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GOOD THERAPY

Healthy Habit Highlight: Nutrition

How Food Affects Your Mood

A healthy diet can have a profoundly positive effect on your mood and overall wellbeing. Negative eating patterns characterized by an abundance of packaged meals, take out dinners, processed and red meats and snacks high in sugar have been connected to depression, stress, anxiety and bipolar disorder. An unbalanced diet such as that can also contribute to mental health problems including ADHD, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, and the possibility of suicide in teens.

A healthy diet consisting of home cooked meals, fruits and vegetables, and less fat and sugar can help regulate your mood, and manage symptoms related to any mental health problems you may be facing. It is just one of many good habits that can help you stay in control of things in your life.

You don’t have to get caught up in making sure every specific thing you eat is beneficial. What’s most important is your overall dietary pattern. In order to have a healthy diet you don’t need to cut out foods you enjoy or follow strictly regimented meal plans. Instead, you can improve the way you think and feel simply by being smarter as you regulate your food intake with these simple tips:

  • Start small
  • Keep it moderate
  • Fill up on fruits and vegetables
  • Stick to healthy carbs and whole grains
  • Eat more high quality protein
  • Consume less sugar and salt
  • Make sure to get more calcium

Starting Small

A great diet doesn’t happen all at once, it happens in small, manageable steps. Once you’ve turned a few small goals into habits, you can start to add on more healthy changes. Here are a few goals you might choose to get started with:

  • Switch from packaged and processed foods to fresh alternatives
  • Get better at reading and understanding labels to help you make better purchases
  • Cook more homemade meals
  • Think about how you feel after you eat and try to eat what makes you feel good
  • Get enough water and stay hydrated throughout the day

Moderation

When you eat in moderation, you consume only what your body needs. Moderation will leave you feeling satisfied after a meal rather than stuffed. It also includes eating a balanced diet with just enough carbs, protein, fat, minerals, fiber and vitamins.

With a moderate diet there is still room for the things you love, as long as you balance having a sugary treat in the evening with healthy meals during the day. It may seem like a good idea to simply ban unhealthy foods entirely from your diet, but this can lead to powerful cravings and possible binges. Instead, think about eating smaller portions of unhealthy foods and eating them less often.

Smaller portions are a good idea in general, as most Americans tend to consume larger portions than necessary of just about everything. With a bit of research, you can find out what portion sizes are appropriate for each food group.

Fruits and Vegetables

Eating fruits and vegetables throughout the day can help you manage your hunger without resorting to unhealthy snacks. This is because fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrients and low in calories. Five servings a day is the minimum recommendation but most people generally get about half as much as they should.

Carbs and Whole Grains

Filling your diet with healthy carbs and whole grains will give you long-lasting energy. Healthy carbs include fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. Unhealthy carbs that have been stripped of their nutrients include white rice, refined sugar, and white flour.

Protein

Protein is an important part of any healthy diet, but many of us don’t get the level of quality that we need from our protein. Here are tips for getting the best quality proteins:

  • Instead of snacking on chips, give yourself more energy by eating nuts and seeds
  • Get more of your protein content from chicken, fish, beans, nuts and soy rather than foods like pizza.

Sugar and Salt

Too much sugar in your diet can lead to unhealthy energy spikes, while too much salt can cause high blood pressure. Here are a few ways you can cut back on sugar and salt:

  • Don’t immediately cut out all sugar and salt from your diet, instead reduce the amounts slowly in order to give your taste buds time to adjust.
  • Watch out for low-fat meals that might be hiding a high sugar or sodium content.
  • Use fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned items.
  • Instead of relying on salt to flavor your food, use garlic, curry powder or other herbs and spices.
  • If you consider yourself to be a heavy soda drinker, try switching to flavored sparkling water to avoid the high amounts of sugar in most sodas.
  • Consider buying reduced-sodium and low-sugar items.

Calcium

Calcium helps build strong bones and regulate the heart. It is better to get most of your calcium from the food you eat, rather than relying too heavily on supplements. You can get calcium from dairy products, vegetables and beans. Things such as caffeine, alcohol and sugary drinks can deplete the calcium your body has stored up so limit your consumption of those as much as possible.

As you regulate your diet more conscientiously, you will begin to see the benefits in your life. You will feel stronger, better able to handle stress, and much more capable of enjoying each and every day.

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