

A good way to measure your water intake is to take your body weight and divide it by two. This is the amount of water you should consume in ounces per day. Water also promotes weight loss and flushes out toxins. If you are active, consider having several bottles of water with you during the day. It's easy for us to become sidetracked and allow our bodies to dehydrate.


A perfect post-lunch snack that's high in fiber is blueberries. They are also loaded with potassium, folate, vitamin C, and Vitamin B6. For being so small, they are loaded with nutrients and are great for restoring energy. Studies have shown that blueberries may be good for weight loss due to their nutritious profile.

According to the US National Library of Medicine, "Blueberries are one of the best sources of antioxidants. One study in China compared the antioxidant capacity of blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries and found that blueberries not only contained the highest total antioxidant capacity but also contained more of many specific types of antioxidants, including phenols, flavonoids, and anthocyanins."

Don't allow yourself to become overwhelmed. It takes time to readjust your diet so that it works for you. Remember, what you put in your body will reflect the way you feel during the day. Begin by considering what food in your diet needs replacing, then find the above-mentioned foods at your local store. When you're ready, begin swapping the good for the better. By generating more energy, you may notice an improvement in your use of coping skills, particularly mindfulness.