Good food is one of the most powerful and yet least used weapons in the fight against stress and unhappiness. Making simple tweaks to your lifestyle and eating superfoods can make a massive difference to your mental and emotional wellbeing. It really is simple, and you can get started right away. Explore these six easy steps below, and discover how nutrition can be a mighty tool in your journey to better mental health!
1. Which foods are good for mental health?
Some foods CAN make you happier and stress-free. These are the best foods that will boost your mental health; they include:
- oily fish such as salmon and tuna
- nuts, especially walnuts
- berries, especially blueberries
- eggs, including the yolk
- quinoa and brown rice
Let’s focus on that last one. “Vegetables” is a wide-ranging category. Eating lots of vegetables means you’re more likely to get all the vitamins and minerals necessary for good mental health (magnesium, zinc, selenium, etc.) Check out my recipe collection for meal ideas containing all these ingredients.
2. Start Snacking Strategically
Eating regularly every few hours gives us more stable energy and blood sugar levels. That means a better mood and higher productivity throughout the day.
Of course, the snacks have to be strategic. Skip the sugar, and reach for protein and healthy fats instead. Your snacks should fill you up and give you a boost of sustainable energy.
Some good snack choices may include:
- Nuts, especially walnuts & almonds
- Yogurt or cheese
- Avocado on grainy toast
- Boiled eggs
- Berries, especially blueberries
- Dark chocolate
3. Breakfast: Eating with Mental Health in Mind
The secret to a great breakfast is simple –– choose foods that will keep you full and energized until lunch. So, try and skip the sugary cereal and that white toast with jam.
Good breakfasts include:
- Oatmeal made with steel-cut oats
- Yogurt and nutty granola
- Quiche or other egg dishes
- Grainy, wholemeal toast with avocado or nut butter
And, if you really struggle with breakfast as I do, try these tips:
- Commit to a two-month, breakfast-every-day challenge
- Try eating breakfast later in the day
- Experiment with hot and cold breakfasts
- Try smoothies or meal replacement shakes
- Be naughty and add dark chocolate to your smoothie or oatmeal (seriously)
It’s not the end of the world to skip breakfast now and then. But the right breakfasts, eaten consistently, will make a world of difference to your mood and energy levels.
4. WATER: staying hydrated is a great way to improve your mental health
We all need more water to stay alert, energized, and to help the brain perform at its best.
5. Sugar and mental health: a toxic combination?
Sugar addiction is a BIG problem, there are strong links between mental health challenges and sugar consumption. It’s a complex relationship, but ultimately, cutting back on sugar will help to improve your mental health.
Quitting sugar completely is a significant challenge so I recommend cutting back first.
- The easiest ways to cut back:
- Swap your white bread, white rice, and white pasta for dense, grainy bread (or sourdough), brown rice, oats, and quinoa, and eat smaller serves. These are complex, low-GI carbs. Yes, they contain sugar (carbohydrates are, in essence, sugars). But low-GI carbs take longer to digest and so release that sugar much slower and steadier.
- Try baking with stevia or erythritol instead of white or brown sugar. This will satisfy your sweet tooth without raising your blood sugar. Browsing Keto recipe sites is a great way to get ideas for baking with stevia!
- Limit fruit consumption to one or two serves a day. Eat vegetables or protein-based snacks instead.
- Make your snacks and treats savory instead of sweet. And, try eating a before-bed savory snack instead of a late-night dessert.
6. Meal Prep: Your New Secret Weapon
Planning your meals for the week ahead, and prepping some meals and snacks in advance, could be revolutionary for your mental health!
Meal prep will:
- Ensure you have a good mix of nutrients and superfoods across the week
- Reduce the stress of constantly planning meals on the fly
- Lower the shopping & cooking time in your week (and give you days off!)
- Limit unhealthy take-out and impromptu snacks
- Make your cooking & prep time more efficient
Meal prep doesn’t necessarily mean cooking every meal and snack for the whole week in one go. It’s more about planning and identifying opportunities to cook several meals at once or to pack a week’s worth of healthy snacks.
Planning your meals for the week ahead saves you so much time. And you’ll quickly develop a repertoire of easy, super healthy, tasty “prep-able” meals and snacks.
What to Do Next
Mental health nutrition is a rapidly growing field, which means there are heaps of tips and ideas out there for us to explore and see what works for us.
- Explore recipes and meal ideas on Pinterest
- Find books about mental health & diet on Amazon
- Read my series on eating for mental health
- Download your free 2-week Meal Plan for an easy way to get started
Of course, changing your diet isn’t a magic wand; building better mental health involves a range of things like exercise and stress & mood management techniques. If you have a mental condition, getting professional help is absolutely crucial.
So, by all means, enjoy eating all the delicious mental health superfoods: as part of your larger journey to better mental health!
Do you have foods that help YOUR mental health? Let me know in the comments below!