Diet is such a habit isn’t it? An ingrained habit from childhood. Often what we eat and the amount we eat as kids sets us up for our dietary habits over a lifetime.
I remember as a child eating a lot of meat and potatoes: boiled, mashed or roasted. There was meat at almost every meal. Spag bol for lunch, roast chicken for dinner. Home-made sausage rolls for lunch, meatloaf for dinner. Chicken soup for lunch, lamb curry for dinner. Hearty, stodgy and meaty.
You need hearty, stodgy and meaty when you come from Scotland, as my Mum does.
Today, I prefer a lighter, more plant-based diet with lots of fish. I follow the Mediterranean Diet which is brain-healthy. Much better for your body, great for your mind.
Now, changing what you eat may not give you an instant mood booster.
What will make you feel good is the knowledge that by choosing healthier food you are taking better care of your body and mind. This shows you believe that you are actually worthy and deserving of better health, which will counteract those negative thoughts about yourself.
There is also something very exciting about eating food that looks good and tastes good. Fresh coloured fruits and salads. Salmon not only tastes delicious, it’s also great for your brain.
Different colours and textures on the plate are appealing and we begin to feel better even before we’ve started eating. We expect our food to taste good and that we’re going to enjoy it. Eating mindfully adds to the experience and enjoyment.
They say ‘we eat with our eyes first’ and if you can prepare a dish of interesting colours, textures and flavours, that is a real mood booster.
Now, it can be difficult to change your entire diet overnight. Some dieting books recommend you throw out everything in your pantry and fridge and just start again.
I’m not sure how effective that is.
For me, incorporating better food into your diet is something better done gradually and with minimum effort. Like trying to fit more physical activity into your day, find ways to include healthier foods without it seeming an ‘extra’ effort.
Try these simple steps:
- Buy 2 apples, 2 bananas and 2 oranges (or choose two of three different fruits you enjoy). Don’t
buy more than this (unless you’re in the habit of eating fruit regularly). Eat two different fruits each day. Eat one as part of lunch and halve the other so you are eating one half in the morning and the other in the afternoon. For example, half a banana with morning coffee, an apple with lunch, half a banana with afternoon tea. The natural sweetness in the fruit should satisfy you’re sweet cravings. Set yourself up to make this a very simple habit for the next 3 days only.
- Replace pasta and rice with canned chickpeas, beans or lentils. So, next time you’re having pasta with bolognaise sauce, leave out the pasta and have lentils instead. Or have half pasta/half lentils. Next time you’re having curry and rice, leave out the rice and add chickpeas to the curry. Beans and lentils are full of protein and fibre and will fill you up without the stodge of carbohydrates.
- The only thing you should throw out is any bottles of soft drink (soda); coke, lemonade, fanta, Dr Pepper, Mountain Dew etc. Do not replace with bottled juice as these are packed with sugar. It’s time to go back to water but this can be made more appealing with a squeeze of lemon juice. Aim for a few glasses of water each day, or even just one if you’re not in the habit of drinking water.
- Have at least one fish meal this week. An oily fish like salmon or tuna is best because it’s
packed with Omega 3 fats which are important for brain health. Fresh is best, but snap frozen or tinned fish is fine. Steamed or pan fried with a squeeze of lemon juice and few black olives. Keep it simple.
- This week, make yourself an omelette for breakfast. Get up 10 minutes earlier if you have to. Two eggs, a little chopped red onion, tomato, green pepper and feta cheese. Pour the beaten eggs into a fry pan and let cook a little. You can mix the onion, tomato and pepper with a little olive oil and cook in the microwave for 30 seconds then add to one side of the egg. Top with cheese. Fold over the omelette and serve when egg is firm. Delicious, easy and quick. Make it even faster by chopping vegies the night before. A cooked breakfast is sustaining and will help avoid reaching for muffins or doughnuts mid-morning. Eggs are full nutrients which keep your brain healthy.
A healthy diet is important for physical health and also to keep your body and brain working properly. There is also a demonstrated connection between the food we eat and our mood. It is very satisfying to prepare home-cooked meals and this doesn’t mean it has to be time consuming. Simple, nutritious, delicious food is the way to a brighter mood.