I’m a 24-year-old who worries my diet doesn’t give me enough energy. An expert said eating a protein-rich dinner and snacking every 3 to 4 hours will help.

  • Paige DiFiore, 24, agreed to have her diet reviewed for Insider’s new nutrition clinic.
  • She said she lacks energy and often falls asleep on the couch in the evening.
  • Dietitian Shana Spence advises adding more protein, vegetables, and water throughout the day.
  • If you’d like to have your diet reviewed by an expert, fill out this form.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Paige DiFiore, Insider’s Lifestyle and Entertainment editor, feels like her diet doesn’t give her enough energy.

“I really want to feel more energized and less tired during the day,” the 24-year-old said. “I feel like I am falling asleep on the couch by 10 P.M. most nights, even if I got nine hours of sleep.”

DiFiore submitted an average day on her plate for Insider’s new nutrition clinic, where qualified dietitians and registered nutritionists analyze and offer advice on readers’ eating habits.

As well as looking to boost her energy levels, DiFiore said she wouldn’t mind losing a few pounds but isn’t trying to lose lots of weight.

“It’s important to point out that calories are energy and if energy is something lacking and a goal of hers, then it’s important to fuel up,” dietitian Shana Spence told Insider.

DiFiore isn’t a big breakfast person

DiFiore starts her day with French press coffee with two Splendas.

“I usually don’t eat breakfast, but if I do it’s likely a bagel with cream cheese or toast with peanut butter and honey,” she said. “If we have bananas, I make baked oats using one of these recipes.”

Spence said a large breakfast isn’t necessary, especially if someone is not used to eating in the morning, but it might help prevent late night binges. She recommends having something to eat with the coffee.

“I don’t have a problem with the bagel and cream cheese but adding something to it such as fruit would help because of the fiber and added vitamins and minerals,” Spence said. “The PB and honey sounds great. If she’s in a hurry, I recommend stocking up on breakfast bars or something that can be easily thrown in the bag.”

Eating breakfast could lead to less snacking later

If she gets hungry before lunch, DiFiore snacks on beef jerky or cheese slices.

“For lunch, I usually eat leftovers (Japanese curry with rice, chorizo and rice, or some kind of pasta), grilled cheese, or a bagel or I kind of forget to eat lunch,” she said.

Spence thinks eating breakfast would help DiFiore avoid snacking, or add more variety to her snacks like mixed nuts or dried fruit.

“Eating consistently is one of the biggest factors with eating,” she said. “If work is hectic and you are too busy to eat, then put your lunch on your calendar as a meeting and reminder. We should be eating every 3-4 hours because our bodies need that fuel. Under-eating during the day leads to bingeing later on.”

DiFiore and her boyfriend disagree on vegetables, so they don’t eat them

DiFiore eats dinner with her boyfriend, usually pasta, potatoes, or rice paired with some kind of meat like steak or chorizo.

“Unfortunately, we don’t really eat vegetables because my boyfriend doesn’t like when they’re mixed into dishes (my preferred way to eat them), and I don’t like when they’re served on the side (his preferred way), and we’re usually too lazy and tired to prepare different meals,” she said. “Sometimes I’ll eat roasted Brussels sprouts with my meal.”

Pretzel bites.
DiFiore often eats pretzel bites when she goes out for dinner. Paige DiFiore

Spence suggests dividing your food into two portions and cooking vegetables separately, which DiFiore can then mix into her dish and her boyfriend can eat on the side.

“There needs to be some sort of compromise here, which would also come from planning,” she said. “Really try to plan your meals, or when you are grocery shopping, try to think about different ways to cook the dish and how to go about getting in more veggies.”

A protein-rich dinner might help reduce late night snacking

After dinner, DiFiore snacks on popcorn, chips, cookie dough, or baked oats.

“There’s nothing wrong with dessert but really make sure that you are filling up on protein and fiber during dinner,” Spence said. “Sometimes we don’t eat enough at meals and make up for that with dessert.”

DiFiore estimates she only drinks one or two cups of water a day, so Spence recommends keeping a water bottle with her and refilling regularly.

Keeping active can energize you

DiFiore says she never orders food for delivery as she lives in a walkable city so it’s not worth the cost.

“On nights when we go out for dinner with friends, I usually order a burger, pretzel bites, sushi, or a lobster roll – I try to get things I won’t make at home,” she said. “I almost always get a hard cider or a flight of ciders to try.”

A cider flight.
DiFiore likes to drink cider when she goes out. Paige DiFiore

Spence says there’s nothing wrong with ordering what you want, but consider adding vegetables if you like them.

“Can the burger be topped with lettuce, tomato, and onion? Can a salad be ordered on the side or a side of veggies that even the table could share? Definitely order what you don’t usually have, but always think about what can be added,” she said.

Spence recommends making the most of DiFiore’s walkable city by getting some movement in during the day. She said a walk in the fresh air or a quick stretch can boost energy.

“Being sedentary can make our bodies feel tired,” she said. “Also drinking more water.”

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