We all know that eating right can help you maintain a healthy weight and avoid certain health problems, but your diet can also have a profound effect on your mood and sense of wellbeing.
Eating more fruit and vegetables, cooking meals at home, and reducing your fat and sugar intake on the other hand, may help to improve mood and lower your risk for mental health problems. If you have already been diagnosed with a mental health problem, eating well can help to manage your symptoms and regain control of your life.
To set yourself up for success, think about planning a healthy diet as a number of small, manageable steps—like adding a salad to your diet once a day—rather than one big drastic change. As your small changes become habit, you can continue to add more healthy choices.
- Prepare more of your own meals. Cooking more meals at home can help you take charge of what you’re eating, and better monitor exactly what goes into your food.
- Cut back on unhealthy foods in your diet- where possible avoid packaged and processed foods; rather opt for fresh ingredients.
- Read the labels. Be aware of what’s in your food, as manufacturers often hide large amounts of sugar and salt in packaged food- even food claiming to be healthy!
- Focus on how you feel after eating. This will help foster healthy new habits and tastes. The more healthy food you eat, the better you’ll feel after a meal. The more junk food you eat, the more likely you are to feel uncomfortable, nauseous, or drained of energy.
- Drink plenty of water. Water helps flush our systems of waste products and toxins, yet many people go through life dehydrated—causing tiredness, low energy, and headaches. It’s common to mistake thirst for hunger, so staying well hydrated will also help you make healthier food choices.
Moderation is key
Despite what fad diets would have you believe, we all need a balance of carbohydrates, protein, fat, fiber, vitamins, and minerals to sustain a healthy body.
- Moderation– doesn’t mean eliminating the foods you love, rather it is eating them in smaller and less frequent quantities.
- Try smaller portions – a good visual cue to help you with portion sizes – your serving of meat, fish, or chicken should be the size of your fist and mashed potato, rice, or pasta is about the size the palm of your hand – not your whole hand. If you don’t feel satisfied at the end of a meal, add more leafy green vegetables or round off the meal with fruit.
- Take your time –Stop eating before you feel full. It actually takes a few minutes for your brain to tell your body that it has had enough food, so eat slowly and try not to eat in front of the TV or computer, as this often leads to mindless overeating.
- Eat breakfast, and eat smaller meals throughout the day. A healthy breakfast can jumpstart your metabolism, while eating small, healthy meals (rather than the standard three large meals) keeps your energy up.
- Avoid eating late at night – Try to eat dinner earlier and fast for 14-16 hours until breakfast the following morning.
- Reduce sugar and salt.
Increase you activity levels. Start with walking instead of driving where possible. Take the stairs instead of using elevators and escalators. Park your car a bit further from the entrance, this will help increase your number of steps that you walk during the day, making a huge difference without changing your lifestyle.