How to complement your wellbeing goals with good food 

Many of us make health-related resolutions when the New Year comes around, and a nutritious, balanced diet is a key part of maintaining our goals.

Nidhi Verma, founder and Head of Food at luxury recipe box brand The Cookaway, explains how cooking good food can benefit more than just your physical health.

After the indulgence of the Christmas period, it’s no surprise that one of the most consistently popular New Year’s resolutions is to get healthier. In fact, in a 2022 survey, 50% of the respondents made a resolution to exercise more in 2023, while 48% aimed to eat healthier.

However, another rising aspiration for many Brits is finding more ways to look after our mental health, with 29% of us making resolutions about mental wellbeing in 2022.

While establishing a healthy, balanced diet is of course valuable for physical health and can play a large role in fitness goals, we’re all beginning to realise just how much it can benefit our mental health too.

So, if you want to blend these two popular resolutions into one, read on to find out the benefits of complementing your wellbeing goals with healthy cooking.

Use feel-good ingredients

As the old saying goes, you are what you eat – and this has just as much impact on your mood as it does on your physical health. So, when complementing your emotional wellbeing goals with healthy cooking, it’s important to consider the ingredients that you include.

Foods high in omega-3 fats have been found to promote better cognition and even help improve sleep quality, meaning that they’re a valuable component of a brain-friendly diet. Recipes with oily fish such as salmon or mackerel are a great (and delicious!) way of getting this important compound into your diet. 

The gut is often referred to as the ‘second brain’, as it’s responsible for producing up to 90% of your body’s serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects mood, stress response, and appetite, so it’s also important to make sure your meals include some gut-friendly ingredients.

Fermented foods such as yoghurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi can contribute more healthy bacteria to the gut, which can have a noticeable probiotic effect. Incorporating more fermented foods is therefore another great way to boost your mental and physical wellbeing through your diet. 

Eating well can have numerous benefits, including reducing the symptoms of the menopause and improving your mood.

Treat cooking as self-care 

If you’re new to cooking from scratch, you may be surprised to learn that making homemade meals can be quite therapeutic. According to Headspace, while it may seem simple, cooking can actually be an important act of self-care for those struggling with their mental health.

This is because it reminds us that we are all worthy of a home-cooked meal, and that making time for good food is an important daily habit that benefits both our mental and physical health. So, eating something you’ve put time and effort into can be more rewarding than you might think. 

Not only this, but it’s vital that we care for our bodies properly when engaging in regular exercise. So, when embarking on a resolution to get more active, complementing this with a nourishing, balanced diet is one of the best things you can do to help achieve your goals. Make sure to include plenty of complex carbohydrates, protein, and vegetables so that you feel strong and energised whenever you lace up your trainers and head to the gym. 

Eat mindful meals 

Sometimes, you may not feel like you have the time to follow a convoluted recipe, especially on midweek nights after a long day at work. However, if one of your wellbeing resolutions is to practice more mindfulness, then you’ll be glad to know that as well as a great way to practice self-care, cooking can also be a mindful activity.

Mindfulness is defined as being focused and intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment. So, making time to pick out ingredients, prepare fresh produce, and follow a recipe can be a great way to be more present and give your mind a break from any issues that have been worrying you throughout the day.

To make cooking as stress-free as possible, be sure to have all your ingredients, equipment, and utensils ready and laid out ahead of time so you don’t spend your mindfulness time searching cupboards or the fridge for what you need. 

Try something new

Cooking isn’t just an effective, everyday way to practice mindfulness and self-care. The act of trying something new like a different global cuisine (or learning how to cook altogether) can also have a positive impact on our mental wellbeing.

Recent studies have suggested that engaging in new experiences can give us a hit of the mood-boosting chemical dopamine and stimulate the learning and memory centres of the brain.

So, while cooking may not give you the same rush as travelling abroad or trying a new sport, it’s still a great way to expand your own personal skill set and in turn, give yourself a boost of self-confidence. There’s nothing better than surprising your family and friends with a delicious meal you’ve cooked from scratch!

Learning about different world cuisines is also a great way of expanding your horizons and can introduce you to a whole new way of approaching food. This can be particularly helpful if you feel like you’re lacking inspiration in the kitchen or are in a rut with your healthy eating resolution. In this way, finding new flavour combinations or cooking methods can help you get over a slump and continue towards your wellbeing goals. 

Complementing your wellbeing resolutions with healthy cooking can be a great way to benefit your mental and physical health. For more advice on healthy living, check out these wellbeing articles on our website.