Making Small Changes With Mood-Boosting Food

I’ve spoken loads before about my battle with hormones and my attempts to level them out and really nail the whole feeling great 24/7 thing. I’ve just started running again after a few years break and it’s amazing how much it helps boost me, clears my brain and sets me up for the rest of the day. But I know that the food I eat has an effect on me too – I mean, it has an effect on everyone, but hormones and insulin levels are linked so it’s really important that I keep an eye on what I’m eating and when I’m eating.

A few weeks ago, I had a chat with a nutrition expert – Laura Clark – who gave me some BRILLIANT tips around good mood food and keeping blood sugar levels on an even keel. Sadly, the above prosecco wasn’t one of her suggestions, but here’s the advice she gave me…

Keep your blood glucose levels nice and stable. Dips and erratic swings will make you feel more tired and irritable, and lead to poor concentration and carb cravings.

Keep your fluid intake up, and have visual cues to drink – it’s easy to get side tracked and dehydrated as you go about your day.

Eat carbs wisely – they’re not the evil food that many people say they are, but they should be eaten in portion sizes relative to your activity levels and at regular intervals. Wholegrain carbs contain B vitamins which are incredibly important for energy release in the body and covering the amino acid tryptophan into serotonin (the feel good hormone). Carbs also cause insulin release and it’s this insulin which enables tryptophan to enter your brain for conversion. Eat carbs with protein and vegetables, rather than on its own. So a classic meat, potatoes and veg is great.

The other key foods to boost moods are those that contain tryptophan itself – e.g. protein rich foods like chicken, turkey, beef, fish, eggs, milk, cheese and nuts.

Making smoothies isn’t actually the best way to eat fruit and veg – it’s better to allow your body to break the food down, rather than getting your blender to do the work. If you do have a smoothie, include oats, milk and nuts. A great start to the day would be porridge oats.

Eat lots of oily fish – there’s lots of good research into this. It has so many benefits and low intakes of omega 3s do seem to be linked with higher rates of depression. Include oily fish twice a week in your diet – salmon stir fry, tinned mackerel in tomato sauce, fresh tuna steak and sweet potato wedges for example. (Mmm anyone else feeling hungry?)

Vitamin B6 is the magic number for all this tryptophan conversion so a banana makes a great snack – it releases carbohydrate slowly an is rich in B6. The richest source of B6 in nuts are peanuts and walnuts. A handy snack but keep your protein size to a small handful. Alternatively, sprinkle on your porridge or salmon salad.

Try roast pork on a Sunday – it’s leaner than beef or lamb, and rich in tryptophan and vitamin B6. Serve it with sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots and butternut squash roasted in a little olive oil, to boost fibre, and greens like cabbage for folate (another B vitamin!).

My chat with Laura came about as part of the Optiwell Small Changes campaign – the new yogurt drink brand, fronted by Holly Willoughby is encouraging everyone to make small changes to their lifestyle, whether that’s walking to the station every day, rather than getting the bus, or swapping your usual 11am biscuit snack for a piece of fruit. It makes sense that we’re far more likely to sustain a healthier lifestyle if the changes we make are small and achievable (I know I’m not the only person to VOW to go the the gym four times a week and then feel like a massive failure when I only manage once a week!).


Optiwell invited me for an evening of pampering (HELLO lovely nails!), fizz and a chat with Laura at the Cowshed Spa in Shoreditch. There aren’t many things I’d rather do, on a wet Wednesday evening in January, than have a mani and pedi while watching vintage Sex And The City. There were lots of other lovely bloggers there – some like Kate and Rachel I already knew and others like Becky, I met for the first time.

Cowshed manicure

Cowshed products

Cowshed manicure

Check out this little video of my evening with Optiwell at Cowshed!

This post has been written in collaboration with Optiwell and as always, all views are my own. Please see my Work With Me page for details of how I work with brands.



  1. February 3, 2016 / 2:50 pm

    I really need to follow these – my hormones are all over the place and my diet definitely doesn’t help! Interesting about the smoothie thing – I thought I was being so clever blending everything!

  2. February 3, 2016 / 2:56 pm

    This is all fab advice and has prompted me to get up and fill my water glass! I’m sure dehydration is something that’s one of my downfalls – I feel noticeably different when I drink my 2l a day. I love how these tips are all so sensible, too; so much dietary advice these days talks about eating weird and wonderful (and expensive!) seaweeds or something, in contrast I can implement these into my diet with no fuss 🙂

  3. February 3, 2016 / 3:59 pm

    I love this post because I’m trying to improve my diet this year.. At 41 I really need to start thinking about what I eat! Well done with the running, it really is amazing and removes most stresses or worries. Have a great evening! x

  4. February 3, 2016 / 7:25 pm

    It’s all about sugar for me. I am so annoyed with myself when I look back on how much I’ve managed to shoehorn into my day without even realising. Everything else, I do ok on. Must do better though. And how nice is the Cowshed? Happy memories of many a Shoreditch waxing appointment!

  5. February 3, 2016 / 9:50 pm

    OH these are great, I REALLY need to improve my diet. This past year has been awful {eaten ALL the food while I’ve been breastfeeding}.. after years and years of eating disorders, I really noticed the difference food makes to my mood – the right things can make a huge change

  6. February 4, 2016 / 10:19 pm

    these are great tips and I’m loving the idea of adding oats to your smootie for a morning snack. Also a great reminder to drink more water! Fab tips x

  7. February 5, 2016 / 2:40 pm

    Hi Alison,

    Lovely to meet you and thanks so much for sharing my tips. I’ve written a new blog inspired by the Optiwell evening but with a nutritional twist to it – be so grateful if you could share…
    Hope we can meet again soon.
    Good Luck with your #smallchanges
    Laura x

  8. February 5, 2016 / 4:32 pm

    lovely post! I so so need to drink more water, I barely even drink a glass a day it all comes from tea or coffee! video is super cute too 🙂 x

  9. February 6, 2016 / 6:14 am

    LOVE the idea of small changes. I really need to do something. I just find it so hard with being at home three days a week. I need a whole brain shift I think to get my butt into gear! x

  10. February 6, 2016 / 10:57 am

    Great advice am trying really hard to eat well at the mo. have lost 18lbs since Christmas

  11. February 7, 2016 / 10:45 am

    Wow you lucky thing! Sugar is my huge downfall, I find it really hard to resist despite knowing it turns me into a loon.

  12. February 8, 2016 / 3:35 pm

    Some great advice there from Laura – the dehydration one particularly resonates with me, as I am sure that is what contributes to my mid afternoon slump.

    It was a lovely evening, wasn’t it, Cowshed have it right with those chairs and vintage SATC!

    (and I so should have put some proper makeup on for an evening of being filmed & photographed!)

  13. February 8, 2016 / 4:02 pm

    I find that since I’ve had the kids I probably drink less water than I did when I was at a desk most days- I must remember to have more! I always look and feel so much better for it. x

  14. February 21, 2016 / 10:11 pm

    I desperately need to make changes but the thought has been so overwhelming until reading these. I feel these are actually achievable…no having to hunt down some specialist shops for ingredients. Can’t wait to get started. *adds fish to the shopping list , grabs a glass and heads to the tap* I’m actually looking forward to feeling better! Winter sees me eating too much sugar and bad carbs. And my skin and my moods are suffering. Bring on more protein!

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