It’s easy to understand why so many people are struggling—mentally and physically—after more than a year with limitations on our normal lifestyles. With so much ongoing uncertainty, a lot of people have resorted to less-than-healthy habits in an effort to soothe their angst. Unfortunately, these typically bad choices have added up in ways that can be harmful to your overall health.
Along with increases in anxiety, depression, addictions, and other problems, a recent report from the American Psychological Association found that 42% of the adults surveyed put on unwanted weight during the pandemic, with an average gain of 29 pounds!
We know that stress leads to elevated levels of cortisol which can increase appetite and fat storage, but my guess is the prevalence of pandemic weight gain has much more to do with the quantity and quality of what you have been eating to try and manage your stress or improve your moods.
That strategy, however, is unlikely to work well at all. And, in addition to packing on extra pounds, it’s probably making you feel worse.
Eating Your Way to Better Mental (and Physical) Health
Are you one of those stress eaters who uses food to try and calm your nerves? Or are you one of those people who feels depressed then craves carbohydrates because they boost serotonin—one of the brain’s happy chemicals? Whatever has been pushing you to reach for unhealthy fare, know that there are better and more effective ways to manage stress, anxiety, and depression.
If you’ve been following me, you know I believe that food is medicine, or it is poison. One of the biggest things I’ve been hearing from people who typically eat a healthy diet is that during the pandemic they have been gravitating toward foods don’t support the health of their brain and body. And that can lead to increased inflammation, imbalances, and other issues that contribute to mood swings, anxiousness, and unrelenting stress.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to swap out food that isn’t serving you well with beneficial and delicious food that does. I like to think of this in terms of abundance, not deprivation. There are so many nutritious foods available to us that support, rather than hurt, our health, moods, stress levels, and good decisions.
3 Ways to Swap Out Unhealthy Foods—and Feel Great!
When you eat a good balance of protein, carbs, veggies, fruits, and healthy fats, your cravings decrease for sugary, fried, or other foods that are devoid of nutrition. Plus, you feel a whole lot better physically and mentally!When you eat a good balance of protein, carbs, veggies, fruits, and healthy fats, your cravings decrease for sugary, fried, or other foods that are devoid of nutrition. Plus, you feel a whole lot better physically and mentally! Click To Tweet
Here are some great tips and food swaps that are easy to implement and will make your kitchen a healthier place to be:
- Instead of going to your favorite coffee shop for a high-calorie, jitters-inducing flavored latte, make this simple and tasty tea latte at home:
- Steam some almond milk and add a green chai tea bag along with a few drops of cinnamon-flavored stevia.
- If you’re strictly a coffee drinker, replace half-and-half with some coconut milk—not only is it better for you, but it’s also got a great flavor too! And cut down to half-caf to reduce anxiousness. I did this and I feel energized in the morning, not on edge like I used to.
- Rather than nosh on pastries, cookies, or candy—which cause your blood sugar levels to spike and plummet (making you crave even more sugar), make these satisfying treats instead:
- Spread almond butter on half an apple or a coconut wrap.
- Chop up some dark chocolate (70% cocoa is best) and mix it with a quarter-cup of raw, unsalted nuts.
- If you’ve got a serious chocolate craving going on, choose to have the decadent, but sugar-free, Brain in Love chocolate bar, instead of the high-calorie, high-glycemic ones in the candy aisle.
- Mid-afternoon snacks can make or break a healthy eating plan, so rather than reaching for the chips, swap them out for enjoyable snacks like these:
- Chop up some veggies—or better yet, keep them ready in your fridge—and dip them in hummus or mashed avocados.
- Another easy-to-make treat that’s a fan favorite in our household is my recipe for Stay Sharp Pizza Snacks, and is a great alternative to carb-laden junk food.
The Benefits of Simple Changes
When thinking about your main meals of the day, always keep in mind that the quality of the calories you eat really matters—not just for weight management, but for your overall physical and mental health. By replacing simple carbs, processed foods, and unhealthy fats with wholesome foods like lean protein, low-glycemic carbs, healthy fats, and plenty of fresh produce, you will find that with consistency:
- Your body will feel better.
- Your energy will increase.
- Your moods will be more stable.
- You’ll be able to stay calmer and less stressed.
Eating in this healthful and balanced way has made all the difference in the world to my well-being and to that of my family. And I want the same for you! Over the course of my career, I’ve written several cookbooks and created more than 500 recipes, many of which you can access on my website.
For a sweet treat without the sugar, order the Brain in Love chocolate bar. And to help calm stress and promote more positive moods, try Happy Saffron Plus. Want 21% off? Enter TANA21 at checkout. It’s that easy!
If you’re struggling and need professional help, Amen Clinics is here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.