Chef and nutrition expert Christina Pirello is a regular contributor to Wellwellwell, where she shares her expertise on how readers can look and feel their best with natural, organic foods.

So many of us feel bone-tired, all the time. The fatigue leaves us feeling disheartened, a bit demoralized and frustrated. When we meet that rare person who is completely energized, we just want to slap them…but then, we don’t have the energy.

I’m not talking about feeling tired at the end of a tough day. I’m talking about dragging through the day tired. Is there some collective social contagion we aren’t aware is happening? In a way, yes. With the warm weather that’s about to burst upon us, we want to be able to find that extra energy, and I’m going to share how.

For most of us the answer is simple and it lies in the kitchen. In Chinese medicine, the theory is held that chronic, mind-numbing fatigue is the result of poor digestion of poor quality foods. The empty calories in the junk food you eat today create the fatigue you feel tomorrow.

For most of us, an energy makeover is needed. Changing what you eat and drink, how you exercise and sleep can result in your spark being reignited.

Quote Christina Sugar

Before diving in, be aware that if you do everything right and still feel tired, you might want to have your doctor check you out for anemia, hypothyroidism, Vitamin B12 deficiency or other conditions that might cause fatigue.

Eating to Beat Fatigue

It begins with breakfast. A breakfast rich in complex carbohydrates, vegetables and plant-based proteins (like tofu) will go a long way in helping you to feel strong and nourished throughout your day. Keep breakfast between 300-400 calories, as this seems to keep blood sugar levels steadier which—in turn—keeps your energy from plunging.

Try to lightly blanche or steam some greens like kale or broccoli as a side dish to your breakfast. You will be amazed at how fresh and awake you feel. Ready in just minutes, kale, collards and other greens contain potassium and loads of B vitamins—all of which are essential to energy metabolism.

Ditch white flour and sugar—completely. These empty calories cause a spike in blood sugar levels and quickly crash, leaving you feeling spent. Because there’s no real value or nutrient density to these foods, they lead to a chronic, deeply felt fatigue.

Quote Christina Empty Calories

Choose high fiber foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates as they break down more slowly in the body creating resources of energy for you to draw on all day. Whole grains like brown rice and quinoa, veggies of any kind, whole grain breads, nuts, seeds and fresh fruit nourish the body with the glucose we need to feed our cells and create energy.

While I am not an advocate for no-fat diets, chowing down on fatty foods and saturated fats will steal your energy. Your adrenal glands, residing above the kidneys, work with the liver in metabolizing our macronutrients and are strongly affected by excessive fat in our diets.

And Then There’s Sleep…

We must sleep enough for our lifestyles. Regardless of how well you eat or how often you exercise, if you do not allow your body to rest, you will suffer fatigue.

We all know these tips but perhaps a wee refresher is in order. Try to go to bed and rise at the same time every day so your body gets used to a schedule of rest. It’s simple, you just need to commit. If you need to nap, keep it short and sweet. Sleeping about 20-30 minutes will keep you from waking groggy and cranky.

In the end, for most of us, we create our energy with what we choose to eat, how we exercise and how we rest. With busy, connected lives, it’s important to unplug, put down our beloved devices and enjoy being in the moment. You’ll love how you feel.

Simple Steamed Greens

Simple Steamed Green Beans

Really? A recipe for steamed greens? You’d be surprised at the number of people who don’t know how to do this. And steamed greens done right are so delicious, so nutrient-packed that I feel compelled to share. Just greens, naked with no dressing. It is one of the simplest recipes in natural cooking. Try it!

1 medium-sized bunch dark leafy greens (kale, collards, baby bok choy, etc.), rinsed well, left whole

Step-by-Step Instructions:

Place a small amount of water in a wide skillet over medium heat. Place a bamboo or metal steaming tray over the boiling water with greens in the tray. Cover and steam until bright green and crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Carefully turn greens if needed to ensure even steaming.

You may also steam greens by immersing a metal steamer in a deep pot over an inch of water and placing greens in the steamer. Cook until bright green and tender, about 3 minutes. Cool greens slightly before slicing into bite-size pieces. Serve hot or at room temperature. Makes 3-4 servings.

Cook’s Tip: Mix and match greens to create different flavors.