Five Instant Mood Boosters

upbeat music

Do you ever wake up and just know it’s going to be one of those days? You’re feeling flat, anti-social or possibly want to have a tantrum like one of your kids.

…We’ve all been there.

A grumpy mood is common place. But when you’re a mum, hiding under the sheets isn’t an option. But before your next mini meltdown strikes, try these natural pick-me-ups. They work for me.

Music to my ears. When was the last time you updated your playlist? Music is a powerful tool to influence mood. Download your ultimate ‘feel-good’ playlist and feel that foul mood melt away.

Laughter is no doubt the best medicine. That’s because a good chuckle decreases stress hormones, improves your resistance to infections, and triggers the release of endorphins (just like exercise), which bolsters the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. According to Kids Health, laughing together as a family is a way to connect, and a good sense of humor also can make kids smarter, healthier, and better able to cope with challenges. Look back on old photos or put on a silly hat and chase your toddler around the house.

Get a move on. Tiredness can easily creep up on busy mums, but that’s no excuse to throw in the fitness towel. Even if it’s just a 20 minute mind-freeing walk around the block, that’s enough to alleviate some of the tension, spark alertness and productivity.

Keep it neat. Is your house a minefield of laundry, dishes, homework and toys? It might put your mind at ease to get things in order. Achieving a sense of tidiness (and control) can be as simple as making your bed every morning, rehanging clothes, or most importantly, finding a home for everything in the house. When everything you own has a home, it takes minutes to pick things up and put them away, not to mention locate them when you need them in a flash.

Count your blessings. As a mum, it’s easy to let one frustration or ‘failure’ put you down. Rather than concentrate on what is lacking and wrong in your life, reflect on all that is right and be thankful for all you have. In an article  ‘6 Drug-Free Ways to Boost Your Mood” by Dr Susan Biala M.D. suggests replaying “what went well” to create a sunny disposition, helping you shift to a more positive thinking pattern and state of mind. In other words, establish a regular practice of gratitude.

What mood are you in now?

Why Am I So Hangry?


Have you ever noticed you’re a little ‘on edge’ between meals? Do your hunger pains slowly morph into an unexplainable agitation or anger? You’re not imagining things. Rather, you’re experiencing the phenomenon of hangry.

What is hangry?

Hangry is a made-up term that defines being hungry and angry at the same time. (Hungry + angry = hangry.) You could put it down to being food-impatient or a simple dislike of hunger pains. But according to science, there’s more going on behind the scenes.

Your glucose-greedy brain utilises roughly 70% of the glucose used by your body, which is a simple sugar converted from food. If your blood sugar level gets too low, your brain literally turns to mush – leaving you unable to concentrate, think rationally or regulate your emotions.

Based on this, many people blame low blood sugar as the sole cause for hanger. However research has shown that the brain, when deprived of sugar, triggers the release of glucose-leveling hormones – namely cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones are classified as stress hormones, as they’re released in times of “fight or flight”. If you’re not familiar with this, it’s our primitive response to danger that sees us “fight” (stand our ground) or “flight” (run for the hills).

With cortisol and adrenalin running through your body, you’re prone to being more reactive and erring on the side of moody – just as you’re more likely to lose your cool in stressful situations or turn into a ninja if someone threatens you.

In the words of Dr. Amanda Salis, Associate Professor at the University of Sydney, “Getting aggressive in times of hunger is a survival mechanism.”

Taming your hanger

So you might be thinking “Hangry is a natural state that’s out of my control”, but there are a few ways to stop ravenous becoming rage.

Get a decent sugar hit. No, I’m not suggesting reaching for the Tim Tam’s. Instead opt for quality sources of carbs, such as berries, veggies and wholegrain crackers with avocado or hummus, for a steady supply of brain fuel that keeps your blood sugar levels on an even keel .

Too busy for breaky? Too lazy for lunch? These are prime ways to let your sugar levels levels slip. If you’re not feeding your body regularly you’ll trigger that “fight or flight” state known to bring on hangry moods. As a general rule, don’t go more than four to five hours between meals.

Prepare power meals. If your meals and snacks only contain one food group, you’re not optimising brain power. Blend nutrients such as wholegrain carbs, which keep your blood sugar levels happy; and proteins, which are digested slowly. This way you’re giving your brain the perfect cocktail or slow-burning fuel.

Fast Fixes For Food Cravings

food cravings

Just can’t stop at two squares of chocolate or devouring the entire packet of salt and vinegar chips? Crush cravings with these fast food fixes.

The sweet craving

If visions of ice cream, chocolates or banana bread dance in your head, what you may be craving more than the sugar in these foods is the fat that provides their texture, taste and aroma. Several studies have shown that fat and sugar may release endorphins into the brain (neurotransmitters that can produce a feeling of pleasure or euphoria).

Beat it by

Guess what? Good old-fashioned exercise also boosts levels of endorphins. So next time you feel like biting into a chocolate brownie, lace up those walking shoes. You’ll get the same pleasing feeling and the benefits of doing something good for your body. If youre on the job or unable to get immediate fitness gratification, you can still get the creamy taste and texture you yearn for from yoghurt or nut butters with fruit.

The salty craving

Unfortunately, cravings for salt often result in the consumption of foods that are also heavy in fat (think chips, French fries, pizza), and sometimes the desire for salty foods, such as chips or pretzels, may have more to do with the wish to crunch than the actual salt.

Beat it by

Get Spicy. Experiment with spices other than salt for flavouring meals and dishes. Pepper, curry, paprika, oregano, parsley, thyme, rosemary all give dishes not wonderful flavour, but has nutritional benefits, too. Need to crunch? Reach for crisp, fresh, munch-able foods, like baby carrots with hummus or low-fat dip – they make great stand-ins for chicken flavoured chip or pretzels.

Craving carbs

Cravings for refined carbohydrates are most frequently associated with times of stress. The explanation behind this relationship? Heavily refined carbohydrates found in such foods as rice crackers, baked goods, biscuits, cakes, and white bread have been shown to help boost levels of the serotonin (a mood-enhancing brain chemical), shown to produce a feeling of calm and well-being.

Beat it by

Anything that relieves stress can help to inhibit these cravings. Try deep breathing techniques, yoga or simple exercise instead of resorting to the refrigerator. When you feel the need to feed, go for snacks that have a combo of low GI carbohydrates and protein. Think yoghurt, wholegrain crackers or veg with and hummus, smoothies, trail mix, or nut butters with fruit.


The Healthiest Way To Pretty Up Your Pantry

TRB pantry essentials

Your pantry says a lot about you. Is it bare and basic? Bursting with temptations? Are there items that expired yesteryear? Or is it packed and labeled to perfection?

More often than not, having a well-stocked pantry (along with fridge and freezer) becomes a no-brainer when it comes to preparing healthy meals quickly and easily. These foolproof steps will give your pantry a healthy makeover in  no time.

Rearrange. Peering into the depths of your cupboard can be scary. There are probably items in there that you haven’t touched in months. Be ruthless and start chucking. If you can’t bring yourself to ditch just yet, rearrange any temptations – chocolate, chips or biscuits – that can throw off your diet. Out of sight, out of mind!

Build better foundations. Restock your pantry with the nourishing staples so you make less room for junk. Think dried legumes, wholegrains, canned tomatoes, heart healthy oils, nuts, nu butters, seeds, spices, rolled oats, wholegrain flours and crackers. If you’re not much of a chef or juggle a busy life, stock up on healthy ‘fast food’ like canned fish, beans or microwave-ready meals, such as brown rice or quinoa. Stock your pantry with these key staples and you’ll always have what you need for a quick, healthy meal.

Lose unhealthy liquids. If your kitchen is home to soft drinks, sport drinks or fruit juices, then it’s time to make a switch. Sipping on these liquids is an easy way to consume empty calories and load up on sugar. Swap them for bottled or fruit-infused water.

Smart snack stash. We all have those cravings that leave us rummaging for food. So prep your pantry with healthy snacks. The only limit is your imagination – cut up fruit, make raw nut slices, combine nuts and dried fruit, or whip up a tasty hummus or bean dip made with canned legumes and enjoy with chopped veg sticks or crackers. As long as you’re prepared, there will be no cookie jars to tempt you.

Get organised. A little structure goes a long way. Group your pantry into an organised ecosystem that makes things easy to find (and stay on top of). Categorise things like snacks, cereals, lunch box fillers, spices, baking goods, and grains (rice, pasta, quinoa, noodles). Don’t be afraid to tip food into jars, snap-lock bags or tupperware and label clearly to gain a little more order.

Say good bye to plastics. A truly detoxed pantry is one free from plastics. A lot of food packaging still contains Bisphenol A (BPA), which is a chemical used to protect food from contamination and extend shelf life. Although small amounts of BPA are safe, too much exposure has been linked to harmful health effects. So err on the safe side by re-packing your food in glass containers.

Ketogenic Diets: Do They Really Work?

ketogenic diets

Low carb, high fat (LCHF) diets still remain on trend, however a popular variation exist amongst the fitness crowd, known as the ketogenic diet. But does this diet live up to the hype?

What is a Ketogenic Diet?

A KD eating pattern is very low in carbohydrates and moderate in protein, however unlike most low carb eating plans (e.g. Atkins), the ketogenic diet has a high percentage of total energy (kilojoule) intake from fat.

As fat is the main source of energy being consumed, the body must then use this (that is, break it down) as its main energy source or ‘fuel’. When dietary fat is metabolised for energy, by-products called ‘ketone bodies’ (molecules that are made by the liver from fatty acids) are produced which are used up by the body’s tissues, muscles and the brain. This process is known as ‘ketosis’.

The body can enter ketosis during times of severe energy restriction (such as during fasting or starvation) or prolonged intense exercise, or when carbohydrate intake is reduced to around 50g per day, or less – the equivalent of around two slices of bread, and a banana.

But the difference between a LCHF diet and a true KD is that the latter remains proportionately lower in carbohydrates – 20-50g per day, and less than 10 per cent of total energy, keeping the body in a state of ketosis, even if total energy intake increases.

What about weight loss?

Following a KD will undoubtedly result in short-term weight loss, which probably comes down to a reduction in total energy (kilojoule) intake, the depletion of liver and muscle glycogen stores and associated water, and a reduced appetite (which is a side-effect of metabolising ketones, and also due to satiety associated with eating foods containing fat and protein).

But the key to maintaining a healthy weight in the long-term is an eating pattern that is sustainable over time – that is one you can stick to! With this in mind, dietary recommendations should always be tailored to an individual – as everyone is unique, and what works for one person, may not work for another. That is, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to achieving and maintaining a heathy weight.

Limitations of the ketogenic diet

A strict KD is undoubtedly difficult to stick to because it drastically reduces the intake of a number of food groups, including fruit and vegetables, dairy foods, and grain foods. This means carbohydrate-containing foods, such as breads, cereals, rice, pasta, legumes, fruit, and starchy vegetables (like pumpkin, peas, and potato) must all be limited.

In fact, the 20-50g of carbohydrates allowed in a KD is equivalent (in carbohydrate terms) to just a small tub of yoghurt, an apple, and half a medium potato over a day. So, using fruit as an example, following a KD would likely mean limiting fruit to only one serve a day, or eating it in place of other nutritious foods like vegetables, dairy foods, and grains[vi]. This requirement to strictly limit certain foods makes it near impossible to meet nutrients needs without supplementation.

With limited carbohydrates, a KD is very low in fibre, so can cause gastrointestinal symptoms like constipation. It may also increase the risk of bowel cancer in the long-term. The KD can also present challenges relating to the social aspects of eating, such as enjoying food in family and social situations.

Any side effects?

Short-term side effects of ketosis can include fatigue, bad breath, nausea, constipation, and headache.

What does the science say? Proven for medical conditions ONLY

Research supports a role for the KD as a medical intervention for some cases of epilepsy (that is, when seizures are intractable), particularly in children.

KDs have been used to treat epilepsy in children since the 1920s, and are only recommended to be trialled with the full support of a multidisciplinary medical team, including dietitians, neurologists, nurses, pharmacists, and social workers. A dietitian’s support is vital, as a KD is very restrictive, with foods like starchy vegetables, dairy foods, fruit, and grain foods limited – making it difficult to meet long term nutrient needs for key vitamins and minerals, such as folate and calcium. As such, nutrient needs must be carefully monitored.

There is growing interest in the effect of a KD in patients with cancer, particularly brain cancer. Tumour cells have an increased reliance on glucose, and many cannot use ketones effectively, so the hypothesis is that disrupting cellular metabolism may improve current treatments. Additionally, some researchers propose that ketones may be toxic to some cancer cells. While the current research and preliminary results from clinical trials suggest a KD may show anti-cancer and neuroprotective effects, there are various limitations to consider. Much of the current evidence is observational, undertaken in small populations, and in animals, so further research is needed before strong conclusions can be drawn.

The bottom line

Despite many books and websites proposing a KD for a variety of health benefits, the evidence for these in healthy individuals is currently limited to therapeutic uses in specific conditions. In reality, the diet is backed by very limited evidence in healthy individuals.

Though it may offer some metabolic benefits when followed in the short-term (a few months), and pose as a novel treatment for certain medical conditions, a KD isn’t recommended for the general population, as the long term efficacy and safety of the diet are unknown, having only been studied in the short-term.

And as always, for people who are confused about what they eat or want more specific advice, DAA recommends seeking this from an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD). And if you choose to undertake a KD, this should be done under clinical supervision – with the guidance of a health professional, such as an APD.

Top 3 things to consider before starting a ketogenic diet:

1. You’ll be missing out on some seriously healthy foods
A ketogenic diet is based around a very low carbohydrate diet, which means nutritious foods like vegetables and fruit, wholegrains and dairy foods will need to be limited. In fact, the 20-50g of carbohydrates allowed in a ketogenic diet is equivalent (in carbohydrate terms) to just a small tub of yoghurt, an apple, and half a medium potato over a day.

2. It might affect your gut health
As well as filling us up, fibre from fruit, vegetables, legumes and wholegrains is vital for a healthy gut – such as to support the growth of ‘good’ bacteria and to keep the lining of the bowel healthy. On average, we eat only half the recommended daily amounts of at least 25g of fibre for women and 30g for men – and being on a ketogenic diet will make it harder to meet these targets.

3. You may find it hard to stick with
The best ‘diet’ is one that ticks off all your nutritional needs, fits with your lifestyle, and that you enjoy. If you get these right – you’re onto a winner over the long-haul! Many studies show those on a ketogenic diet find it difficult to sustain, due to its restrictive nature (which can also make family meal times and outings with friends more complicated).

For more information, visit the Dieticians Associations of Australia website.