three yogurt parfaits with nuts, fruit, and granola on a kitchen counter with a clock

Eating for Energy

Last updated: September 2022

The lack of energy, aka fatigue, is one of the hardest parts of heart failure for me. Also, after moderating for the heart failure site for a few years I frequently see this symptom being listed as one of the most burdensome, if not the most burdensome, aspect of heart failure. There is no cure for this, no pill. There are not even dietary modifications you can do to help. It is not like you have high blood pressure, take this medication and lower your salt intake. So, to summarize, it truly stinks.

I have spent some time trying to eat different foods, to see if anything helps me find more consistent energy throughout the day. While nothing is a magic bullet, I have figured out a few things or habits to avoid as it makes the issue worse.

I have found that it helps to eat balanced unprocessed, natural, foods. With the sodium restrictions, it is hard to eat much-processed food anyway. However, I find that I naturally turn to fruits and vegetables as they can be quickly cut up and are thus fast and easy. However, protein and fiber are important in addition to vitamins and minerals. And yes, I know that fruit and vegetables have fiber too! :) So, I have to think about protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats as well. Also, I have tried to think of things that can be made, or purchased, in bulk so they keep for a while, to make it easier for me! Here are a few ideas I've come up with.

Tips that help me with eating for energy with heart failure

Trail mix (unsalted nuts)

You can also buy the nuts yourself and make your own trail mix. A few interesting additions can be dried fruit, freeze-dried fruit, some dark chocolate, golden raisins, and sunflower seeds.

Another idea is baked chickpeas

Beans are great as they have protein and fiber! You can bake them in the oven dried then add your desired seasonings. A few ideas include garlic powder, chili powder, chipotle, cayenne pepper, curry powder, lemon pepper, or anything else.

Greek yogurt parfaits are terrific

It is similar to regular yogurt but strained, so it has less calcium and sodium but more protein. It can also have less carbs and sugar than regular yogurt! Due to the protein and sodium content, this is my go-to. Also, if you add the correct amount of low-sugar granola and berries (which are high in fiber), it is a balanced snack or breakfast.

The different uses of olive oil

Olive oil is very versatile. I have been trying to make my own salad dressings to incorporate more olive oil into my diet. Also, it is a terrific finishing oil on top of roasted potatoes, hummus, baked chicken, a fried egg, etc. If you can afford a slightly more expensive olive oil, you can find more fruity, and less bitter options. If there is an Italian grocery store near you I have found them to be very helpful!

Things that do and do not work for me

One thing that I have not found helpful is turning to sugar. I know, it is so easy. Sugar does provide a short-term energy boost. However, I have found that there is a crash afterward that makes you feel worse. A few sweeter things throughout the day can be helpful though. I try to keep dark chocolate, Yasso bars, and watermelon in the house for the occasions when I, or my partner who is trying to lose weight, find ourselves with a craving that needs to be addressed!

I hope these ideas help.

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