There are simple ways to improve your diet and your brain chemistry even during the hectic holiday season. It may seem impossible to avoid eggnog and sugar cookies, but your mood and metabolism will improve when you swap them for something more nutritious (and delicious). We have some simple tips to help you feel your best during the holidays.
Proteins are the building blocks of life and essential for optimal brain chemistry. You need protein in your diet to help your body repair cells and make new ones. Protein-rich foods contain amino acid chains, which are the precursors to neurotransmitters.
Our clinicians know that adding in more protein and eliminating foods may feel like a challenge. Eliminating foods can cause panic and stress for most people, but what they fail to realize is it enhances their health. When you remove foods that are hurting your health, it means that you are getting rid of foods that are literally weighing you down. These foods are inflammatory, contain toxins or allergens, which fog your brain and make you feel heavier. When you improve your diet by eating foods that help your health, you give your body and brain the chance to become stronger and more clear. Another great benefit is your energy can increase, which in turn helps your mood and sleep become more consistent and provides overall support to balance the body.
Guidelines to Improve Your Diet
Here are some basic guidelines for foods that you should be eating more of in your diet. Be sure to check with your practitioner to see if your histamine levels are high (indicative of a food allergy) and any additional information on foods to avoid or increase in your diet.
- Lean, Hormone Free Meats:
- Salmon, sardines, beef, chicken, turkey, bison, elk, venison
- *Beef should be exclusively grass fed or grass finished (not grain fed)
- Healthy Fats:
- Cold pressed oils like olive and sesame, coconut oil, seeds, flax, fish oils, nuts, avocados
- Asparagus, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, chard, green beans, okra, spinach, summer squash, tomato, turnip, zucchini
- Whole Grains and Complex Carbohydrates:
- Starchy tubers (sweet potatoes, root vegetables), rice, quinoa, gluten-free oats, amaranth, pure buckwheat, pumpkin, winter squash, beans such as chickpeas, pintos, black, navy or kidney beans, and legumes like lentils and peas
- Fruit in moderation:
- Apples, apricots, berries, cantaloupe, cherries, grapefruit, grapes, kiwi, mango, melon, peaches, plums, starfruit, watermelon
- Walnuts (they are high in Omega-6), almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, flax
- 1/2 body weight in ounces is minimum
- Add a berry, lemon, cucumber slice, or mint to give it flavor
Foods You’re to Minimize or Eliminate
- Sugar and Sweeteners:
- Sugar, corn sugar, HFCS, fructose, aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, sorbitol, or xylitol
- Avoid food dyes, additives, nitrates, MSG, BHA, BHT, TBHQ, bromates
- Hydrogenated Oils:
- Partially hydrogenated oils, trans fats
- Flours, sugar, dairy
Common Food Allergens
- Wheat, spelt, rye, barley, kamut, triticale
- Milk, dairy, lactose, lactalbumin, whey
- Soy, corn, peanuts
- Including tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers
Helpful Hints Improve Your Diet and Brain Chemistry
Include protein in all meals and snacks to increase amino acid availability. This will help to help curb cravings for carbohydrates and sugar, plus give your metabolism the building blocks it needs to work it’s best during the busy holiday season.
For example, have one egg with gluten-free oat and handful of strawberries and teaspoon of flax seeds for breakfast.
For a snack, have an apple with pumpkin seeds or almonds or sun-butter (unsweetened).
Consider prepared hard-boiled eggs with carrot sticks for a snack on-the-go.
- Drink most of your fluids BETWEEN meals to increase absorption of nutrients from food.
- Eat mindfully. Avoid using screens while eating.
- Eat every 2-4 hours:
- Eat before long strenuous activity and within 45 minutes of exercise.
- Choose snacks with protein and fiber:
- Some examples of snacks include:
- banana with hazelnut spread
- hummus and carrot sticks
- hard-boiled egg with veggie sticks
- pumpkin puree with almonds and cinnamon
- Some examples of snacks include:
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Emily Roberts MA, LPC is the clinical therapist for the Neurogistics Children’s Program. She has worked with Neurogistics for over a decade. Emily is also an award-winning author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Becoming Who You Are, Psychotherapist, TV & Media Contributor, educational speaker and parenting consultant. Express Yourself is available at bookstores nationwide and on Amazon. To learn more about Emily click here.
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