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IDEAS TO INSPIRE

BY SAMUEL HART

DIRECTOR OF TEACHSTRONG

Food has a huge role to play in boosting the emotional well-being of both staff and pupils. A large body of research is emerging that proves just how powerful our plate is in boosting our mood and fighting depression and anxiety. This is one of the many messages we are passionate about promoting so that school staff are in the best position possible to feel happy and healthy.

There’s a long list of studies out there that have looked into the role that diet plays in well-being but I wanted to share just a few of them with you.

One study that gathered information from 50,000 people in the UK suggests that higher fruit and vegetable intake is associated with better mental well-being1. The authors state that “even modest changes in the consumption patterns of individuals could lead to substantive positive effects for the wellbeing of large cohorts of the population”.

Another study also aimed to find out whether increasing fruit and veg intake will lead to improvements in psychological well-being2. This study looked at the food diaries of 12,385 Australians over 6 years and found “increased fruit and vegetable consumption was predictive of increased happiness, life satisfaction, and well-being”. The authors believe it’s important people understand how quickly the mental health benefits can occur when eating more of these foods!

And a 2014 study surveyed 13,983 adults also found that those who ate more fruits and vegetables report higher levels of well-being3.

Finally, one excellent study published in 2013 really highlights how effective eating more plants would be in boosting well-being4. This randomised controlled trial compared a group who received weekly instruction in following a vegan diet with a group who carried on eating as normal and received no instruction. The results showed that the vegan diet improved depression, anxiety and productivity.

What an empowering message this is. Just shifting the way we eat can result in big changes to our well-being. Education and inspiration around eating more plants would be extremely effective for boosting staff’s passion and positivity. While gestures such as leaving a mug filled with chocolates or dishing out cakes during staff meetings are intended to improve morale, these approaches cannot compete with evidence-based solutions such as guidance and discussion around diet.

Our mission is to help school staff on this journey towards better well-being. Here are our three top tips for maximising the amount of fruit and veg in your diet:

  1. Have a supply of fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts and seeds at school or in your car ready for the week. That way you’ll always have some plant-powered snacks to hand!
  2. Make “buddha bowls” your go-to lunch! You can fill your lunchbox with so many tasty combinations of vegetables and beans. Just search the internet to find your favourite recipe and then stick with it.
  3. Schedule smoothies as part of your arriving home ritual. Try associating walking through the door with preparing a super-nutritious smoothie filled with your favourite fruits and greens. Such an easy way to hit your fruity targets!

If you’d like to learn more about boosting staff well-being through diet then our Food Boost Workshop is the perfect opportunity for your school. We delve deeper into more of the research and then show you how to make eating better part of your routine plus leave you with recipes, meal plan ideas and shopping lists! All designed for people who are short on time and needing to keep things practical for work.

Find out more by visiting www.teachstrong.co.uk/workshops.

References:

1. Ocean N, Howley P and Ensor J. Lettuce be happy: A longitudinal UK study on the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and well-being. Social Science & Medicine. 2019. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953618306907

2. Mujcic R and J Oswald A. Evolution of Well-Being and Happiness After Increases in Consumption of Fruit and Vegetables. American Journal of Public. 2016. https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/10.2105/AJPH.2016.303260

3. Stranges S, Samaraweera, P.C., Taggart F, Kandala N.B. and Stewart-Brown S. Major health-related behaviours and mental wellbeing in the general population: The Health Survey for England. BMJ Open. 2014. https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/bmjopen/4/9/e005878.full.pdf

4. Agarwal U, Mishra S, Xu J, Levin S, Gonzales J, Barnard ND. A multicenter randomized controlled trial of a nutrition intervention program in a multiethnic adult population in the corporate setting reduces depression and anxiety and improves quality of life: the GEICO Study. American Journal of Health Promotion. 2015. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24524383/