The holidays are a magical time… Snow, lights, decorations, beautifully wrapped gifts, parties… Oh, and endless shopping trips to find the presents that Santa promised your kids, slippery driving conditions, more crowded everything, keeping the house clean for visitors, preparing the perfect dishes to bring to the parties… the list goes on. Holidays can be a stressful time, especially for families. Rates of illness and depression tend to spike around the holidays. But good news! You can take action to keep the good vibes rolling using food! Don’t worry, you don’t have to bring kale smoothies with you to your holiday parties- below is a list of foods that can help improve your mood that you can find IN your favorite festive dishes. No extra work, no “holiday diets”.
These are important for your brain and nerve cells, and higher intakes of Omega 3s are associated with lower rates of depression. Fish is a great source of Omegas and fortunately is a popular holiday dish! Baked, smoked and pickled are all great choices!
When you’re stressed, your body eats up magnesium. Luckily, you can find magnesium rich foods in all sorts of holiday foods like cheese, nuts, seeds, and potatoes. Dark chocolate and cocoa powder are also sources of magnesium, try making some hot chocolate with it for the family on a chilly night!
This is another mineral that is used more when you’re under stress- and also is important for immune function and warding off those holiday colds. Does your party have an oyster bar? If so, camp out there because they are one of the highest food sources of zinc. Lobster, mussels, crabs, clams, scallops and shrimp are other winners too though so bring on the shrimp rings.
Another mineral that will help keep your immune system up and running, and therefore keep you feeling great, is selenium. The best source of selenium is brazil nuts! They are packed with them so don’t feel guilty digging them out of the party mix!
These vitamins, particularly folate, are important in making neurotransmitters for the brain and for energy at the molecular level. Sometimes the body struggles to convert enough B-vitamins to the methylated form needed. Good news- you can consume this type in your diet to help the process. Methylated, or Natural Folate is found in strawberries, leafy greens and citrus fruits. Chocolate covered strawberries anyone?
This is the most well-known mood vitamin. During our dark Canadian winters, we can’t get our Vitamin D fix from the sun, and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is sometimes the outcome. You can find Vitamin D in fatty fish, milk, fortified orange juice and egg yolks- conveniently found in deviled eggs- though it’s a good idea to take a Vitamin D supplement at this time of year as well.
pre- and probiotics
Did you know that your gut health impacts your brain? While a lot of the exact connections are unclear, there is definitely evidence that having healthy gut bacteria has a positive effect on moods. Foods that contain probiotics include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, buttermilk, etc., but a better way to improve your microbiome (fancy name for all of your gut bugs) is to increase your fiber intake! So make sure you make a stop at the veggie platters, include some whole grain and seed-filled crackers. Fiber will also keep your blood sugar from spiking from holidays treats, so try to slip some fruits and veggies in between the kids’ cookies as well.
eat and be merry!
No doubt the holidays are stressful- start including some of these nutrients in your meals now and watch out for them once the holiday events begin. No need to be trying to follow an impossible holiday diet- just enjoy some of these foods and have a wonderful season with your family and friends.
Nishta Saxena is a Registered Dietitian, Paediatric and Family Nutritionist, founder of Vibrant Nutrition, and proud Mama of two. In her practice she helps families through all stages of nutrition. Nishta believes that nutrition can transform lives, and it is her goal to change lives through her work!
Click here to contact Nishta about an appointment.