As a farm-based program, our relationship to food is sacred. We cultivate much of what we eat and want alumni to maintain a healthy relationship with food after they leave the Ranch. In Fall 2022, Spring Lake Ranch welcomed a dietician who is working with the kitchen, residents, and staff to support the healing work of our community.
Nutrition can be a big help as we work to shake off the pesky winter blues. As a dietitian specialized in nutrition for mental health, there are a few main things I focus on to help manage mood during wintertime.
The first is how we balance our plates. Ideally, we want to aim for about half the plate to be filled with non-starchy vegetables (dark leafy greens, peppers, mushrooms, broccoli,) one quarter of the plate to be lean protein, and the other quarter to be a whole grain or starchy vegetable (potatoes, root veggies.) This balance helps us to feel satisfied for longer and avoid energy spikes and crashes, which can contribute to symptoms of anxiety and depression.
The next thing I recommend is making sure we are getting these crucial nutrients: vitamin D and omega-3s.
- Vitamin D is an essential nutrient in which we can easily become deficient, particularly living in the northeast. Even moderate vitamin D deficiency can contribute to depressive symptoms. There are very few food sources for significant levels of vitamin D, so most folks require a supplement of at least 400 IU. It’s worth speaking to your dietitian or PCP to determine what dose is right for you, as moderation is key.
- Omega-3s are a healthy type of fat plentiful in seafood like salmon, trout, oysters, and scallops, as well as some plant foods like walnuts, chia seeds, and ground flax seeds. These powerful anti-inflammatory fats have been shown to help manage anxiety and especially depressive symptoms. Aim for 1-2 servings of fatty fish each week or a serving of plant sources daily to see the best results.
Most importantly, I hope you enjoy your meals and snacks thoroughly! If you notice a voice of self-criticism peaking in this winter season while enjoying warming, hearty meals, try self-compassion. Remind yourself of how you would talk to your best friend. Then, turn that voice inward. We are all deserving of enjoyable, satisfying meals which help us to feel our best!