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4 Worst Foods That Make You Feel Sluggish, Say Dietitians

If you don’t want a midday crash, it’s best to stay away from these foods
FACT CHECKED BY Kiersten Hickman

It's likely you've felt it before—you eat a large, hearty meal, which leaves you feeling sluggish the rest of the day. You'll see this happen a lot during holidays, especially around Thanksgiving. But did you know there are certain foods that you could be eating in your normal routine that would make you feel sluggish for reasons other than eating a lot of it?

We asked our expert dietitians to name their picks for the worst foods that will make you feel sluggish. Read on to discover what they are, and for more on ways to keep you energized, here are 30 Best Foods That Give You All-Day Energy, According to Experts.


Sluggish Food Sugary Soda

Soda is an easy beverage to grab out of the refrigerator or when you're getting a fountain drink. It's also a common beverage to drink when it's a hot day and you need something refreshing. However, it is likely packed with added sugars, which won't satisfy you throughout the day.

"Sugary drinks like soda cause an immediate rise in your blood sugar levels, followed by a rapid fall," says medical board expert Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim and The Portion Teller Plan. "These blood sugar fluctuations may affect your energy levels. Pure sugar like soda is also associated with inflammation which can lead to fatigue."

Instead, Young recommends trying to substitute for water, or, if you're into the carbonated beverage, sparkling water instead.


Sluggish Foods Candy

Similar to soda, candy can be high in sugar—and cause many of those same effects.

"That can be followed by a sugar crash shortly after, ultimately making people feel sluggish and generally not-so-great," says Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LDN, CLEC, CPT, and author of The First Time Mom's Pregnancy Cookbook, The 7 Ingredient Healthy Pregnancy Cookbook, and Fueling Male Fertility

According to Manaker, high sugar consumption inhibits the production of Orexin–a chemical in your brain that stimulates the feeling of being awake. Therefore, the more sugar you eat, the more sleepy you will feel. It contradicts the perceived goal to keep you actually energized.

Refined grains

Sluggish Food Refined Grains

Refined grains are enriched grains—grains where some of the nutrients lost during processing are replaced. Grain products that consist of grains or grain flours have been significantly modified from their natural composition.

According to the Mayo Clinic, whole grains act as a better source of fiber and other important nutrients, such as B vitamins, iron, folate, selenium, potassium, and magnesium.

"Refined grains like white bread and white pasta can contribute to low energy levels," says Young. "They are digested fast, leading to a spike (and then rapid fall) in blood-sugar levels. When your blood sugar ultimately crashes, your energy levels are depleted."

Here are the Dangerous Side Effects of Eating White Bread.

Fried chicken

Sluggish Food Fried Chicken

Fried chicken is packed with flavor, a nice crispy texture, and just all around gives you a comfort food feeling when you're eating it. However, similar to other fried foods, with all the grease and other flavor additives, it's not exactly at the top of a healthy list.

"While this dish is certainly tasty, eating it can make people feel sluggish after the meal is enjoyed," says Manaker. "Fried foods, like fried chicken, can be hard to digest and tend to be more of a 'heavy' food. The combo of the fat and the salt used to make this dish can cause a person to feel weighed down and not feel super peppy."

Kayla Garritano
Kayla Garritano graduated from Hofstra University, where she majored in Journalism and double minored in Marketing and Creative Writing. Read more about Kayla