The mental health benefits of healthy eating and some simple tips to start

We're up to day 14 of the What's Up? mental health challenge and today is all about fuelling your body and mind with nourishing and healthy food.

It probably won't surprise most people that what and how you eat can have a definite impact on how you feel - think reaching for that sugar hit to increase your mood, but then dealing with the inevitable slump afterwards.

As co-founder of health and wellness app Keep it Cleaner, Laura Henshaw knows how important eating well can be for not just your physical health but also for your mind.

"Fuelling your body with wholesome foods can be so powerful for your mental health," Laura tells Yahoo Australia as part of the What's Up? mental health series.

"I find that on the weeks where I don’t pre-plan my lunch and dinners I tend to eat out a lot more, and notice a decline in my energy levels and mental clarity."

keep it cleaner laura henshaw with cookies
Laura Henshaw knows the mental health benefits of healthy eating. Photo: Instagram/laurahenshaw

When we choose nutritious foods, we’re providing our body and brain with the building blocks needed to be at our best. The brain, in fact, accounts for around 20 per cent of our total daily energy requirements.

Following a healthy pattern of eating is also linked with better stress management, improved sleep quality, increased concentration, and better mental wellbeing in general.

woman having oat granola with blueberries for breakfast
Eating well can help with stress, sleep, energy levels and more. Photo: Getty

Laura Henshaw's tips for healthy eating

It's all about balance

When it comes to forming healthy eating habits, I am a big believer in balance. So, don’t worry I’m not here to tell you to just eat steamed broccoli and chicken! The trick is to find healthier alternatives to your favourite comfort foods, so you don’t have to miss out!

Try switching your lasagne pasta sheets out for slices of eggplant, load your Shakshuka with leafy greens or use a wholemeal wrap for your pizza base. Healthy eating can be really delicious, and there’s no need to cut out certain food groups. It’s all about making small, sustainable changes towards a healthier lifestyle.

Prep your meals

Prepping your meals on a Sunday is one of the best ways to keep you accountable during the week. Some of my favourite meal prep recipes from the KIC app are the Veggie Minestrone Soup, Ricotta & Pea Frittata and our Butter Chicken. Usually I’ll make enough to last me four lunches, and then shout myself lunch out on Friday.

Yahoo Australia's 30-day mental health challenge.
Yahoo Australia's 30-day mental health challenge. Photo: Yahoo

Drink plenty of water

Remember to drink water, it’s so simple, but so easy to forget. Being hydrated will boost your energy levels, improve your concentration, and overall make you feel more alive - I carry a water bottle with me everywhere I go.

Listen to your body

It’s also important to pay attention to when you are hungry and honour your body’s signals. Consuming nutrient-packed snacks throughout the day like nuts, protein ball or a savoury veggie muffin will help you avoid that 3pm slump.

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