Food & Mood Presentation

In July, I had the privilege to present at the premier annual convention for top fitness and nutrition professionals, IDEA World. My 2-hour session was titled, “Food as Medicine: Meals for Mental Health.” I had such an amazing time sharing how food can support mental health, and am still glowing from the energy of being in a room full of health professionals who are excited to help others reach their wellness goals. Here are 28 practical tips from the session. Let me know which ones appeal to you most!

  1. SAD leads to SAD. The first SAD = the Standard American Diet. The second SAD = stress, anxiety, and depression.
  2. Your cultural foods are mental health
  3. It’s the foods, eaten in a pattern, over time, that helps or hurts.
  4. Heart health is brain health
  1. Canned beans are always ready
  2. Frozen fruits and veggies are always in season
  3. 10-minute whole grains are a weeknight game changer. Think brown rice, farro, barley, whole grain couscous
Start small with smart swaps
  1. Salty snack: Nuts instead of chips
  2. Sweet treat: Nice cream instead of ice cream
  3. Carbs: 50/50 wg/refined vs 100% refined
Eat Your Hydration
  1. Try sprinkling chili powder, salt, and lime juice on watermelon for hydrating water, potassium, and sodium, and a sweet treat with zero added sugars.
  2. If it’s crisp, there’s water inside. Go for cucumbers, bell peppers, and celery.
  3. If it’s juicy, there’s water inside. Enjoy citrus, zucchini, and tomatoes.
Eat More Plants
  1. Replace part or all of ground meat with walnut crumbles and black beans. One survey found that more than 80% of Americans were open to eating and making meatless dishes, especially if the taste and texture was similar to meat dishes. Think tacos, chili, pasta sauce
  2. Chop meat smaller and flavorful like a condiment
  3. Start your plate or meal with plants with a bed of leafy greens
Meal Prep
  1. Batch-cook whole grains and beans to use all week – they also freeze wel. Use them in a grains & greens salad, grain bowl, or a bean chili. 
  2. Smoothie prep is simple. Add all your favorite ingredients, except the liquid, into freezer-safe containers to enjoy any time.
  3. When life gets busy, it’s great to have make-ahead egg muffin frittatas, hard-boiled eggs, or breakfast sandwiches on hand. They’re also a great way to use up veggies. Make it once, eat all week.
Beyond Breakfast
  1. Breakfast foods tend to be healthy and convenient, so take that principle and break the rules a little and enjoy typical breakfast foods anytime of day.
  2. Enjoy eggs pre or post-workout in snacks and meals for their easy-prep, high-quality protein, and other nutrients important for lifelong health. Nearly half of an egg’s protein and most of its vitamins and minerals are found in the yolk. So eat the whole egg.
  3. Try blending up a banana, scoop of wild blueberries, soy milk, protein powder, ½ tsp of vanilla, and a slice of fresh ginger. Post-workout, you might add an optional pinch of salt.
Basic, but good
  1. Pack healthy snacks so you’re never without. Nuts and dried fruit are perfect for this – yes, it’s basic, but has personally saved me on more than one occasion!
  2. Eat colorful fruits and veggies every day. Get your polyphenol antioxidants!
  3. Drink water in the morning. Your brain has been hard at work clearing out metabolic waste all night and it’s thirsty


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