A few years ago I was running my business and doing freelance work for my old employer as well as having two small children, one of whom wasn’t in school yet. I was spread too thin, forever doing two or three things at a time and honestly not doing any of them properly. The result was feeling overwhelmed and anxious, lacking patience and still being tired even after nine hours sleep.
Enough was enough and I made some changes to my life, which included going back to yoga, taking up running and practicing mindfulness, but I also knew that my diet was really important. As a Nutritional Therapist my diet was pretty good anyway, but as with most people there is always room for improvement!
If you’re under stress or suffer from depression or anxiety one of the most important things you can do is keep your blood sugar levels stable. This makes sense when you think that blood sugar levels are closely tied to our fight or flight response, raising when we think stressful thoughts and crashing when a stressful situation or period of time is over. Regularly high blood sugars have been linked with anxiety and fluctuating blood sugars with depression.
In order to prepare our bodies and minds to deal with this fight or flight response better we can eat in a way that keeps our blood sugars stable, rather than adding to the problem by eating foods that also cause spikes and drops.
So, start to reduce your caffeine and sugar, both of which cause blood sugar spikes and inevitable drops. Remember breakfast cereal, fruit juice, cereal bars, fruit yoghurt and other foods that are advertised as healthy can be really high in sugar. And on the caffeine side it’s not just coffee – tea, chocolate and of course energy drinks have a lot of caffeine too. The best way to reduce sugar is to halve the amount you are currently eating and then a week later halve it again so that you phase it out slowly. The same with caffeine – if you’re drinking six caffeinated drinks a day cut it down to five for a week, then four, etc. This avoids any withdrawal effects that leave you feeling worse instead of better.
Instead of cereal, start the day with a decent breakfast, ideally within an hour of waking, and always containing some protein. Then eat roughly every three hours, with no big gaps that allow blood glucose to drop. All of your meals and snacks should contain some protein, good fats and vegetables as well as some complex carbohydrates such as nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, oats and rice.
- Breakfast: Eggs are a great option with mushrooms and tomatoes, as is an oat based breakfast like porridge with added nuts and seeds for protein
- Morning Snack: Keep it simple and portable with an apple or pear and a handful of walnuts or pumpkin seeds
- Lunch: Tinned Mackerel or Sardines are great with salad, or chicken with avocado and rocket on a wholemeal wrap or just leftovers of last night’s dinner
- Afternoon Snack: I like a couple of oat cakes with no added sugar peanut butter or some chopped vegetables dipped in houmous
- Dinner: Stick with quick options like grilled salmon or chicken spread with shop bought pesto and grilled with lots of steamed vegetables or an omelette with chopped onions, peppers and mushrooms with a big salad.
Next time I’ll talk more about the importance of protein and fats for our mental health and which are the right ones to choose.
Take charge of your health….
Joanne Crovini is a Nutritional Therapist providing personalized individual plans and tailored well being initiatives for businesses. Joanne has six years experience of helping clients on the road to wellness using a person-centred approach to make changes in both diet and lifestyle. Joanne has delivered workshops to various organisations and is a residential Nutritional Therapist at Trimmer You Boot Camp.
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