Health and wellbeing: how school staff and pupils can eat better to feel better

Pelican Procurement dietitian Anna-Maria Holt is offering a workshop, drawing together the latest scientific evidence to provide tips and practical advice to help school staff benefit from better health and improved mood

In the UK it is believed that 15 million days are lost to sickness a year – when that sickness is actually related to mental health issues such as stress, depression and anxiety. A survey conducted by the Mental Health Foundation found that 74% of people have felt so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope.

In schools, staff and pupils can feel stressed from time to time due to workload and academic pressure.

Supporting health and wellbeing in an educational setting can have a positive impact on how people feel – and how they perform.

The link between the gut and brain is something we have long been aware of, with sayings such as ‘butterflies in your tummy’ and having a ‘gut feeling’ often being used to describe how we feel.

The gut-brain connection is an exciting area of research helping academics and health practitioners better understand how these two organs interact. Emerging scientific research shows that what we eat can boost mood, especially when it comes to preventing and managing symptoms of anxiety and depression.

We know that nutrient-dense foods provide the energy, vitamins and minerals needed to sustain energy levels, mood and brain function throughout the day.

The Food and Mood workshop will help you understand how what you eat can:

● Increase energy levels
● Support emotional health
● Improve concentration
● Reduce stress
● Increase productivity
● Reduce absenteeism

Key nutrients linked to mood include iron, folate, selenium and B vitamins such as B1, B3 and B12. Eating a healthy, balanced diet including wholegrain carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables, lower-fat dairy and protein-rich foods can help meet these nutrient requirements.

Polyphenols found in red berries, dark chocolate and tea, and omega 3s found in oily fish such as salmon and mackerel may also play a role in maintaining good mental health.

An ongoing European study, known as MoodFood, has found that eating patterns appear to have the most positive effect on mood, rather than individual nutrients, foods or supplements.

Having breakfast and eating regular meals that include starchy foods means the brain receives the fuel it needs in the form of glucose, which helps with focus and good concentration.

Supporting health and wellbeing in an educational setting can have a positive impact on how people feel – and how they perform

Conversely, a lack of glucose can leave us feeling tired and weak, which often leads to us reaching out for sugary or energy drinks and food that is often high in fat, sugar or salt. Planning and preparing snacks in advance can help to ensure we avoid these temptations.

Adopting strategies that support eating well can support mental wellbeing and potentially prevent mental ill health.

In a nutshell, diet is one way that individuals can help manage how they feel – working even better alongside a range of other lifestyle modifications.

To find out more about Pelican’s Food and Mood workshops, please contact Anna-Maria Holt by emailing

More general information about food and mood can be found here:

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