With winter rapidly approaching, we are spending more more time inside with less exposure to natural light. Some may even experience a change in their circadian rhythm.
Many of us find ourselves struggling with low moods, cravings for starchy and sugary foods, lack of concentration and low energy. Luckily, we can lessen the effects of the seasonal transition with a few diet and lifestyle changes.
These are my mood boosting tips to beat those winter blues:
1. Enjoy the good fats.
Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to play a key role in mood so make sure you get your daily dose. Eat 2-3 portions (120-140g) of oily fish (wild salmon, mackerel, herring, fresh tuna) each week along with nuts & seeds rich in these fats (pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds).
2. Cut out the depressants!
Avoid excessive alcohol consumption as it can act as a depressant and make sure you have days without alcohol every wee
3. Find balance in blood sugars
Maintain balanced blood sugar by avoiding sugary foods. If you find it hard to say no to your cravings, especially when you’re short on time, spending a few hours one afternoon or evening preparing food for the week. You are less likely to consume those sugary foods if you have low sugar, well-balanced meals and snacks at your fingertips.
My food prep days often involve a few of the following:
· Roasting several portions of root or Mediterranean vegetables for warm salads and snacks with a nourishing dip such as hummus or beetroot walnut hummus.
· Boiling a few eggs to keep in the fridge for a quick & easy protein fix.
· Roasting a whole organic chicken for stews, curries and warm salads. You can also use the carcass to boil up a warming and gut-healing bone broth.
· Baking a couple portions of salmon.
· Cooking a big stew, casserole or curry to make a few meals for the week.
Every time you cook, make extra portions and either pack them up for lunch the next day or stock up your freezer for the weeks ahead. One of my favourites for batch cooking is a vegetarian chili. (see my recipe below.)
- Curb the 3rd cup of coffee
Avoid too much caffeine as this can also affect your blood sugar, leaving you feeling irritable and lacking energy. 1-2 cups of coffee per day or 2-3 cups of tea is plenty.
- Stock up the essentials.
Folate, magnesium and vitamin B12 have also been shown to affect mood, so fill your plates and bowls with foods packed with these nutrients – whole grains (brown rice, whole oats, quinoa, brown pasta, etc), pulses, eggs, nuts, dried apricots and even a couple of squares of 70% dark chocolate.
In addition to eating a well balanced diet it’s always good to stay social – movie, box set or game nights with friends are a great winter social activity. And, of course, do some cardiovascular exercise, at least 30 minutes three times each week. Make sure you are out of breath during these exercise sessions to ensure you are benefiting from the brain’s ‘feel good’ hormones – endorphins.
Heat in a large stock pot over medium heat:
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped red peppers
1 cup chopped green peppers
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
Cook while stirring frequently until the onions are golden, about 10-15 minutes.
1-2 fresh green chilies depending on how hot you like your food
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric powder
Cook while stirring for 2 minutes or until fragrant.
800g (2 tins) chopped tomatoes
400g tin kidney beans (drained & rinsed)
400g tin cannellini beans (drained & rinsed)
400g tin black beans (drained & rinsed)
1 cup (250 ml) tomato juice
salt to taste
Bring the pot to the boil and then reduce the heat to simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally and add water or tomato juice as needed if the chili is becoming too dry. At this point, you may want to add a little more seasoning depending on your tastes.
Brown rice or sourdough bread
Guacamole (or mashed avocado)
Plain organic yogurt
Grated organic cheddar cheese