What should your food plan look like?

As a first step to determining how to balance different food groups in your food plan, a look at the food pyramid provides a good general guide.  Recently, the nutrition experts at the University of Michigan Health System’s Integrative Medicine program enhanced the information found on the traditional pyramid, creating the “Healing Foods Pyramid” to better reflect the latest thinking about the connection between what we eat and how we feel.

 

The Food Pyramid illustrates how different types of foods can be combined to build a balanced diet “from the ground up”. Food groups appearing closer to the base of the pyramid (such as fresh vegetables and fruits) should make up a larger portion of your daily food intake, relative to those found farther up the pyramid (eggs, dairy, and meats).

Here are some additional things to keep in mind when thinking about your own nutrition needs:

All carbohydrates are not created equal

Processed sugars (such as candy, cookies and sugary soda) and refined carbohydrates (breads, cakes and pastas made with white flour) provide only a temporary feeling of increased energy and fullness. That initial boost may be followed by a desire for more sweets and starches to prop up your mood and energy level.  Instead, choose complex carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables and healthy grains (breads, cereals and pasta made from whole grains) to ensure maximum nutritional and digestive benefits with fewer “spikes” to disrupt brain chemistry.

Increase your intake of the vitamins and minerals shown to combat depression

Researchers are continuously learning more about the complex ways that the body – and specifically the brain – reacts to the various building blocks of food.  Here are a few recent findings that are particularly relevant to the management of depression:

Aim for variety, and let color guide you

Ideally, your daily menu should include a “rainbow” of fresh fruits and vegetables to ensure you’re getting a balanced mix of nutrients.  Combine those with carbohydrates made with whole grains, and lean proteins -- both animal-based, like chicken or fish, and plant-based like kidney beans or peas.

Your beverage choices are as important as your food choices

You aren’t just what you eat. You’re when, where and how you eat, too

In addition to considering what foods you will eat, pay attention to the following when developing a moderate, sensible eating plan: