Good Mood Diet

It’s easy to feel a bit down and let the weight pile on in winter. But this easy-to-follow diet from nutritionist Monica Grenfell will help you to lose weight and feel great too!

Monica says:
The days are getting shorter and it’s feeling colder, so it’s easy to feel isolated or suffocated by the family – a real recipe for low mood, comfort eating and weight gain – which, in turn, leads to feeling even worse. It’s a vicious circle.

Symptoms of low mood
Irritability, low self-esteem, apathy, wanting to be alone, fatigue, constant eating and low energy levels, leading to aches and pains. Food may not cure genuine depression, but a change of diet will help to lift your mood. It can also stop you overeating, and losing weight – you should lose 10lb if you try this diet for a fortnight – will cheer you up as you look forward to Christmas.

How it works
This diet has an amazing effect on mood. It works to calm nerves, rouse you from fatigue, stabilise blood sugar levels and stimulate the pathways of the feel-good chemical serotonin in the body, made possible by the amino acid tryptophan. Food can manipulate mood – eating foods that deplete serotonin levels can make you feel down, but including those that help maintain normal amounts of serotonin will lift your mood.

Top 10 mood foods

1. Breakfast cereals, wholemeal breads
These contain folic acid, which helps the body absorb iron, an essential mineral that curbs fatigue.

2. Oats
Eat porridge for the beneficial effects of alkaloids and flavanoids, which help B vitamins work their feel-good magic.

3. Potatoes, pasta
An evening meal rich in carbohydrate and low in protein helps the body prepare for sleep and helps you sleep well.

4. Turkey, figs, bananas, dates, yogurt, tuna
These supply tryptophan, an amino acid that converts in the body into the feel-good chemical serotonin.

5. Lettuce
This contains lactucarium, which is a very mild sedative.

6 Cottage cheese
High in protein, it also supplies tryptophan (see 4).

7 Milk, especially warmed
Adding a little honey to warm milk releases chemicals in the body that are calming.

8. Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbage
These are rich in folic acid (see 1).

9 Lean meat
This contains vitamin B6 – in tests, people with low mood were found to have low levels of this vitamin.

10 Bananas
These are high in carbohydrates and natural sugars. Bananas are known to promote calm and can help stave off cravings.

Foods to avoid
– Game
– Pickled foods – Cheese, especially processed, and blue cheese
– Textured vegetable protein – Meat extracts

The diet

This carb-rich diet looks calorific, but, in fact, it has about 1,200 calories a day. Make sure you keep to small portions!

To drink
Tea; chamomile tea; decaff coffee if you’re irritable, normal coffee if
you’re low; water and natural fruit juices (no added sugar).

Day one

– 6 tinned figs – 40g porridge with skimmed milk and 1 tsp honey – Tea or coffee
– Mixed colourful salad with small amount of protein, such as sliced turkey, 3 tbsp cottage cheese or 2 hard-boiled eggs – 1 banana
– Turkey breast, roasted or pan-fried, with 180g mashed potato (mashed with milk, not butter), broccoli – Stewed apple and yogurt

Day two

– 3 tbsp home-made muesli using an oat base with a sprinkling flaked
almonds, half an apple, grated, and half a banana, with skimmed milk – 1 boiled egg
– 180g jacket potato filled with tuna or cottage cheese. Salad – 1 apple
– Wholewheat pasta mixed with ratatouille or stir-fried mixed vegetables. Add 2 tbsp creamed tomatoes with basil and olive oil – Small pot rice pudding

Day three

– 40g porridge (as day 1)
– 1 banana
– 400ml fresh lentil, vegetable or chicken soup (avoid salty brands)
– Small granary roll and a little olive oil spread – Small low-fat cake, e.g., macaroon
– Salmon steak, grilled or baked, 180g mashed potato (as day 1), lettuce and watercress salad – Tinned figs with plain yogurt

Day four

– 30g Special K with skimmed milk, topped with 1 tbsp sunflower seeds, a few raspberries or sliced strawberries
– Chicken salad sandwich with 2 slices wholegrain seeded bread – 6 prunes or 3 tbsp stewed apple with 2 tbsp low-fat custard
– 180g linguini with added chilli oil and either crab meat or tuna chunks – Baked banana with yogurt

Day five

– 2 slices wholemeal toast, olive oil spread, 2 tsp low-sugar marmalade – Glass fresh orange or apple juice
– Mixed colourful protein salad, with cold curried chicken or turkey OR – Pan-fried salmon on salad – Fresh fruit salad
– Jacket potato with lean Bolognese sauce, made from scratch with tomatoes and lean beef mince. Mixed salad

Day six

– ½ grapefruit – 2 boiled eggs and 1 slice wholemeal toast
– Jacket potato with 1tbsp soft cream cheese and sweetcorn – 1 banana
– 180g cooked penne pasta with smoked salmon and 1tsp dill – Low-fat rice pudding with 1 tbsp sultanas

Day seven

– 40g porridge (as day 1)
– 1 apple
– 2 Ryvitas and soft cheese. A few celery and carrot sticks with 1 tbsp hummus, to dip – 1 banana
– Stir-fried tofu or chicken or turkey strips with vegetables – Banana tofu and almond whip (put into a blender 50g tofu, 1 tsp honey, 3 almonds and 1 banana and zap.)

Where to next?
The Beat The Blues Diet
Six ways to eat for more energy
Woman’s Own Better Body Club

Recipes to try:
Banana breakfast smoothie
Turkey and vegetable stir–fry
Healthy eating recipes