Did you know that there are certain things you can eat throughout the day to keep your blood sugar levels even and thus improve your mood?
While there is always room for the occasional warm cookie, these six good eating habits will boost both your health and your mood for the long haul.
1. Sustain a Good Mood: Grab Your Grains
Eating breads or cereals made from whole grains will keep a smile on your face longer than eating refined carbs such as white bread, flour tortillas, or white rice. “With whole grains, the glucose gets introduced into your bloodstream more smoothly, rather than dumping it all at once,” says Thayer. The same goes for getting your fruit from the actual fruit, and not juice. An apple, for example, has filling, lasting fiber, while apple juice has none. Plus, that juice also has a lot more sugar and calories.
2. Avoid a Mood Crash: Don’t Skip Breakfast
Your first meal of the day is a big kick-start of glucose to your system so your brain can wake up and take on the day. If you skip it, though, you’ll be feeling as flat as a pancake by mid-morning. Your breakfast doesn’t have to be big, fancy, or even breakfast-y.
If you like cereal, don’t forget the milk: Combining whole-grain cereal with skim milk gives you both carbs for energy and protein for endurance. A great to-go option: a protein-rich cheese, turkey, or peanut butter sandwich. And some breakfast is better than no breakfast. “Eat a banana, some granola bars, something healthy that you can grab,” says Teresa Beach, a registered dietitian at Sanford Medical Center in Sioux Falls, S.D. Even better: combine that carb-rich banana with a little peanut butter for a protein boost.
3. Beat the I-Ate-Too-Much Blues: Eat Healthy Snacks
If you’re going more than four hours between meals, you’ll need a little fuel to keep you going. So consider a snack maybe in the late morning or after school. Reasonably sized healthy snacks actually help you avoid scarfing down too much at meals. “You don’t want to get into a situation where you get over-hungry,” says Linda Bartholomay, a licensed registered dietitian at Sanford Health in Fargo, N.D. “When we get over-hungry, we eat really fast and overstuff ourselves, so that by the time you realize you’re not hungry anymore, you’ve already eaten way too much.”
Just don’t leave your snack choice up to what you find in a vending machine. Keep a few granola bars in your backpack, or some baggies with half-cup servings of trail mix. Again, that carb+protein combo — like cereal and nuts, crackers and string cheese, or granola on top of yogurt — will keep your stomach satisfied and your energy up. “If you’re going to have baby carrots, dip them in yogurt or peanut butter,” says Beach. That way you won’t be starving again an hour later.
4. Curb a Crabby Mood: Chug Water
Sometimes when we think we’re hungry, we’re really just thirsty. Being a little dehydrated can make you feel empty, headache-y, and definitely crabby. If it’s only been an hour or two since you had food, drink a glass of water before you think about a snack.
5. Stave off Depression: Eat a Lot of Colors
Getting enough B vitamins and vitamin D has been shown to help cut some people’s risk of depression. Plus, the foods B and D vitamins are a part of also offer healthy carb energy. To get your B vitamins, think rainbow colors when you eat:
- Red, blue, and purple berries
- Orange carrots, squash, or peaches
- Dark green vegetables such as broccoli or romaine (but not iceberg) lettuce
You can get vitamin D from milk and and a few types of fish such as salmon and tuna. (Bonus: Fish is also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help keep your brain moving fast.)
6. Feeling Blah or Bored? Rate Your Cravings
Can’t stop thinking about warm cookies? Rate your hunger from one to 10, with 10 being stomach-rumbling pangs. If you’re only at five and want that cookie “just because,” be honest with yourself. Are you eating to put off schoolwork? Or are you eating to feel better about something stressful?
Have a snack back-up plan to use as a distraction when you want to eat “just because.” For instance, have a few favorite songs ready to listen to, or a quick route mapped to walk around the block.
If your craving doesn’t go away? Give in, but just a little, so you can satisfy it with no regrets. “If you eat the whole candy bar, the guilt afterward will just make you feel worse,” says Bartholomay. “It’s better to have a small amount of what you’re craving, and then not beat yourself up about it.”
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