Eating – and Cooking – for Well-Being

Research consistently shows that eating a balanced diet, consuming nutrient dense foods and avoiding junk food, can improve psychological health and positively impact overall well-being.

But many people are surprised to learn that the often-dreaded task of meal preparation is also shown to enhance well-being. Taking the time to prepare a meal, especially with a friend or partner, is so beneficial for your emotional well-being that the Wall Street Journal reports many therapists recommend cooking classes as a way to treat depression and anxiety, as well as eating disorders, ADHD and addiction.

One clinical psychiatrist who wholeheartedly agrees? Carl Clark, MD, who in addition to serving as the president and CEO of WellPower, is also a practicing psychiatrist and an avid cook. Dr. Clark and his partner make a new recipe together each day. This routine has had a tremendous impact on their well-being and pushed them to eat more healthfully. The time spent preparing food offers the couple a chance to reconnect and work together as a team.

“It has become an important ritual for us,” Dr. Clark notes. “I often get lost in the task of cooking, into a state of ‘flow,’ which is a term for the sense of fluidity between body and mind, where you are so engrossed in a task that you almost lose time and are beyond the point of distraction.”

For people who want to eat optimally for mental health, Dr. Clark recommends preparing and consuming more vegetables, fruits and legumes. The “Mediterranean Diet” is considered among the most optimal for mental health. Of course, avoiding excess alcohol, caffeine and processed foods is also important. He recommends to “think about what and why you’re eating.” For people who tend to reach for crunchy chips when stressed out, Dr. Clark recommends apple slices and crisp veggies instead. For people who self-soothe with rich dessert foods, try blueberries, dark chocolate or even yogurt.

Dr. Clark is also a fan of crockpot cooking, which can be easily assembled in the morning and produce a delicious meal in time for dinner. He also recommends weekend meal prep for the week ahead. “If you know what you plan to make, have the ingredients on hand or better yet, pre-chopped, it makes cooking much less stressful.”

Recently, Dr. Clark appeared on FOX31 Morning News to prepare a healthy meal that he enjoys, Jerk Roasted Cauliflower. “The cauliflower has a real kick and can satisfy those crunchy cravings. It will fill you up like chips or wings, but instead of eating empty calories or fatty foods, you’re eating a nutritious, fiber rich, low carb vegetable.”

You can find healthy recipes and more here on Dr. Clark’s blog. Bon appétit.