Healthy Eating Tips

What an Internal Medicine Doctor Eats Every Day for Optimal Mood Balance and Mental Health

Photo: Stocksy/Boris Jovanovic
As our summer Fridays are all dried up and we’re preparing for busier-than-ever holiday months along with a drop in temperatures, it’s as important as ever to prioritize our mental health. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is estimated to impact 10 million Americans each year, and there's no denying that the hustle of the back-to-school season—or, you know, simply reading the news—can take a toll on one's mood and stress levels.

To help us feel our best at all times of year, we asked Austin Perlmutter, MD, an internal medicine doctor, author, and senior director of science and clinical innovation at Big Bold Health to share with us his favorite mood-boosting meals for keeping his mental health and stress levels in check.

The mood-boosting meals an internal medicine doctor eats on the reg

Breakfast time means plenty of healthy fats and protein

Dr. Perlmutter typically starts his day between 6 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., but his breakfast doesn’t usually take place until after 11, which he says is best for maintaining his own energy levels and focus (in addition to giving his appetite sufficient time to wake up). “My favorite way to eat breakfast is by combining a few of nutrient-rich foods with an emphasis on eggs, olive oil, and colorful vegetables like kale, spinach, and red onions,” Dr. Perlmutter says. “Having high-quality sources of fat and protein helps keep me full and my energy levels stable.”

However, Dr. Perlmutter doesn't always have the time to make a delicious frittata or omelet (we can relate). So on an extra busy workday, he likes to rely on plant-based protein shakes, like HTB Rejuvenate Superfood Advanced Protein Shake Mix. "It tastes delicious without any added sugar and offers a wide spectrum of nutrients to keep my immunity strong and promote full-body wellness," he says.

Brain-boosting snacks

Since our expert typically eats breakfast between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., he likes to keep several brain-boosting snacks on hand at all times, especially if he’s traveling, lecturing, or sneaking out for a beautiful afternoon hike. Dr. Perlmutter says that having smart snacks nearby will keep him from reaching for whatever's available in the airport or university lecture hall vending machine.

“My go-to brain-boosting snacks are walnuts, almonds, blueberries or goji berries if they need to keep longer, at least 70 percent dark chocolate, and small tins of fish like sardines or mackerel,” says Dr. Perlmutter. “I also often have single-use nut butter packets on hand, too, but I try to save those for when things get more dire.”

His favorite snacks have us dreaming up the ultimate brain-boosting trail mix that combines nuts, berries, and dark chocolate for a satisfying sweet and salty treat for any time of day. Be sure to keep your eyes out for dried fruit without added sugars to get the most benefit from this tasty treat.

A colorful dinner plate

“The core tenets of my dinnertime planning include incorporating a diversity of nutrients. For instance, I love to combine a high-quality protein with a colorful vegetable for fiber, and of course, I try to always prioritize cooking something that my partner is excited about eating,” says Dr. Perlmutter.

One of his favorite go-to meals is roasted wild salmon (he says buying it frozen in bulk will save you big), a giant salad with fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes, and a grain with a lower-glycemic impact like quinoa, which he likes to cook in the Instant Pot for speedy results. This is a meal that can easily come together in 20 minutes and requires little prep work while offering a hefty dose of omega-3 fats, fiber, protein, and antioxidants.

Naturally sweet treats

Dr. Perlmutter likes to wind down dinnertime with a piece of dark chocolate, preferably with 70 percent or more cacao to reap the full antioxidant and brain health benefits, or if he’s still hungry from an active day, the doc will whip up his favorite chia pudding recipe topped with cacao nibs, berries, and nuts or coconut.

“Generally speaking, I think most people—and our brains—benefit from avoiding foods with added sugar,” says Dr. Perlmutter. “Whether it’s agave, high-fructose corn syrup, or cane sugar, modern day humans eat way more added sugar than our bodies can handle. If I’m looking for something sweet, I usually turn to natural fruits, especially polyphenol-rich, relatively low sugar fruits like blueberries and raspberries. Dark chocolate is again a mainstay in my toolkit here.”

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