Better meals = better feels

Improving your nutrition is heaps easier than you think, and can make a real difference to your mental health. 

What we put into our bodies has a big effect on our minds. Did you know that eating well can give you more energy, help you sleep and sharpen your focus?

If you’ve been putting less effort into food, it might be it might be a sign that you're not travelling as well as you'd like.

A few simple changes to what you eat can make a real difference to your headspace. Find out how food influences your mood, and some easy ways build up healthy habits.

How food affects your headspace

Experts are learning that nutrition and mental wellbeing are closely linked. For instance, if you’ve been feeling low or lethargic, eating more healthily could give you more energy.

Changing your food habits can also help you concentrate. When we’re hungry our attention spans flag and we tend to get distracted more easily. Better nutrition ­can really improve your ability to focus on study or work. One easy way to sharpen your mind throughout the day is to eat a decent breakfast in the morning, like fruit with muesli or avo and egg on wholemeal toast.

eggs avocado bread

When we’re properly nourished, it’s also a lot easier to do other things that support a healthy headspace, like staying active and sleeping well.

Start with bite-sized changes

In our world of fad diets and #instaworthy feasts it’s to easy feel a lot of pressure around food. But we don’t have to change all of our habits overnight, or “cut out” everything we like. That kind of pressure isn’t just stressful – it’s demotivating.

The best way to make a change is to start small and stick to it. Eat a piece of fruit a day instead of a snack, or add some etxra veggies to your favourite meal. As this builds up, you could be surprised at how quickly you notice an impact on how you feel.

The important thing is to take the first step and acknowledge yourself for it: you’re doing a really cool thing. Once your new habit it is part of your day-to-day life, it’ll be easier to start looking towards building other changes.

Find inspiration

Not sure what to make? There are heaps of simple, delicious recipes online. For meals that aren’t too complicated and won’t cost a fortune, try the ABC health portal or the BBC good guide’s student recipes. Websites like Pinterest can be a great place to find cool food ideas and recipes, too.

Just remember not to worry if something doesn’t end up looking exactly like the picture – a lot of food images are photoshopped to look fancier. In the end, it’s how it tastes and the nutritional value that counts!

dinner

It also might not be the best idea to jump from 2 minute noodles to a 12-course degustation. If you’re learning an instrument, it’s good to start with a song you enjoy that isn’t too complicated to play. The same goes with cooking – find a simple, healthy meal you like and give it a try.

Snack smarter

Everyone loves a snack now and then. But sometimes when we’re stressed we can go straight to foods that aren’t that healthy for us. This is a normal human reaction, but it doesn’t always help us in the long run.

If you’re feeling stressed, rather than going to food for comfort, it’s worth trying something that will really support you. You could do some meditation or go for a walk. When you do buy snacks, you might like to try buying more fruit or nuts and see how you find them – they’re often more interesting to eat anyway.

Of course, things don’t always go to plan. If you slip up, it’s important not to beat yourself up about it. Congratulate yourself for noticing, and get ready to try to again next time.

You can find out more about food and your mood here. If food is something you’re struggling with in any way, have a chat to a doctor or get in touch with your local headspace centre.