Knowing how to look after our bodies can be confusing, especially when it feels like advice changes regularly. However, what is consistently being learnt is that the food we eat not only has an impact on our physical health but also our mental wellness. A survey by the Food and Mood project found that 88% of participants reported that changing their diet improved their mental health significantly. 

Improving your diet may help you by

  • improving your mood
  • giving you more energy 
  • helping you think more clearly 

Making changes can be tough especially if you’re feeling low, tired or stressed out; changing our diet does not need to be drastic, making small positive changes consistently will soon start to make a big difference. Here are some of our top tips to make those changes:

Plan ahead

Finding the time and motivation to eat well can often be difficult. If you have times when you’re feeling good and enjoy preparing food, try making some extra meals to store. These can be used in those times when you need a quick healthy solution. 

Keep a food diary

Keeping a note of what you eat and drink in a day alongside how you are feeling allows you to get an insight into what you are eating and the impact that this has on how you are feeling. Over time you may notice which foods make you feel better and which allow you to sleep more soundly.

Try some self-compassion

Many of us can be critical of ourselves when we perceive a weakness or failing, in these moments we tend to be critical of ourselves in the hope that this will motivate us to change. In reality, any change is often short-lived and has a negative impact on how we feel about ourselves. If you struggle to make changes offering yourself the same encouragement you would a friend will be more helpful and lead to more change in the long run.

Take the pressure off

We can often put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do everything right; from the way we raise our children, exercise in the gym and the food we eat. Eating a healthy diet is important but remember there are many other factors can help improve our overall wellbeing too, such as:

  • getting physically active
  • getting enough sleep
  • maintaining good relationships
  • limiting the amount of alcohol we drink.

Manage food intolerances

A food intolerance is when we have difficulty digesting certain types of foods (such as wheat, dairy or yeast). This can cause lots of unpleasant feelings, both physical and mental. If you’re concerned about this, talk to a health professional who can support you to investigate your tolerances safely. 

Eat regularly

Our body breaks down everything we eat and absorbs it in the body as; carbohydrates, proteins, fats.

The carbohydrates you consume turn into blood sugar. Eating or drinking a bunch of sugary stuff at once can cause your blood sugar to spike leading to headaches and fatigue. If you’ve gone too long without eating your blood sugar drops and you may start to feel shaky, weak, and irritable. Eating regularly and choosing foods that release energy slowly will help to keep your sugar levels steady. Slow-release energy foods include: pasta, rice, oats, wholegrain bread and cereals, nuts and seeds.

Stay hydrated

If you don’t drink enough fluid, you may find it difficult to concentrate or think clearly. It is recommended that you drink between 6–8 glasses of fluid a day. Keep a bottle beside you as a visual reminder to drink throughout the day.

Looking after your gut

Sometimes your gut can reflect how you are feeling emotionally. If you’re stressed or anxious this can make your gut slow down or speed up. For healthy digestion you need to have plenty of fibre, fluid and exercise regularly. Healthy gut foods include fruits, vegetables and wholegrains, beans, pulses, live yoghurt and other probiotics.

Managing caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant, which means it will give you a quick burst of energy, but then may make you feel anxious and depressed, disturb your sleep (especially if you have it before bed), or give you withdrawal symptoms if you stop suddenly. If you drink tea, coffee or cola, try switching to decaffeinated versions, you might feel noticeably better quite quickly if you drink less caffeine or avoid it altogether.

Seek medical support

If you are feeling tired a lot of the time and are using food as a way to manage your energy or your mood consider seeking medical support. A routine screen can ensure that there are no underlying physical health causes such as low iron impacting on your wellbeing.

If you need any further support on your wellbeing, you can check out Mind in Mid Herts Living Well programme by visiting www.mindinmidherts.org.uk

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