Most people know that what you eat directly impacts your physical health. But you may not realize that the foods you choose to eat can also significantly impact your mental health and performance. The right foods can help improve your mood, boost energy levels, and increase productivity. If you’re looking for simple ways to improve your mental health and performance, here are nine eating strategies that Deer Park, Illinois expert T.J. Walker recommends to get you started.
1. Start Your Day With Protein
There’s a reason breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Eating breakfast is a vital component of healthy eating, but T.J. Walker believes it’s also essential to consider what you’re eating.
Enjoying protein in the morning helps jumpstart your metabolism and provides sustained energy throughout the day. Protein also helps keep you full, making you less likely to snack on unhealthy foods. It also helps maintain muscle mass and provides essential nutrients for cognitive function and energy production.
2. Shop the Outside Aisles of the Grocery Store
In almost every grocery store, you will find the healthiest options on the outer aisles. The produce, meat, and dairy sections line the outer rim, whereas the expansive center aisles are filled almost entirely with processed food.
While these foods may be convenient and might even be advertised as health foods, they are not. You can find all you need to maintain a healthy diet in the outer aisles.
3. Eat More Healthy Fats
Healthy fats are an important part of a balanced diet. Healthy fats play a vital role in maintaining overall health. They help promote satiety, support cognitive function, and improve energy levels. Additionally, healthy fats are essential for absorbing specific vitamins and minerals. They also help keep your skin healthy and improve joint function.
Adding Healthy Fats To Your Diet
Adding healthy fats to every meal is easier than you think. Start by simply replacing unhealthy fats with healthy alternatives. Olive oil, avocado, and nuts are all great sources of healthy fats. T.J. Walker also recommends eating more fish, such as salmon, tuna, and sardines, to get your omega-3 fatty acids.
4. Drink Plenty of Water
Staying hydrated is essential for optimal health. Drinking enough water helps improve energy levels, supports cognitive function, and aids digestion. It also helps flush out toxins, keeping your body healthy.
The recommended daily water intake is eight 8-ounce glasses or about 2 liters. However, you may need more or less depending on your activity level, age, and climate.
Tips for Drinking More H20
Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated. If you’re struggling to drink enough water, try carrying a reusable water bottle with you or adding some flavor to your water with lemon or cucumber slices. You can also try drinking herbal tea or sparkling water for variety.
5. Limit processed and sugary foods
The closer food is to its natural state, the healthier it usually is. Processed and sugary foods are often high in calories and low in nutrients. They can also lead to weight gain, blood sugar spikes, and energy crashes.
T.J. Walker recommends limiting processed and sugary foods to maintain a healthy diet. Instead, focus on eating whole, unprocessed foods rich in nutrients. These include fruits, vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, and whole grains.
Food Craving Fixes
Food cravings can make healthy eating difficult. When trying to eat more healthfully, it’s crucial to plan what to eat when those cravings strike. When you’re in the mood for chocolate, reach for a dark chocolate bar with at least 70% cacao. Or, if you’re craving something salty, try roasted seaweed snacks instead of potato chips.
6. Choose Healthy Restaurants
Committing to a healthier diet doesn’t mean you have to give up eating out entirely. When choosing a restaurant, look for options that promote healthy eating, local and seasonal produce, and sustainable seafood. These are usually good indicators that the restaurant is focused on providing healthy, high-quality dishes.
Some of TJ Walker’s favorite healthy restaurants in the Deer Park, Illinois area, include Sweetgreen and Spirit Elephant.
7. Make Time for Meal Planning and Prep
Meal planning and prep can help you save time ad sanity when trying to eat more healthfully. Planning ensures that you always have nutrient-rich options and enables you to avoid unhealthy convenience foods.
To start meal planning, try batch cooking a few of your favorite healthy recipes. This way, you’ll always have something healthy to eat when you’re short on time or not feeling motivated to cook. Invest in reusable containers to store your food, and label them with the date and contents.
Healthy Snack Options
Healthy snacks are essential for maintaining energy levels and preventing overeating. When choosing snacks, look for options that are high in protein and fiber and low in sugar. Hard-boiled eggs, fruits and vegetables with hummus, and yogurt with nuts and fruit are all great options.
8. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is essential for good health. It helps improve mood, cognitive function, and physical performance. It also supports a healthy immune system and helps reduce stress levels. Most people need 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, you can try a few things. First, establish a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed and create a relaxing wind-down routine to help you ease into sleep. You can also try sleeping in a dark, cool room and using a noise machine or earplugs to block distractions.
9. Manage Stress Levels
Chronic stress can take a toll on your mental and physical health. It can lead to anxiety, depression, and sleep problems. It can also increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other health conditions.
There are a few things you can do to manage stress levels. First, try to identify the sources of your stress and see if there are any ways to eliminate or reduce them. If not, try to find healthy coping mechanisms such as exercise, meditation, and journaling. Lastly, ensure you’re getting enough sleep and taking care of yourself in other ways.
Maintaining a healthy diet can be difficult, but it’s vital for your mental and physical well-being. Whether you’re hoping to improve your mood, cognitive function, or physical performance, these simple tips can help you make progress. Just remember to be patient and consistent, and don’t hesitate to ask for help when needed.