You are what you eat: many foods that are staples in a teenager’s diet can negatively impact their health AND their mood. With this in mind, we have provided a list of mood sabotaging foods and healthy food swap ideas for both you and your teens.
Swap Pop with Club Soda and Fresh Juice: Pop is typically high in sugar and caffeine and the habitual consumption of these two stimulants can stress the adrenal glands and lead to long term symptoms such as exhaustion, difficulty coping with stress, irritability, sugar cravings and chronic low blood sugar. [i] If all that weren’t bad enough, a Harvard Health study also found that students who consumed just one soft drink per day were more likely to engage in violent behavior.[ii] So ditch the pop and instead try soda water (which is naturally sugar-free) sweetened with a little fruit juice or infused with mint leaves.
Swap Sugary Breakfast Cereal for Oatmeal: An Environmental Working Group conducted a review of 84 children’s breakfast cereals and the findings were shocking. More than half of the cereals contained more sugar than three Chips Ahoy cookies in a single serving! This excess sugar consumption will cause blood sugar fluctuations which can lead to irritability, fatigue, an inability to concentrate and problems at school.[iii] To make matters worse, many breakfast cereals are also loaded with sodium, artificial flavours, colours and preservatives. Instead of processed breakfast cereals try non-instant oatmeal with some chopped walnuts and diced fruit, the combination of protein, fiber and antioxidants will help set you up for a great day.
Swap Potato Chips for Dried Seaweed (Nori): Chips are extremely high in omega-6 fatty acids and consuming too many of them can throw off your omega-3 to omega-6 balance. This is problematic because a deficiency in omega-3s can increase the risk for mood disorders and raise inflammation levels. In addition, a diet containing too many omega-6 fatty acids and not enough omega-3s can lead to hormonal imbalances.[iv] Dried seaweed can provide the same salt fix as potato chips and it is packed with mood and brain-health boosting omega-3s.[v]
Swap French Fries for Roasted Chick Peas: As Dr.Oz famously said, consuming french fries is sure to leave you in a ‘fast food coma.’ Sodium in french fries will cause bloating; trans-fats plus refined carbohydrates will leave you feeling groggy and weighed down. Instead of french fries, try some roasted chick peas sprinkled with sea salt – they’re crunchy, delicious and full of complex carbohydrates, protein and fiber…all of which will provide you with a steady source of energy.
Swap Hot Dogs for Turkey: Hot dogs, ham, salami, bologna and other processed meats are full of unhealthy preservatives such as nitrates, which are carcinogenic (cancer promoting) and can cause tension and migraine headaches. In fact, hot dogs are so unhealthy that The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has likened them to cigarettes. Turkey on the other hand, is loaded with nutrients including protein and B-complex vitamins, which is beneficial because b-vitamins help to boost energy and overall mood and they may even help ward off depression and mood disorders.[vi]