Tag Archives: Mental Health

Food and Mood – Balance Your Blood Sugar!

This blog has been written by Joy Davies, a Welfare Consultant at Wellbeing Services.

Everywhere we look at the moment, there are memes and jokes about how people are surviving lockdown by munching their way through snacks to pass the time each day. We also know that these are strange times, with lots of us feeling isolated from friends and family, changes in routine and uncertainty for the future that can lead to dips in our mental health and feelings of wellbeing. But can we use the food we eat to support us in feeling good in body and mind during the lockdown?

The mental health charity, MIND, have done some brilliant research into the link between the food we eat and our mood. And it doesn’t have to be complicated! Simple steps we can all take can help us to give our body and brain the best chance of staying well every day!

This blog series will explore simple ways you can use food to boost your mood including:

Power Protein
Looking After Your Gut
Sneaky Ways to Get Your 5 a Day
Energy Boosts (Without the Caffeine…)

Today: Balance Your Blood Sugar

Drops in your blood sugar can leave you feeling tired, irritable and depressed. Eating little and often and choosing foods that release energy slowly will help to keep your blood sugar level and avoid highs and lows!

Slow release energy foods include:

  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Oats
  • Wholegrain bread
  • Cereal
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Protein like meat and fish

Snacks and Quick Meal Ideas to Balance Your Blood Sugar:

Easy-Cook Dinners for Balancing Your Blood Sugar

Super-Simple Spaghetti Bolognaise

(Serves 2, double quantities to serve 4)

Total Cost: £2.90

Equipment: Two saucepans or a frying pan/wok and a saucepan. Spoon for stirring. Kitchen knives and a chopping board.

250g Minced Beef or vegetarian Quorn Mince
1 Tin Chopped Tomatoes
1 Veggie Stock Cube
1 Beef Stock Cube (or vegetarian “beef” stock cubes)
Whatever vegetables you have kicking about
A squeeze of tomato puree or ketchup
150-200g spaghetti, depending on appetite!
Optional: A sprinkle of grated cheese for serving

  1. Finely chop the vegetables you have – carrots, leeks, onions and peas all work really well. You can even use frozen mixed veg!
    Tip: Carrot works really well grated as it cooks super quickly!
  2. Fry off the mince beef until just browned – the meat should no longer look pink/raw. This should take about 3 minutes.
  3. If using onions or leeks, pop these in now to soften in the pan with the beef
  4. Add the tin of chopped tomatoes, the stock cubes and any other veg you want to use.
  5. Add a squirt of tomato puree or tomato ketchup for added richness
  6. Simmer for 15 minutes on low.
  7. Pop the spaghetti in a pan of boiling water with a pinch of salt and cook according to packet instructions.
  8. Drain the spaghetti and serve, adding a little grated cheese on top to taste!

Sweet and Spicy Moroccan-Style Casserole

(Serves 2, double quantities to Serve 4)

Total Cost: £2.68 including a new jar of Moroccan style seasoning

Equipment: Two saucepans. Spoon for stirring. A sharp knife or scissors to cut up the chicken. A sharp knife to cut up the carrots and any other vegetables you want to use. A chopping board.


1 tin of chickpeas in water
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 Vegetable Stock Cube diluted in 200ml hot water
A carrot or two
Morrocan seasoning spice to taste
150g rice

Optional: Any other veg you have! Spinach works really well – frozen or fresh!

Optional: 1 Chicken Breast. The chickpeas will provide plenty of protein but you could always add a chicken breast if you can’t imagine a meal without meat!

  1. Finely chop or grate the carrots
  2. If using chicken breast, start by searing this in the pan with a little oil or butter. You should no longer see any raw, pink chicken – the edges of each piece should be white. This should take about 3 minutes.
  3. Put the chopped tomatoes, chickpeas, vegetable stock and carrots in a large saucepan.
  4. Optional: Add the seared chicken
  5. Bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer
  6. Add the Moroccan seasoning mix to taste
  7. Optional: add any other vegetables you want to add
  8. Simmer for 15-20 minutes
  9. Cook the rice according to packet instructions
  10. Serve and enjoy!

Fancy something sweet? Homemade flapjack

Homemade flapjack can give you a sweet fix while the oats slow down the release of the sugars into your blood.

Equipment: Something to bake them in – baking tray/baking tin/cake tin/glass heat-proof dish
Grease-proof paper/baking paper – don’t worry if you haven’t got this. You can always use some extra butter rubbed on the inside of the tin to stop them sticking. A saucepan and a spoon.


150g butter or spread
100g/4 tablespoons golden syrup OR coconut oil OR honey
100g light brown sugar – but any sugar will do!
350g porridge oats
Optional: raisins, chopped nuts, chopped cherries, dark chocolate drops


  1. Preheat the oven to 180C
  2. Line a baking tin/tray with grease-proof paper or butter the inside
  3. Put the butter, syrup/coconut oil/honey and sugar in a saucepan and stir over a medium heat for 5 minutes until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.
  4. Take off the heat
  5. Mix in the oats – Optional: Add any raisins/cherries/chocolate drops here.
  6. Tip the mixture into your tin and use a spoon to press it down evenly. This helps your flapjacks stay together when cutting them up!
  7. Back for 20-25 minutes
  8. Leave to cool, cut up and enjoy!

Final Thoughts:

Remember, think blood sugar when you grab something to eat! If something contains lots of sugar and not much else (think that big bar of chocolate….) it will spike your blood sugar, followed by a big drop. Of course still enjoy your sweet treats, but overall, aim for a treat that will balance your blood sugar out!

We would love to see pictures of what you’ve cooked! Tweet @UoEWellbeing using #foodandmood

Next time: Simple ways to sneak in 5 a day

Exercise for the Mind

This blog has been written by Jess Prince (Mental Health Advisor and Welfare Consultant for Wellbeing Services) and Anna Janota (Sports Welfare Consultant for Wellbeing Services and Sports Park).

Now more than ever distractions that support and promote our mental health in this time of lockdown are being highlighted across the internet, from pets to baking to online quizzes and choirs to the next X Factor star.  Whilst it’s great to have such a wealth of options, it can be overwhelming to know where to start.

The benefits of exercise

So why don’t we begin by looking at how our mental health and physical health is intrinsically linked?  When you exercise, chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that improve your mood are released. If you exercise regularly or keep active, it can reduce your stress and symptoms of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, help with recovery from mental health difficulties and improve your sleep.

The relationship between mental and physical health

So how are exercise and the mind linked up?  Exercising pumps blood to the brain, which can help you to think more clearly and increases the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory.  It also increases the connections between the nerve cells in the brain. This improves your memory and helps protect your brain against injury and disease.

It is great to see all the benefits from exercising but the reality of being able to regularly exercise or even be active, especially during lockdown life, is a lot harder.

There are many barriers to exercising (physical, psychological, mental ill health, lack of space, lack of time etc.) but one thing that is key for all exercise is breathing.  So let’s start with a basic breathing technique that is accessible for everyone to try, called the 4-7-8 breathing technique.

Breathing Technique

This should only be carried out in a setting where you’re fully prepared to relax and feel safe.  Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor, think about your posture.  If you want to, you can do this breathing technique lying down. Prepare for the practice by resting the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth, right behind your top front teeth. You’ll need to keep your tongue in place throughout. It takes practice to keep from moving your tongue when you exhale.

The following steps should all be carried out in the cycle of one breath:

  • First, let your lips part. Make a whooshing sound, exhaling completely through your mouth.
  • Next, close your lips, inhaling silently through your nose as you count to four in your head.
  • Then, for seven seconds, hold your breath.
  • Make another whooshing sound and exhale from your mouth for eight seconds.

When you inhale again, you initiate a new cycle of breath. Practice this pattern for four full breaths.

The held breath (for seven seconds) is the most important part of this practice. It’s also recommended that you only practice 4-7-8 breathing for four breaths when you’re first starting out. You can gradually work your way up to eight full breaths.

This breathing exercise can put you into a deep state of relaxation so please ensure you don’t have to be alert straight after doing it.

Below is a quote which highlights our thoughts around the importance of the breath:

“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”

― Amit Ray, Om Chanting and Meditation

Your feedback

We’ll be looking into other aspects of mental and physical health in future blogs.  We hope you found this helpful and would really value your comments, feedback and suggested topics for future blogs. We hope that our small blog will start a wider discussion around mental health and exercise.

Please send your comments to: and mark FAO Jess Prince/Anna.