Hey, have you noticed that your kids are often more agitated (or agitating?) around 4 PM? Or your husband is cranky at 11.30 on his day off? or, just maybe, You’re out of sorts yourself at 2 in the afternoon? When was the last time they (or you) had eaten? What had you eaten?
There are so many things that contribute to attitude and mood. Environment. Stress level. Sleep (or lack of sleep). Chemicals (in and around us). Vitamins. And on and on. But have you really considered food as part of that list?
I’ve become fascinated by the whole food mood connection recently. I can’t believe how much I have come to learn. It’s surprising how the two connect.
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Exploring The Food Mood Connection
I’m not a scientist, but I am observant, most of the time. And the food mood connection is real. When someone drinks a soda, particularly on an empty stomach, behavior and energy levels change. Kids get sugar highs, grownups get cranky. Yes, they do.
Desserts in general, if not eaten in close proximity to real food, have a distinct effect on blood sugar and behavior & mood too.
Forgetting meals, or overeating have effects too. Ask me how I know about this particular food mood connection…
Cranky people can steal the joy of being a mom right out of the day, can’t they?
How Does Food Affect Your Mood?
If you wonder whether, if, or how food affects your mood, and your family’s, then I recommend observing your family’s eating habits and mood for several days.
I took notes for 3-4 days on who eats what, when, and how it affected everyone’s mood and attitude timing. I was surprised at what I found. (Free Workbook below)
When my oldest was 4 he usually didn’t want breakfast before 9 if we weren’t going somewhere. He would get cranky if he doesn’t at least snack around 11-11.30, then was usually good until 3.30-4 PM, and again about 8 PM. (Bedtime stall tactic? Probably. But the amount he eats proves he’s genuinely hungry, and I’d rather feed him at 8ish, than at midnight when he can’t sleep!)
Breakfast is earlier these days, but otherwise, it all holds true years later.
It doesn’t exactly match up with my schedule, or my husband’s but knowing what the pattern is, I can anticipate moods, and have healthy snacks, or even earlier meals for him, and have a more peaceful home!
**Note, I should mention, with kids, Growth Spurts and other changes can seriously affect their meal timing. If you notice mood and attitude upsets at odd times, it may be time to add an extra [protein] snack.
I’ve also noticed, at least for us, if there’s not enough protein going in, mood suffers, tiredness increases, and generally, it’s not pretty!
So that amounts to eating at least four times a day, or else a “Feed me before I turn into a Snickers Commercial” moment.
I know, 4 Meals? I have a hard time with 3! It’s okay, though. Because once you know this, and plan for it, stress levels go down across the board!
How to Decode and Manage the Food Mood Connection at Your House
Discovering and managing the food mood connection in your household is something you can do yourself if you are diligent. It means focusing on the family’s eating and attitudes for at least 3-4 days, maybe a week or two. That will give you plenty of data to work from for planning a better schedule of food for mood swings avoidance!
Wanna try it? There’s a pretty good chance you’ll find a pattern. I know it can be tedious, but you may be surprised at what you see. Grab your free Food for Mood Swings Tracker and decode the timing aspect of hangry moments, and possibly some trigger foods too.
Who knows, you might even figure out someone is allergic to something they are eating, and make a huge impact on household life! Because when you’re eating something you shouldn’t, you may not be ‘breaking out’ or having a hard time breathing. You could be getting Headaches more often than you should. Or be more Tired than you should be. Or Itchy. Achy. Or… Well, you get the idea. Any of these side effects can be more than enough to cause crankiness in even the sweetest disposition.
Making the Food Mood Connection with a Nutritionist
Nutritionist counseling is another way to find out about the food mood connection. I’ve been going to a nutritionist who does a type of electrodermal testing that helps me know everything from food sensitivities to whether my personal care products are having a negative effect on me, to the right balance and dosage of my vitamins and supplements.
And she can test my kids by testing me with them on my lap, which is fascinating!!
The things I’ve learned about categories of foods, and the help she’s offered in my circle of acquaintances on anything from cancer to Lyme disease to kidney issues and extreme inflammation has been amazing!
Decoding the Discoveries
After you’ve tracked timing and food sensitivities, It’s time to decode all the discoveries you’ve made and make a plan. Maybe you always knew the kids need to eat around 4, and making them wait for dinner at 5.30 is torture. For everyone. Or maybe you never really thought about it.
Don’t look at it as ‘catering to a bunch of whining’ because there’s a better way to see all of this. You’re unlocking the mystery of a happier, more peaceful family.
We don’t offer them the candy, ice cream, or potato chips they may want at 4 pm. Instead, a meat stick, or even a protein smoothie (these are called milkshakes at our house, and the kids love them!). An apple or bowl of carrots, craisins, or almonds. None of which require a lot of effort, but taste good, are nutritious, and fill the gap. They also work at 10 am or just before bed.
Okay, so you’ve done the research, and collected your facts. Now here’s the plan:
Get Family Buy-in
Anytime you’re going to make changes to established patterns and habits, getting family buy-in is going to be crucial to success. Especially with something as personal and emotionally connected as food.
Because let’s face it. Food is a very emotional topic, or the diet industry wouldn’t exist. The checkout wouldn’t be loaded with candy bars at the grocery store.
Whether you prefer a big family meeting or a simple conversation over dinner, share your findings from observing your family. Talk to them about what you’d like to see happen. Show them your ideas and the personal advantage to each person.
Paint a picture of less arguing over a snack just before mealtime, because a, you’re moving mealtimes, or b, you’ve thought of some good snacks they can have any time they want, or whatever the case may be.
Set a trial run, of say 3 weeks. Have them help you pick the meals to get them involved in the process.
Offer a fun family activity as a reward, something you don’t normally have energy or time for. Maybe it’s an evening at the park or family game night? Nothing fancy or expensive, but after you’ve sorted out food mood connection issues, you’ll likely be up for more of these kinds of things!
Meal Planning: Food for Mood Swings
Now it’s time to get into the meal planning. Brainstorming your top foods for mood swings management, and map out the road to calmer days.
1, Brainstorm your go-to foods. Breakfasts, Snacks, Lunches, Dinners, Desserts. Home and Away meals and snacks. Having a menu bank is extremely helpful.
2, Make a meal and grocery list based on your regular activity schedule and your food for mood swings tracker. (I prefer to have meals listed that I have everything for, not necessarily assigned to a day, just to be a little more flexible)
3, Make your Weekly or Monthly schedule of activities and then plug in the meals and snacks that fit best. I’m also not afraid of leftovers. So cooking 1 meal, and making enough for one of tomorrow’s meals, or even 2-3 extra meals (think spaghetti sauce, soup, etc) and freezing it so it’s ready to go, is something that works well for our family.
4, Schedule food prep time. Chopping veggies for several meals can save time, as can precooking ground beef or turkey and chicken, etc. Doing the food prep at specific times, weekly, midweek, and monthly, means less waste, which will make shopping easier and less stress over what’s for dinner, making life better
And 5, Do not stress if you have to grab something on the go. After all, new habits take time. And planning. And Commitment. And Grace!
Here is a free printable menu planning workbook to get you started!
Are You Ready to Deal With Your Food Mood Connection?
Well, I hope you’re ready to deal with decoding and managing your food mood connection in your household. The stress relief in untangling one source of drama and chaos, and reducing it to its lowest possible level is amazing!
I know for my house, changing the way we think about food timing, and the whole food for mood swings prevention concept has been very freeing. I think it will help you too!