Diet & Nutrition
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Your Anger Management Menu

Believe it or not, your mood is affected by your diet. Try these foods to for steady blood sugar and a better attitude all day long.

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By Frances Largeman-Roth, RD

Ever find yourself snapping at your daughter when she’s dragging her heels getting ready for school? Maybe you lose patience with a coworker just before lunch, or you lash out at your husband around dinnertime. Believe it or not, eating specific foods at certain times of the day can help keep your mood in check. Just like some foods can help keep you alert, others can help calm you down. The right foods affect your basic body chemistry to help even out blood sugar, blood pressure and even neurotrans-mitters that send signals to your brain. Pick and choose from the list of foods that follow. Over time, they  can help tame your temper. 

Breakfast: Kiwi

2 / 6 Breakfast: Kiwi

If you’re losing your temper in the morning, you’re likely experiencing ongoing stress, which means that your body is dealing with major oxidative damage. Vitamin C is one of our most powerful antioxidants and since our bodies can't make it, we need to get a daily influx of it. One cup of kiwi fruit gives you a powerful antioxidant boost with more than 100% of the RDA of vitamin C. And it’s only 110 calories, so you can pair it with a low-fat yogurt and a tablespoon of nuts. Since heat and light break down vitamin C, it's best to slice kiwi up fresh just before eating it. 

How is stress affecting you?

Mid-Morning Snack: Pumpkin Seeds

3 / 6 Mid-Morning Snack: Pumpkin Seeds

Kids aren't the only ones who get cranky mid-morning. It could be due to skipping breakfast, or perhaps you only managed to have a skimpy bite while running out the door. By around 10 or 11 am, your body needs a hit of nutrients to keep you level until you can take a lunch break. I like to keep pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas) on hand because they’re portable and non-perishable, and they’re also packed with the mineral magnesium, which helps you relax by regulating blood pressure. They’re naturally very low in sugar, so you won’t have a sugar crash before heading to lunch. Try my recipe for Banana-Chocolate Muffins With Pumpkin Seeds.

Lunch: Barley

4 / 6 Lunch: Barley

Midday meltdowns are often the result of low blood sugar, so by noon you need something that's going to bring your blood sugar back into a healthy range, without it crashing later. Barley is a versatile whole grain that can keep blood sugar steady for hours. Plus, it will keep you recharged until dinner. Since it takes about 40 minutes to cook, I like to make a big batch and then eat it for breakfast with walnuts and a dash of cinnamon, or have it for lunch topped with a fried egg and Sriracha hot sauce. Eating a cup of cooked barley a few times a week is enough to help keep your mood in check.

Late Afternoon Snack: Peanuts and Popcorn

5 / 6 Late Afternoon Snack: Peanuts and Popcorn

We all know that 3 p.m. slump, where you're tired and grumpy. You need something that’s going to boost serotonin, the neurotransmitter that increases feelings of pleasure. Try one ounce of peanuts and a cup of air-popped popcorn. Peanuts (choose roasted and unsalted) are a good source of folate, which helps your brain produce serotonin, and the carbohydrates in the popcorn provide just enough fuel to make your brain happy. Don’t like peanuts, or you're allergic? One ounce of dark (at least 70% cacao) chocolate will also do the trick!

Dinner: Hot Peppers

6 / 6 Dinner: Hot Peppers

It may seem counterintuitive, but I suggest finishing the day off with a meal that includes hot peppers. When you eat hot peppers, your body responds to the burn of the heat, caused by the chemical capsaicin, by releasing endorphins. Getting an endorphin boost at night will help clear out stress and keep you in a good mood before bed. 

You don't need the hottest pepper, but it does need to have some heat (bell peppers don’t count). For mild heat, I like Anaheim or a small jalapeno. Try using hot peppers in casseroles, soups, stir-fries or stuffed pepper dishes. Cooking doesn’t reduce the amount of capsaicin, but it will make eating hot peppers more approachable.