A balanced meal can offer sound sleep.

Health & Fitness

Ask a Nutritionist: Eating For Sleep

That Starbucks habit is getting expensive.

Navigating labels and digging through the latest health trends can get confusing–and fast. That’s why we’re talking with Dallas nutritionists, dietitians, and other health professionals to make sense of it, topic by topic.

Sleep is essential, whether you’re tossing and turning at night, waking up tired, or trying to lose weight. Megan Lyons, a holistic health coach with The Lyons Share Wellness, understands this well and offers tips on how to fuel your body for proper sleep – because Starbucks gets expensive.

What kinds of meals lead to the best sleep at night?

I would recommend a balanced meal, with some carbohydrates (ideally made up of non-starchy vegetables as well as selected starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes, or from a small portion of whole grains like rice or quinoa), some protein (eggs, meat, fish, or beans), and some healthy fat (avocados, olives, healthy oils, fish, nuts, or seeds).

On days when you simply did not get enough sleep the night before, what is a healthy way to gain some energy without loading up on caffeine?

Believe it or not, vegetables provide a great boost of energy. Your body will thank you for the nutrients!  I make a veggie pack and have one every afternoon with a small handful of almonds or a packet of olives. Even a greens powder like this one will give you a great burst of energy.  A sparkling water with no artificial sweeteners or a piece of whole fruit will do the trick, too!

What are the benefits of sleep for overall health?

Sleep is absolutely critical to maintain overall health and an optimal weight.  Being chronically sleep-deprived (like most of us are!) makes it a lot harder to stick to a healthy diet. When our bodies lack energy, our brains are hard-wired to “ask for” those things that give us the quickest rush of blood sugar (like sugar). This was useful in getting our ancestors to choose berries and other fruits when we were literally starving, but it isn’t so useful now when vending machines and cupcake stores tempt us at every corner! In addition to managing cravings, getting enough sleep improves the way your body metabolizes the food you eat, lowers your cortisol levels (too much cortisol contributes to an excess of belly fat), and optimizes growth hormones (which help burn fat and prevent aging).

What are the foods that best promote sleep?

I would limit sugar; alcohol; and heavy, rich, or fried foods to one to two hours before bed. Stick to soothing foods like herbal tea, a small handful of low-sugar trail mix, an apple with almond butter, or a small portion of low-sugar yogurt.

Megan Lyons is a holistic health coach with The Lyons Share Wellness. Lyons has a certificate of health coaching/holistic nutrition from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and is a certified group fitness instructor with AFAA/NASM.