7 Good Mood Foods for Your Lunch Box
Plus: Mel’s weekly recipe pick: Blueberry Vanilla Chia Pudding
Got an everlasting case of the “Mondays”? What you eat throughout your day can really make a difference in your mood. This is why it’s so important to pack what I call a healthy food environment, otherwise you’ll be tempted to reach for cookies, chips or any other highly processed foods that may be hanging out in the office junk food dispenser (aka: vending machine) or lunch room.
The key is to pack your lunch box with not only lunch, but also one or two Earthfood-rich snacks in case you get hungry before quitting time.
See if you can pack some of these good mood foods in tomorrow’s lunch:
Fermented veggies are rich in healthy bacteria (probiotics)—which studies suggest may help reduce negative thoughts and improve our state of mind. They include: cabbage (sauerkraut), kimchi (a spicy Korean dish made of cabbage, radish, garlic and spices), beets, carrots, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cucumbers, green beans, peppers, radishes, garlic, and broccoli.
Ideas: Mix one or two tablespoons in tuna, egg or garden salads. Try my easy recipe for Lentil Quinoa Kimchi Salad!
Brands: Farmhouse Cultures, Cleveland Kraut, Wake Robin
Canned salmon and tuna
Salmon and tuna are both good mood foods with serious bragging rights. They are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which promote a healthier brain and mental state.
Ideas: Mix with mashed avocado and serve with raw veggies or serve on top of a leafy green salad. Try my Cranberry Apple Tuna Salad Jar!
Brands that test for mercury and PCBs and take measures to control for these contaminants: Wild Planet; Safe Catch; Henry & Lisa’s
Blueberries are high in antioxidants called flavonoids, which help activate brain pathways associated with improved mood and cognition.
Ideas: Add blueberries to lunch salads (like my Shredded Kale & Blueberry Salad with Pecan “Cheese”), pop a handful as a snack, or try this week’s recipe pick for Blueberry Vanilla Chia Pudding! It makes for an amazing dairy-free yogurt alternative (with much less sugar too).
Chia seeds are an impressive source of fiber– 5 grams per tablespoon– and can help prevent constipation and promote regularity. What makes it a good mood food? Have you ever gone a day without pooping? I rest my case. Sometimes I secretly wonder, if all the grumpy Gus’s and crabby Patty’s out there just had a really good bowel movement every morning, would they still be so darn cranky? I think not. Chia seeds for everyone!
Ideas: Add a tablespoon to shakes, mix into salad dressing, beat afternoon cravings with my Craving-Crusher Water, add to chili (try my recipe for Earthy Turkey Chia Chili), or enjoy it as Blueberry Vanilla Chia Pudding.
Brands: Bob’s Red Mill; Nutiva; Navitas; Garden of Life
Eggs (especially the yolk!)
Egg yolks are one of the richest sources of choline, a vitamin associated with better neurological function and production of ‘happiness’ hormones!
Ideas: Eat a hard-boiled egg as an afternoon snack, slice into salads, or try my recipe for Egg & Hummus-Stuffed Avocado.
Brands: Organic Valley Free-Range; Pete & Gerry’s Free-Range Organic
Lentils help keep blood sugar levels stable, which is super important for a balanced mood. This is precisely why you never want to run across me in a dark alley when I have low blood sugar and am ravenously hungry…let’s just say it ain’t pretty! ? Lentils are also loaded with folate, a B-vitamin which helps prevent mood disorders.
Ideas: Add ¼ cup lentils to lunch salads and soups or drizzle with olive oil and make it a side dish. Try my Creamy Red Lentil Hummus!
Brand: Bob’s Red Mill Lentils
Yes, dark chocolate is a good mood food! It enhances focus and concentration and stimulates production of endorphins—feel-good chemicals that give you a mental lift.
Ideas: Add one tablespoon of cacao powder to your lunch smoothie (try my Gut-Loving Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Shake!) or for an afternoon pick-me-up, snack on one-ounce of dark chocolate (≥70% cacao) or a square of Chill-the-Hell-Out Fudge (PS: give a square to an angry co-worker and watch what happens!?)
Brands: Navitas Naturals Cacao Powder; Endangered Species chocolate (70%+)
Please don’t be mistaken…
You can’t just add good mood foods to an otherwise crappy diet and expect to be skipping around like Mary Poppins. As you move through your journey to better health and gradually improve the quality of your food choices, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to discover how easy it is to include these foods in your repertoire of meals.
I can hear you singing now…supercalifragilisticexpialidocious ? (tell me you’re not in a better mood after watching this ↓↓↓).