If you don’t eat properly (and enough in quantity) your brain and body won’t work well for you. That’s just how biology works. No fuel = no power. You don’t need to be a professional athlete to need fuel: every single cell in your body needs energy to work and nutrients to be healthy.
Food has another function, too: pleasure. That’s really important. We shouldn’t think only about what nutrients and energy a particular food has but how we enjoy it. Food is social, delicious, sensuous, pleasurable, fun, fantastic.
But there are good choices and bad choices, as you know. But “good” and “bad” are not as you might think: it is NOT the case that sugar and fat are “bad” and vegetables and fish etc are “good”. Sugar and fat are also valid parts of a healthy diet. There are many sorts of sugars and many sorts of fats and some of them are found in the most wonderful nutritious foods (fruits are full of sugar and avocados, nuts and mackerel are rich in fabulous fats, for example.)
A good and healthy diet is:
- Balanced – it has a mix of protein, fibre, carbs, vitamins and minerals; it has some sugar and fat – some everything, in fact
- Varied – the more variety there is the more chance you’ll get all the nutrients you need for healthy brain and body
- Adequate – there’s enough of it to stop you being hungry; if you often feel faint or dizzy or can’t concentrate, you might not be eating the right things or enough of them.
- Enjoyable – you have to like it; it doesn’t matter of there are lots of things you don’t like as long as there are lots of things you do like
- Unprocessed – it’s fine to eat processed food every now and then but much better to have food as natural as it can be, so usually choose a home-made meal over a ready meal, fresh chicken over a pie or sausage, and look at the ingredients and processes of the food you eat
- Guilt-free – guilt shouldn’t be part of your diet; have ice-cream and chocolate sometimes but have it because you enjoy it and as part of a balanced range of foods
- Useful – it allows you to do all the things you want your body to do: sport, fun, work
I have some more detailed ideas on my Resources page – click here and scroll down to Brain Food Suggestions and my recipes for Brain Cake and Brain Bars – and there’ll be lots of advice in Body Brilliant when it’s published next year. There’s some in Positively Teenage already.
Schools? You’ll find healthy eating taught on my Brain Stick resources.
See here. And until the end of October you’ll get TWO free books, too!
What are you having for dinner tonight? I’m having fresh tuna steak, potatoes (home grown and roasted in olive oil, with chives and parsley); a sauce made of capers, lime and crème fraiche; and steamed courgettes. Then maybe rhubarb and figs (both home-grown) and, if I’m hungry, a Bendicks bittermint chocolate. Well, actually possibly even if I’m not hungry.
I get great pleasure from cooking a lovely evening meal. I haven’t had a takeaway for years – literally don’t know when I last did. But I realise I’m lucky in three ways: I used to be a professional cook so I’ve always been confident and happy cooking; I absolutely love vegetables, especially home-grown (which I’m also lucky enough to be able to do); and I only have to cook for myself, as my husband works away during the week and my daughters have left home. It was much harder when I was cooking for a whole family every night and trying to cater for different tastes. But I managed to find things we’d all like and my daughters grew up just appreciating food, pretty much whatever it was. We are all real foodies and the food we eat gives us strength to do everything we want.
Are there some ways you could use food better, to feel fitter and to feed every part of your body and brain? What are your weaknesses or problems? What’s getting in the way? If you can identify improvements you could make, rather than obstacles you think you can’t overcome, you could identify some changes that would make you feel better immediately. You don’t have to wait years to see the results of a great diet: you’ll notice more energy, better sleep, more focus.
Is it that you don’t know what to eat or you don’t like the things you think you “should” eat? Are you too busy or not the person in your family who chooses the meals? Can you change any of that, even a bit? Can you spend time thinking how your diet could be “better” (in other words fuel you better and give you more energy) and how you can overcome whatever your challenges are? Do you need some professional help? Some friendly help? Some help from your family? Some ideas? A new recipe book?
Food and water form one of the four legs of the table of well-being: if one leg is weak, the table collapses. You need good food and enough of it. Don’t go hungry!
Eat well and enjoy it! Your brain and body will thank you!