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6 Ways to Eat for a Better Mood

Cranky? Get tips for good eating habits to keep your food and mood working for you.
By Katrina Brown Hunt
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD

Teen boy slurping from cereal bowlIt's been a long day at school; what are you in the mood to eat? A warm chocolate chip cookie? A basket of french fries washed down with a soda?

Admit it, those sound pretty satisfying sometimes. And most us think that a little zap of sugar will also make us feel better. It's almost true, too. Your stomach, it turns out, is good at messing with your head. Food and mood have quite a relationship.

Keeping your blood sugar (also known as glucose) at a pretty steady level affects how you feel physically and also helps your brain work better. "When you feel better, your mood is better," says Bethany Thayer, a registered dietitian and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. And when you aren't keeping that blood sugar at an even level, you can feel tired, irritable, or just bummed out.

Sugary snacks or sodas give you a quick boost. But their boost fizzles out fast, since those foods and drinks usually don't offer any nutritious, long-lasting fuel for your body. Fatty foods, meanwhile, raise the fat levels in your bloodstream. That can make you feel sluggish. Just think about how you're really not in the mood to study for a math test right after you eat a cheeseburger combo meal.

While there is always room for the occasional warm cookie, these six good eating habits will boost both your health and your mood for the long haul.

1. Sustain a Good Mood: Grab Your Grains

Eating breads or cereals made from whole grains will keep a smile on your face longer than eating refined carbs such as white bread, flour tortillas, or white rice. "With whole grains, the glucose gets introduced into your bloodstream more smoothly, rather than dumping it all at once," says Thayer. The same goes for getting your fruit from the actual fruit, and not juice. An apple, for example, has filling, lasting fiber, while apple juice has none. Plus, that juice also has a lot more sugar and calories.

2. Avoid a Mood Crash: Don't Skip Breakfast

Your first meal of the day is a big kick-start of glucose to your system so your brain can wake up and take on the day. If you skip it, though, you'll be feeling as flat as a pancake by mid-morning. Your breakfast doesn't have to be big, fancy, or even breakfast-y.

If you like cereal, don't forget the milk: Combining whole-grain cereal with skim milk gives you both carbs for energy and protein for endurance. A great to-go option: a protein-rich cheese, turkey, or peanut butter sandwich. And some breakfast is better than no breakfast. "Eat a banana, some granola bars, something healthy that you can grab," says Teresa Beach, a registered dietitian at Sanford Medical Center in Sioux Falls, S.D. Even better: combine that carb-rich banana with a little peanut butter for a protein boost.