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Food impacts mood: How to make healthy choices

Your diet can affect your mental wellbeing, so making small changes can add up to make a big difference. Having a wide variety in your diet is the key to a healthier and happier lifestyle - dietitian Bari Stricoff and author of Forking Wellness says, 'Add to your diet, rather than focusing on what you should take away. When it comes to brain health, the more diversity in your diet, the greater range of nutrients you get in.' Read on to find out how your dietary choices can help boost everything from memory to mood.

  1. The wonders of wholegrain

    We all know about wholegrain products and see them on the supermarket shelves, but do you feel yourself constantly opting for the 'white' option, whether it's because white basmati rice is easier to make, or because the kids don't like the taste of brown bread? Here's why you should shake it up and go for wholegrain options.

    Wholegrains are brilliant for slow-energy release, keeping your brain alert for longer throughout the day. Trial brown rice in this delicious lemon grilled chicken with herby rice, or if you're going down the baking route try our wholemeal courgette and lemon muffinsPorridge with fruit toppers is the perfect way to get your day started, and keep you energised for longer.

    It can even be as simple as swapping white bread for the wholemeal option, so next time you make a quick lunch, try out these sweetcorn and courgette frittata sandwiches with wholemeal bread.

    The wonders of wholegrain
  2. Energising eggs

    Perhaps the most versatile ingredient you can have in your storecupboard, eggs can really do it all. Get your day started right with a high-protein brekkie with this simple sardines and scrambled eggs with spicy tomatoes, which can be whipped up in no time.

    Eggs offer a variety of vitamins, including B12 (which supports the reduction of tiredness), B5 (which supports normal mental performance) and B2 (which helps you get energy). An egg-based meal is perfect for when you need a lunchtime pick-me-up, like this quick pea and potato frittata – it's perfect for saving as leftovers and is great at any time of the day, hot or cold.

    If you fancy indulging for dinner, but want to keep it healthy, why not opt for this creamy broccoli and bacon carbonara? Beaten eggs combine with grated pecorino to make a creamy sauce for a simple, low-cost dinner.

    If you want to find out more info about eggs, their varieties and how to prepare them, you can check out our handy article here.

    Energising eggs
  3. Terrific tinned salmon

    Tinned salmon can often be overlooked in favour of its fresh fillet counterpart, but don't let that put you off stocking your storecupboard with a few tins of this versatile source of protein.

    Great value and a source of essential fatty acids like omega-3, tinned salmon contributes to the maintenance of normal brain function* and can also help keep your heart healthy.

    Great for clearing out this storecupboard, this delicious salmon hash recipe is ideal for whipping up a quick and easy brunch – just flake the tinned salmon through the cubed potatoes and veg for a nutritional meal that will keep you fuller for longer.

    Maybe you fancy a change for your midweek supper, why not give these giant salmon fishcakes a go? A light dinner time option that's made fresh and zesty with lemon juice, freshly chopped dill and Dijon mustard, this recipe goes to show how much you can do with tinned salmon!

     *The beneficial effect is obtained with a daily intake of 250mg omega-3 fatty acid; 100g tinned salmon contains 600g omega-3 fatty acid.

    Terrific tinned salmon
  4. Go nuts for nuts!

    Great for snacking on, for some energy before a workout or even adding to your dessert for a satisfying crunch, nuts are ideal for a healthy addition to your meals. They’re often a source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps protect cells from oxidative stress – hazelnuts, almonds, pecans and Brazil nuts are all rich vitamin E sources.

    Pesto is a versatile sauce and can be made to your liking, even using different fresh herbs to change the flavour. If you fancy going for the traditional Italian version with pine nuts, this is your go-to, with a smooth, buttery taste. Or maybe you fancy using walnuts instead for an earthier, milder taste? If so, then this basil and walnut pesto is the one for you.

    Nuts and Asian cuisine go hand-in-hand, and they can add a great depth of flavour to your dishes. Whether it's blended peanuts being the star of the show in a turkey satay stir-fry, or chopped cashews garnishing this speedy veggie noodle stir-fry, they’re a super-easy way to up your vitamins and get the delicious benefits all at once.

    Go nuts for nuts!
  5. Refreshingly good yogurt

    Whether it's the basis of your breakfast, you're finishing off a dish with a light drizzling or you need something to cool off from your Mexican tacos, yogurt can have a variety of roles in meals throughout the day. Live yogurt naturally contains probiotics, known to encourage good gut health, which in turn is linked to lower anxiety and stress levels.

    If you're looking for some new breakfast inspiration, yogurt bowls are a great place to start. Tasty and loaded with fresh fruit, they're a super way to get your day started off right: check out this fruit smoothie breakfast bowl for a feel-good, nutritious brekkie that's a real treat to eat!

    Yogurt can end up being the perfect addition to your savoury dishes. Doesn't matter if you're dolloping, drizzling or dipping, it's quick and easy to make a cooling yogurt accompaniment – try this easy pork souvlaki with tzatziki for a satisfying Greek fakeaway. Fantastic to finish off savoury meals, yogurt is perfect in cuisines with plenty of spice in the mix – take a look at these spicy Mexican tacos, or even these harissa-roasted root veggies. All you need is a drizzle to take the edge off!

    Refreshingly good yogurt
  6. Super spinach

    Super spinach, a source of iron and high in protein, is incredibly versatile and can be added to savoury dishes for a nutritional boost. Keep it raw and throw it into a salad for some added crunch, sautée for some wilted spinach that's great for tossing through pasta, or even just add it into a traybake for some added greens.

    Turn your protein intake up a notch by adding spinach to your smoothies. Take a look at this morning zinger breakfast smoothie is an easy way to get your veggies in right from the start of the day and will help get your day started on the right tracks.

    If you want something quick and healthy on the dinner table, then this speedy mushroom spaghetti is the one for you. Stirring spinach through the hot spaghetti and mushroom mixture allows the spinach to keep some of its structure rather than reducing right down, keeping it juicy and letting you enjoy the texture too.

    If you're not sure what to make for dinner and you want to use up that bag of spinach, look no further than this creamy spinach chicken – perfect for clearing out the storecupboard and a healthy option too!

    Super spinach