Eating healthily can be hard. But eating foods with healthy vitamins, minerals and a balance of carbohydrates, proteins and fats gives your brain and your body what they need to help you feel well.
If you're struggling to feel motivated to eat a well balanced diet, you've got a mental health problem that means you don't have time to think about what you're eating or don't know how to afford to eat well on a budget here are some tips on how to eat well for your mental health.
If you think you can't find enough time during the day to eat well, focus on having a good breakfast. Eating breakfast is important to give your brain the fuel it needs and evidence shows that eating breakfast has a directly beneficial impact on performance and productivity throughout the day, which means you can feel more content.
Eat something which releases energy slowly, such as oats, wholegrain bread and cereals and your blood sugar levels should remain steady throughout the day which should prevent dips in mood and energy. Yoghurt with fruit, nuts and seeds can give your brain the healthy proteins and fats it needs to help your memory and your mood.
Over a day, keep in mind a rainbow of colours and try to eat some foods which are a colour from across the spectrum - maybe red berries on your golden oats breakfast cereal and purple cabbage in your green salad at lunch.
Don't worry if you can't eat every colour every day, but trying to eat as many rainbow colours as you can each day helps you to stay mindful while eating, which can give your brain a break from thinking about work or life, which is good for your mental health. Different colour foods also contain different vitamins and minerals which are good for your brain and body.
Eating healthily does not need to mean spending a lot of money on expensive organic, low-sugar, handmade superfoods. You can still eat well on a budget. Shop seasonally for fruit and vegetables and buy ingredients like pasta, rice and beans in bulk as dried goods. Buy fewer items such as fizzy drinks, crisps or ice creams which can be expensive and aren’t very healthy either. Cooking and eating together with friends, flatmates or family is a good way to share the costs and it also gives you the benefit of connecting with others which can help your mental wellbeing.
Fruit and vegetables are a good source of vitamins and minerals which help your brain function, and fibre which is important for healthy digestion and good gut health, which can affect your mental health. Adding more fruit and veg to your diet boosts your mood and emotional wellbeing according to researchers from the University of Leeds and University of York who found that people reported feeling happier, more purposeful and less anxious when they ate more fruit and veg.
Healthy eating is a lot about balance and finding the right balance of fruit and vegetables, carbohydrates, fats and proteins to eat in a day can be a little easier when you understand what each element plays in keeping your body and mind healthy. The NHS Eat Well Guide explains more.
Try to fit a short bit of activity into your daily routine after you eat a meal. After breakfast think about how you could perhaps cycle to work instead of driving, or walk to the next bus stop. Once you’ve eaten lunch, go for a walk in the rest of your lunch break from work. Following your afternoon snack when you finish work how could you fit in time to join a local craft course or take a yoga class? And when you’ve eaten dinner, try to stand at the sink and wash up your dishes instead of loading them into the dishwasher before you head to the sofa to watch TV.