Mental Health & Your Diet

Evidence indicates that what we eat plays a prevalent role in the development, management and prevention of specific mental health problems such as depression, schizophrenia, ADHD & Alzheimer’s disease.

To put this into a simpler picture just watch a small child after they have consumed sugar or processed food. Children are honest and don’t yet know how to conceal the effects of anything they are given so you will see it raw and as clear as day in them. Sugar they are hyper, even squealing and then they crash and its actually quite frightening to observe. Processed foods or ready meals usually see a hunger very soon after consumption which proves that there aren’t enough vitamins and minerals to satisfy the body so it goes back for more. Both will soon be followed by lethargy and possibly even mood swings. Again these are all far clearer to see in a small child who hasn’t the ability to conceal it.

Observing these reactions in children should be alarm bells for us adults. These types of food affect the body and mind hugely and the same is happening to us.

Now for the boring bit! Both the brain & neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain) are derived from nutrients & are therefore affected by what we eat and drink. Serotonin (mood), adrenaline (motivation) or acetylcholine (memory) are all neurotransmitters made from amino acids in protein we eat. Their production in the brain depends on vitamins and minerals (micronutrients). These help build and rebuild the brain and nervous system and keep everything running smoothly.

Studies have shown significant improvement in IQ and a reduction in aggression, stress & anxiety in both children and adults following optimum intake of vitamins and minerals.

There are other factors affecting mental health such as exercise and circumstances in your life. It is hugely important to feed the brain the right food and drink to help repair neurotransmitters.

Good ways to do this is to pack in the veggies wherever possible 5 ways to sneak in nutrients. Create a routine as this can give you mental clarity & force you to follow your diet.

Again back to the kids, but they are a version of all of us unscathed by life experiences. They are what we should all be in physical health and mental health without toxic influence from media and circumstance.

Recently myself and my family went on holiday. Between early flights and delayed late flights, no set nap time, eating time or bed time my two lads were all over the place. (I know bad parenting, I really relax on my hols!). Seb was actually ill last week which appeared to be a bit of a virus but he was unwell from Tuesday to Friday so that wasn’t great craic. On top of that Theo decided sleeping at night wasn’t for him for the 3 nights as well and along with being exhausted from the Monday night/Tuesday morning flight home myself and Steve were living on coffee and next to no sleep. Let me tell you, those tans faded fairly lively and we were kicked right back into the real world. Along with this we had mountains of work on and the two boys were snappy, misbehaving and SERIOUSLY uncooperative. This led to me getting seriously strict and organised which is the polar opposite to me but I was bloody desperate. I had a long weekend to work with and no social engagements for myself or the kids which is actually quite rare so I took the bull by the horns and set out some rules.

I made a plan for food, activity and sleep and I can now say on Tuesday following the bank holiday that I think it has worked. I usually allow the boys copious amounts of berries, bananas, crackers, cheese etc. I put a time on everything for this little experiment! They woke up brushed their teeth and got dressed. Down the stairs they had yoghurt or porridge with berries or egg and toast for their breakfast with a bit of green juice. Snack was an apple and then lunch was chicken or fish with veggies and both went to sleep at 1.30 every day for 2-3 hours. Snack on banana when they wake up and more juice or water if they want it, dinner at 5.30/6 every day and bed at 8.00pm. Myself and Steve also indulged in a load of veggies and green juice and liver shots daily and I got back on track with my morning smoothies.

Myself and Steve are feeling great and there is a huge change in the mood, attention span, behaviour and energy of the boys. Our home feels calmer, we’re felling more energetic and happier & things that felt daunting & impossible to tackle last week suddenly seem less important. It took a change in diet, routine, sleep & loads of water to get us back on track but it only took a week because we wanted it to work.

Jen X

Mind Over Matter 4 Tips

Whether its meditation to still the busy mind, training the brain to eat the right food or motivating yourself to exercise, all take some work and persistence.

Routine is key with any new task; whether its running daily, meditating daily, following an eating plan or going to the gym. Try to follow the same pattern daily or at least on the week days. A little sunrise yoga for 4-5 mins when you wake up is a great habit to get into. A morning run as soon as you wake up is another great way to start the day. Its important to remember that everyone struggles at the beginning but you need to overcome that and you will after 3-5 days; and then getting up to do your yoga or to go for a quick run will become part of your day, so much so that you won’t feel right without doing them. I even leave a refreshing glass of lemon water waiting for me in the kitchen for when I get in and I love having my smoothie when I get in as well, its something to look forward to and you feel bloody great!


Preparation is the next key action. Laying out your running gear to head out first thing in the morning or leaving your running gear out to go as soon as you come in from work. Taking your gym gear to work or leaving it out as above. Setting a time in the day for meditating or meal prep are all important. Make a menu for the week, make a shopping list, get exactly what you need and no more or less because if you need to go back to the shop later in the week you run the risk of grabbing something naughty. Prepping sides and salads for the fridge is so handy for grab and go situations. As I mentioned above I even go so far as making my drink for when I get back so I can look forward to it. I also leave lunches and uniforms prepared for Seb so that everything is easier with him in the morning too. I found that poor Theo was getting almost ignored because I was running around trying to get sebs bits and bobs together and had no time to greet Theo or spend any time with him. Now we can all go down and the boys have a little play time while they eat their breakfast.

Education is the next step. If you educate yourself on the benefits of healthy eating and exercise and you equip yourself with the knowledge as you head for the shops or the gym it is far easier to truck on. I’m not saying go and get a degree in nutrition, just simply read up on the benefits of certain foods. Every second article in magazines these days has a list of benefits of the latest superfood. Reading about how amazing your broccoli is and how its benefitting your body makes It far more enjoyable to eat at dinner time. I am a big fan of health magazines anyway but these articles are in every type of magazine. Its my job to be obsessed with food and its health benefits and its my job to know the latest superfood and to create recipes incorporating these foods. This makes it easier for people not in the industry to make better choices because they can read blogs, articles and go to health food shops and restaurants and get the advice they need. Its easier to eat these foods when you know how they’re working. Just like a car, your body won’t function without the right fuel in it.

Reward. Whether you set a goal for one week or five weeks time, always have a reward at the end of it, something to work towards. You may be working towards a holiday where you want to feel good in a swimsuit, an occasion where you want to feel good in an outfit or simply treat yourself with a chocolate bar that you love or a glass of wine at the end of the week. One thing that works for some is to buy the outfit in the size you wish to be and work towards it. HOWEVER I once did this with jeans and even after toning up in the gym they still never fit because guess what? The hips really don’t lie!!! No gym or weight loss can move the bones structure! Another reward could be a trip to the spa for the day or a nice restaurant or hotel stay. These are nice treats after some hard work in the gym and clean eating but also a reason to save money and avoid them nights out drinking and eating, followed by the hangover where its near impossible not to eat badly!!

These are steps that I follow but there is no harm in taking a break, skipping the exercise one day or having a chocolate or whatever it is you need. The worst thing you can do is feel guilty and beat yourself up about it. A lot of people let a small break spiral, the whole mindset derails and the person loses focus. I’ve done the whole feck it sure I may as well write off the rest of the day seen as I’ve made this mistake. The best thing to do is climb back on track and let the mistake go. Its not going to do any harm. Spending the rest of the day eating junk will do harm and you will feel crap by the time you go to bed.

Jen X

5 ways to sneak in the nutrients

I don’t find myself craving bowls of veggies or fruit & I’ve never been good at eating either. As an adult and knowing how beneficial they are to my health; I try my best to eat as much of both as I can. This is how I’ve found ways to sneak the veggies into my diet.

When my boys were advancing to solids I gave them nothing but veggies and I don’t give them any refined sugar and try to keep unrefined sugar to a limit.

Thankfully thus far Sebastian and Theo are great eaters with diets packed full of veggies and probably a bit too much fruit; I can’t have it all! They’re also charitable sleepers, in the fact they do it a lot, giving us a nice break! I sound like one of those asshole mothers who have perfect kids but I definitely don’t.

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They are HARD work. They never sit still when they are awake and they have my house destroyed. They climb everything and cover the floor in lego. They have to eat everything I’m eating so I have to hide when I want food and they like to pile on top of me just when I sit down with a cup of tea even if my husband is trying to get them to come to him, they just know….. I believe they can sense when I want to just have 5 minutes to myself and then they pounce with books or for a chat or in Theo’s case just to stick his fingers in my eyes, ears and mouth….

However I wouldn’t change these bountiful magnanimous little boys for the world and I know how lucky I am, I’m thankful every single day.

1. Juices, smoothies and soups

I usually give my boys The Lo-cal Ultimate health booster daily in their cups and they guzzle it down. But if its something lighter they need I will blend some berries and mix with water to make a cordial style drink. My boys are 1 and 3 so still a bit young for soups but a great option for older kids or adults trying to squeeze in the goodness. The main thing to avoid with soups is cream and excess salt. The wrong kind of salt such as table salt can be another issue. Stick to sea salt and natural salts like Himalayan pink salt. I love a smoothie in the morning and so do the kids, you can add things like super greens blend, protein powders and various other superfoods; but when its too cold I’ll blend a small smoothie and add it to a small bit of warm porridge, kids love it and adults!! I add lots of greens  like spinach and kale to berries and banana in a smoothie so I sneak a bit of everything in!!


2. Porridge and granola

Following on from the smoothie in the bowl, adding blends to your porridge and granola are great ways to add nutrients to your food. You can add fruits, nuts and seeds to these and even super foods like goji berries, bee pollen, cacao powder, maca powder, lucuma powder, pea and rice protein and natural sweeteners like acacia honey, dates, banana, maple syrup and sugar free jam or nut butters.

3. Dinner

I pack bolognaise and curry sauces full of fresh veggies. In fact any sort of sauce I make I pack full of veggies. This means a tasty comforting dish that the whole family enjoys can be nutritious too! I load veggies into curries, lasagne, meatballs, chilli, shepherds pie, cottage pie, spaghetti, pasta bakes and any form of pie. I even make pizza and add a few veggies like carrots and onions to the tomato sauce before I blitz it to use on the base, I layer the sauce with spinach leaves and then lots of tasty toppings!

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4. Desserts

There are healthy ice-cream options such as nobo made using avocados and flavoured with natural fruits. Other options would be chia seed pudding, apple slices with almond butter, banana and peanut butter, yoghurt with mixed berries and seeds, fresh fruit ice-pops and sorbets; and avocado cacao mousse.


5. Baking

One of my best-loved! veggies in cakes are amazing. Courgette cupcakes, sweet potato brownies, pumpkin cookies and many many more. I make delicious refined sugar free icing, jams, cream and chocolate to pair with these too! It’s a super way to get the veggies into kids but also adults (just don’t tell your audience until they’ve tried it). Sweetening with natural sugars like honey, maple syrup, agave, xylitol, bananas, apple and dates. We have a snickers pie in the café which we created using cacao, almond flour, maple syrup, cashew butter, maca powder, cacao butter and dates to name a few. These slices are jam packed full of nutrients, filling you up without the guilt and hitting the spot when a sweet tooth craving comes about! We also have sweet potato brownies on the menu and we regularly bring out carrot cake, courgette cupcakes, lemon drizzle cake and many more. I will post some recipes in future blogs.

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These are all my tricks but there are many more ideas out there and I will share when I pick them up! Please share any ideas in the comments below.

Jen X



5 ways to sneak in the nutrients

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My Detox Journey

Jenny is Co-owner of The Lo-cal Kitchen with her husband Stephen. She is a busy working mum of two young boys, Seb & Theo aged 2 and 16 months. Below is a detailed insight into her experience of doing The Lo-cal 5 day detox:

Jenny was feeling tired and burnt out regardless of eating a very healthy diet and exercising regularly. She has also had trouble with her skin lately.


Day 1 Sunday:

Had a black coffee and some water upon waking. It’s already 10.30 and I’m finished my yoga but feeling really hungry. The yoga really woke me up though and gave me that added boost.

Had my breakfast smoothie which was really filling so that should keep me going for a while! Drinking loads of water and herbal teas through the day.

12.00 Liver shot, not a fan of beetroot so always found this one a bit harder to drink but I have to say it has given me a huge boost, feel like its working in some way, I’m not sure how yet but I feel like its shooting through my veins or something!!


2.00 Its time for my ultimate Health Booster. It tastes so good and I want to savor it so I’m trying to take it slow and spread it out. I’m going to save half until after I meditate.

2.30 I switch on my yoga app, pop the earphones in and lie down for a 20 minute meditate! This particular one is hard not to fall asleep with so of course I do snooze but I make myself wake up and get up after 20 mins and I feel re-energized. I’m really looking forward to my Ultimate Health Booster now!!

I’ve made it to 5.15pm and I’m feeling hungry, I just ate my soup or rather drank my soup, but now is the time where I need to break out a snack, I’m going to have a small apple.

6.45pm Husband returns so I take advantage of him minding the kids and run myself an Epson salt and lavender bath.

7.00 to 7.45 bath and some Netflix on the iPad, switch off!

8.00pm I make a cup of chamomile tea and lie on the sofa for a while

8.45 time for my bedtime smoothie, its quite thick and filling which is just what I need now, I’d have been going to bed with a rumbling stomach.

9.15pm I retreat to the bedroom and begin my bedtime yoga AKA earth yoga PM which is 20 minutes long but half way through you climb into bed and basically fall asleep.

Day 2 Monday:

6.30 I hear Theo but actually finding it so hard to get up. Lucky for me he found his soother and has fallen back to sleep. I had intended on getting up and doing my morning yoga at 6.30/7.00 but I just want to sleep…..

8.00 Get babies up and dressed, not before checking where the elf on the shelf has hidden this morning, Seb wants toast with cheese melted on it! I think he secretly knows mummy is starving so he goes for her fave food..


8.30 we’re down stairs and I’m all set with my smoothie. I’m teaching Seb to share so I need to share, he offers me some of his toast with melted cheese…… This is tough

8.55 We eventually get into the car to go to Montessori, still got half my smoothie and my precious 1 coffee in my travel mug!! The smoothie kicks in and I’m alive!!!

9.10 down to the cafe computer on, work started and I feel unbelievably sharp. My normal working day would be as it has been up until now but I would drink at least 2 coffees throughout my morning in the cafe and I try to squeeze in a workout before collecting Seb, so I would have a small black instant coffee before that too. I know I’m going to feel that today trying to work and do all the running around without my coffee is gonna be difficult. I’m hoping copious amounts of green tea and matcha tea will keep me going

10.30 I head off to run errands with a green tea in hand, I want to try get to my workout earlier today so I can fit in my AM yoga first as I slept in today!


Ok I think I deserve a medal because I managed to go to SuperValu and do a full shop for Steve and the boys. Luckily our liver shots are available in SuperValu because I got one to tide me over while I ran through the shop.

12.00: Off for a workout, first a banana and then a matcha tea, 11 mins of yoga sun salutations followed by 30 mins workout (legs day so lots of squats, lunges and a bit of cardio skipping and burpees)

1.00: collecting Seb and feeling quite hungry, I’m going to devour that bowl of soup. I’m going to need a protein shake as well to repair the muscles. I’m looking forward to meditating/snoozing when the boys are having a nap!!!

16.00: ok it’s a late nap so late to meditate, note to self get stricter with the kids!! Too much singing and dancing!! I feel more alert after the protein shake and I had another green tea. After I meditate I have to make the dinner for the boys and Steve. To be honest parts of today have been difficult but it’s really only meat I’m craving. I’m quite happy with everything else. I don’t feel like I’m starving my body. I thought I’d be fecked without the coffee too. One cup in the a.m. would’ve been laughable a week ago but I’m fine with the green tea. I wonder will the 5-day meat free diet get easier?!?! I want to cut back on meat in general so hopefully this will kick start me!!

17.00: meditated, exfoliated and nice warm shower. Back to work now and have to make the dinner. I’ll work until the boys are awake again and then feed and do my other job (Mammy)! Typically, the hardest time of the detox is dinner time and before bedtime. Once they go to bed I’ll do a bit more work, hopefully chill in front of the TV if I feel like it and then yoga and bed like last night.

I’ve noticed I’ve had a funny taste in my mouth for most of the day and feel like I have bad breath. Again I am not starving at all so I wonder is this due to a lack of meat? I need to research this, I wonder will it still be the same by the end of the week.

I actually thought I would be suffering with headaches from lack of caffeine but they were actually a lot worse last week when I was having loads of coffee and tea. The problem is I love love love the taste of coffee!!!

18.00: Kids are eating and not long awake after a late nap, Steve is sitting down to dinner so its time to take out my green salad. Its nice but I am missing meat or eggs or even some cheese! My body seems to be craving it today.

9.30 I’ve gotten through another day woohoo! I’m off up to bed to do my yoga. Head is a bit melted with work so I won’t find it easy to switch off this eve.

10.00: In bed and yoga finished but not completely passed out like last night, my stomach is a bit noisy but I feel like its sorting itself out or something, probably detoxing!

 Day 3 Tuesday

  • I’ve started the day the same as the others but not feeling hungry and feeling a lot sharper.
  • When Seb returns from Montessori the house is utter madness….. Toys everywhere, carpet of lego on the floor, singing teddies all going at the same time, you name it. The thing is its not stressing me out like it did before, I’m just letting the madness happen, its hurting nobody and I’ll clear up when the kids are in bed! Possibly a side effect from yoga and I’m very pleased with that.
  • Not craving meat today but finding I want some chocolate or anything sweet. Making the dinner wasn’t difficult for that reason I think.
  • Skin feeling a bit oily so popped on a face mask before bed. Feeling a little disappointed that my skin hasn’t cleared up.


 Day 4 Wednesday

Morning: I hear the pitter patter of Sebs little feet coming flying into the room to tell me he needs the loo while I’m savoring my coffee in the bed! (cue the home alone music when they’re all trying to get out of the house to the airport) The house becomes loud and everything speeds up.

  • Definitely feeling sharper with work and ideas in general. I feel like the last 2 days of the detox (day 4 & 5) are needed because its only now that I feel like the body has been rejigged and now I’m feeding it the good stuff. Its almost like its cleared the toxins and now its building up the defense.
  • Listening to Calamity crow (children’s song apparently) over and over along with a group rendition of the singing teddies while I change Theo and watch Seb begin to take off his clothes already late for Montessori definitely tested my stress levels this morning but oddly enough I felt totally calm. I am ridiculously disorganized so me being late would come as no surprise to anyone who knows me.
  • Skin feels glowier today and dark circles have lessened but skin hasn’t cleared.

Evening: A lot of work to do this evening & the kids were being difficult, feeling a little bit tired and emotional so off to bed and just did a bit of stretching rather than the whole yoga routine

Day 5 Thursday

Morning: Moving a lot faster today and Sebs in Montessori on time!!!

  • Nothing bothering me today. I can go grocery shopping without wanting to eat everything. I’m craving green tea and juices and really looking forward to my liver shot. Really enjoying all the food today as well. Its like I have a heightened sense of taste because everything seems more flavorsome. The sweet potato salad has a good kick to it as well so its warming.

Evening: Busy day but I got everything done. Pre-bed I feel sharper, clearer and more energized, my nails are no longer breaking & I think my skin has brightened and plumped up, possibly more hydrated but the detox didn’t clear up my skin so next up for me would be dermatologist.

 Day 6 (the day after):

I’ve lost 3.5kg, 7.7lb, 0.5st. I’m quite surprised to be honest. For me this wasn’t about weight loss, in fact I was quite happy with my weight. I have grown out of the want to have a Victoria Secrets model figure. I eat well generally and I exercise 3-4 times a week so my body is how it should be. I think I’ve possibly dropped water weight too though.

My hair feels good and my nails which were breaking a lot recently are rock solid. I’m definitely not in any mood to sit around doing nothing, I want to get moving and get work done, feeling very energetic.

2 Weeks later

The weight has stayed off, I’ve done one detox day since which was fine and I’m still taking smoothies and juices throughout the day and eating healthy for dinner most days but my hair, nails and weight have stayed steady since I’m still drinking the green tea, taking the smoothies and juices and still trooping with the liver shots daily.


The detox definitely jump started a healthier eating plan for me. I would consider myself a good eater in general but I took far too much sugar and caffeine and reducing both has left me with far more energy. I’m now hooked on green tea and I look forward to smoothies, juices and salads. I do realize that spending a lot of my time in a health food café is of huge benefit to me but that would probably be more in terms of the convenience of certain foods. I have a fridge full of fruit and veg here so my snacks are generally good choices. I also carry a water bottle around with me all the time and drink as much as possible throughout the day.

Learnings / Tips & Tricks

  • I wouldn’t do any strenuous exercise, just light walks &/or yoga
  • Have healthy fruit and veg available in the fridge in case you need a snack
  • Always carry a water bottle, its possible you’re thirsty rather than hungry
  • Keep busy but find time to relax
  • Be prepared mentally and clear the diary so you don’t need to have a mental battle at a party or event where they have nibbles and alcohol.

Jen xx

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