By Melissa Lafrance on October 23, 2018
Food and cooking are being appreciated for more than just satisfying hunger and nutritional needs; its psychological benefits and in some cases, even therapeutic benefits, are now being acknowledged. Food affects our mood and nourishes us to thrive and have productive days. In November, we explore the link between nutrition and mental health, mindfulness, and straightforward recipes you can prepare to nourish your body and mind.
Week 1: Brain Food
Nutrition plays a huge factor in keeping our brains healthy. Brains operate at a very high metabolic rate, and therefore use a lot of the body’s total energy and nutrient intake. Some nutrients that are key to brain health and functioning include carbohydrates, fat, protein and in particular omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, vitamins C and E, iron, zinc and magnesium. 1 2
Here are some healthy recipes to try:
- Scottish oat and leek pilaf with salmon (Cookspiration)
- Maple cinnamon apple and pear baked oatmeal (ModelEats). Try it with walnuts and soy milk for extra brain health benefits.
- Lentils with swiss chard, roasted beets and goat cheese (Feasting at Home)
Week 2: Minimal Ingredient Recipes & Cooking Basics
It’s been suggested that completing small creative tasks such as cooking and baking increases wellbeing, particularly enthusiasm and feelings of flourishing.3 Focusing on small tasks in a manner similar to meditation can help boost mood. Cooking or meal prepping can be similar to meditation; the outcome is good food if executed properly. Culinary therapy is being implemented as a viable part of treatment plans for mental health clinics for a wide range of mental and behavioural health conditions.4
The following resources can help boost your abilities and confidence:
- Simple and fun cooking videos with Sarah Carey in Everyday Food
- Quick and easy recipe videos via Jamie Oliver’s FoodTube
- Sheet pan dinner ideas(Food Network)
- 11 vegetarian sheet pan-inspired recipes(Brit + Co)
Week 3: Basic But Nourishing Recipes
Take out the guess work and try these wholesome and satisfying meals:
- Recipes from the Minimalist Baker require 10 ingredients or less and can be done within 30 minutes or less. Best of all, they are healthy and straightforward. Try their perfect bowl of oats to kick-start your day or their comforting one-pot everyday lentil soup
- Almond butter, banana and chia overnight oats (Berry Nourished)
- 12 no fuss breakfasts (Melissa Baker, UBC Food Services)
- Veggie and tofu stir fry (My Recipes)
- Sweet potato and white bean chilli (Jamie Oliver)
Week 4: Mindfulness
Cooking and preparing food are sensory experiences involving aromas, tastes, touch, visuals and sounds. It can even be a way to relieve stress because it serves as a creative outlet that can also improve daily happiness.5 Why not add a dash of mindfulness while you cook and eat? Cooking can be an activity that is grounding and keeps you in the moment while you focus on the task at hand. When we are mindful, we are more intuitive, and these eating practices involve minimizing distractions, truly savouring your meal and listening to hunger cues.6
- Check out Huffington Post’s five tips for mindful cooking
- Check out Melissa Baker’s blog post on meals to help you Thrive.
By Miranda Massie on March 7, 2018
I love breakfast. Besides being one of those people who MUST eat something within an hour of waking up, I also just love breakfast food. Sweet, savoury, hot, cold, liquid, solid – it’s one of the most versatile meals around.
How many of you have heard that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”? Particularly in North America, this common social understanding dates back to childhood, and despite evidence to support it, many people still don’t eat breakfast. 
Now, I’m not here to get all parental and tell you what to do. Instead, in honour of National Nutrition Month, I’d like to share my love of breakfast. Here are my four reasons to feed your brain the most delicious meal of the day!
If you’re someone who needs variety, eating the same breakfast day after day may not sound very appetizing. Below is a go-to recipe that uses seasonally available ingredients and can be customized to your tastes. You can also find more oatmeal-topping ideas here.
Miranda’s Custom Make-ahead Oatmeal:
|5 cups||Quick oats|
|1 cup||Nut of your choice
(almond slices, toasted pecans, walnuts
|1 cup||Seed of your choice
(sunflower, pumpkin, chia, hemp)
|1 cup||Dried fruit of your choice
(cranberries, apricots, pineapple, banana)
|1 cup||Dried shredded coconut|
|Optional||Sliced fresh fruit (apples, banana, berries)|
- Prep ingredients in advance.
- Scoop 1/4 to 1/3 cup of your oatmeal into a bowl or Tupperware container. Add water.
- Microwave for 2 minutes. Enjoy!
Time can be a big barrier, but it doesn’t have to take ages to prepare breakfast. Here is a list of time-tested meal ideas to keep you moving in the morning:
- Miranda’s Custom Make-ahead Oatmeal (see above)
- Total time: 2 minutes, 30 seconds (30 seconds to scoop + 2 minutes to microwave)
- Toasted English muffin with melted cheese
- Total time: 1 minute, 30 seconds (1 minute in toaster + 30 seconds to melt cheese)
- Night-before yogurt parfait
- Total time: 2 minutes night before, no time in the morning (45 seconds to scoop yogurt + 45 seconds to add frozen fruit + 30 seconds to pack granola)
- Nut butter Eggo
- Total time: 1 minute, 30 seconds (1 minute to toast frozen Eggo waffle + 30 seconds to spread nut butter of choice)
- Make-ahead breakfast egg cups 
- Total time: 31 minutes (30 minutes to make head of time + 45 seconds to microwave on the go)
It makes you smarter
Food fuels our bodies. The same way that wood fuels a fire, we can’t function optimally or survive without it. When we sleep, we fast for six to eight hours, which means the longer we put off eating, the longer our bodies have to try and function without fuel. Breakfast can help support our brains to do great things and be productive. It also prevents us from being distracted by rumbling tummies. Read more about the effects of nutrients on brain function. 
Another barrier to breakfast is cost. We often assume that it’s easier to make a quick stop at a coffee shop, but this routine can end up being more expensive over time. For example, a yogurt parfait and a banana loaf from Starbucks costs $6.63 including tax, but you can get the equivalent items — all homemade by UBC nutrition students – at the Agora Café for $4. It also pays (pun intended) to be prepared. Prepping your meals in advance (as per the time saving tips above) is another way to cut costs.
This month, I invite you to rise and shine with breakfast, and if that’s not for you, find a way to incorporate an early morning snack into your routine a few days a week. Turning meals into social events (a potluck brunch perhaps?) is a great way to start.
All my best,
Photo credit: UBC Communications & Marketing