Food for Thought: How Nutrition Affects Your Mental Health

I love talking about nutrition, so I’ve been excited about this episode! Cleaning up my diet has been a game changer for me and how I manage my ADHD. I’ve learned a lot since I was diagnosed with ADHD about how nutrition affects your mental health. I want to share what I’ve learned with you.

However, I’m not a doctor, so please don’t take any of this as medical advice. Always speak to your medical provider before starting a new diet.

What You’ll Hear in This Episode

  • Why quality foods are important for your mental health
  • Foods to help the brain function
  • Foods that cause brain fog
  • Easy food swaps to boost brain activity
  • Homemade granola recipe

Eating Nutritious Foods to Affects Your Mental Health

Food = fuel. It’s just a fact. If you don’t have the right nutrients in your body, you’ll experience:

  • Lack of focus
  • Poor decision making
  • Takes longer to get something done
  • Mood and hormonal dips

Healthy food helps your brain function better. Clean ingredients, whole foods, and proteins are the special trio to better brain function. We hear ‘clean ingredients’ all the time, but what does that mean? It means each ingredient is a food source by itself. It’s not those words you can’t pronounce on the food labels. It’s not an artificially produced, chemically altered ingredient. It’s ingredients that can be eaten by themselves. 

Grown vs. Processed Foods

Another tip is to focus on eating foods that are grown rather than processed. I tell my nutrition coaching clients to avoid cardboard foods, AKA foods that have literally no nutritional value. It’s empty calories that won’t fill you up but will pack on the pounds. Think things like:

  • Crackers
  • Cookies
  • Chips

Of course, it depends on the brand, but this is just a generalization. They only add calories and don’t have any nutritious value. It can be hard to avoid processed foods so try to follow a 80/20 rule – 80% clean and 20% semi-clean. If I eat 20% semi-clean, I read the ingredients and make sure they do not include the 5 ingredients that I tell everyone to avoid

Buy Local and Organic

Know where your food is coming from. I love going to farmer’s markets and meeting local farmers. I buy eggs, meat, veggies, and fruit from local farmers. I understand their growing processes and know their foods aren’t sprayed with preservatives. 

That’s another thing – always purchase organic or local foods. Food flown in from all over the world is caked with preservatives and chemicals to keep the food from spoiling before it makes it to the grocery store. Organic food might still have a little, but not nearly as much. You should still wash all your produce before you eat it though!

Homemade Bread

Something I’ve gotten into recently is making more of my own food. I finally mastered my sourdough bread recipe and love making that every week. Have you ever looked at the ingredients in bread? It’s mind-boggling how much extra stuff they throw in there. Just make your own! 

I’m always working on a new recipe but I love to know what your suggestions are? What should I try making homemade next?! Let me know on Instagram

Foods to Avoid that Cause Brain Fog

Let’s first talk about what brain fog means and feels like. Brain fog describes symptoms that affect brain function. You might experience confusion, lack of clarity, and difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly. You would find it hard to focus, remember things, or articulate your thoughts. 

As someone with ADHD, I often experience brain fog (and, more recently, pregnancy brain!). I’ve found that adjusting my nutrition has helped relieve the symptoms of brain fog. 

These are the foods I avoid:

  • Trans fat (fast food, canola oil, palm oil)
  • Genetically modified foods (look for non-GMO labels)
  • Processed sugar (instead, use coconut sugar, honey, agave, and date sugar)

Sounds easy enough, but you would be surprised how often these ingredients show up in foods. These ingredients are often in the cheaper version of foods at the store, which I know is sometimes unavoidable. But if you are financially able to, I highly recommend purchasing the higher quality brand to avoid these ingredients.

Don’t go overboard on this. I never want you to stress about avoiding ingredients. Pick your battles and decide which ingredients are hard no’s and which ones you’re okay with having every once in a while. 

Food Swaps to Boost Brain Activity

There are healthy options for your favorite foods. Again, I don’t want you to completely deprive yourself of your favorite foods, but think about how you can make healthy swaps that still give you some enjoyment in your food. 

  • Cereal -> Granola (get my recipe below!): Granola has less carbs and sugar and more fiber and protein.
  • Protein bars: There are so many protein bars out there, but most have a ton of sugar in them. Larabars are great options.
  • Beef Jerky: I call this the original protein bar! I recommend Chomps.
  • Chips -> Siete Chips: I love Siete chips and the clean ingredients they use.
  • Yogurt: Again, yogurt can have a lot of sugar in it. I recommend Siggi’s. It has protein and great flavors.
  • Juice: Juices, again, tons of sugar! I recommend cold-pressed juices that have vitamins and minerals. Cold pressed means no heat was applied when making the juice, so the temperature didn’t affect the production of the juice.
  • Fruit bars: The company That’s It literally has the ingredients on the front of the packaging and it’s typically two ingredients. That’s it! I don’t find these super filling, but they’re a great sweet treat.

Homemade Granola Recipe

Let’s get to that homemade granola recipe I promised you!


  • 1/2 cup Maple Syrup 
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (I use Redmond Salt
  • 3 cups oats or walnuts.
  • 1-2 tsp of pumpkin spice or any spice you like to add to your granola. I like pumpkin spice because it’s a blend, or you can use cinnamon.
  • 1 cup of seeds and nuts. Use whatever you have in your house.


  • Preheat the oven to 325 F.
  • Combine all dry ingredients.
  • Heat the coconut oil until it’s melted.
  • Combine wet ingredients.
  • Combine the wet and dry ingredients. 
  • Mix until fully coated.
  • Lay the mixture out on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Press down with the back of a spatula to even out.
  • Bake the granola for 15-20 min. Once done, let it cool for 45 min before breaking it apart into chunks of your liking. 
  • Enjoy!

Get more recipes like this in my meal prep guide and smoothie guide!

I hope you enjoyed this episode about how nutrition affects your mental health. Cleaning up my diet has greatly improved how I manage my ADHD and function every day without medication. I notice the effects almost immediately when I indulge in something I shouldn’t. But it took some practice and discipline. Don’t expect to completely change your diet in a day. I hope you can take a tip or two from this episode and integrate it into your life.  

If you liked this episode, check out…

Episode 12: The Ultimate Guide to Meal Prepping Without the Overwhelm

Recipe: My Go-To Sourdough Bread Recipe

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To inquire about being a guest on the podcast, submit a topic, or ask a question for a future episode, please email Laila.

Laila is a Holistic Nutrition Coach and Math Tutor. She is goal driven and mission oriented and is here to support, encourage, and push you towards the results you want, ready to help people of all ages become mission-fit to explore their full potential. As someone with ADHD and dyslexia, she deeply understands the intricate challenges related to creating a new habit and sticking with it. Her online nutrition programs and online math tutoring cater to those with similar difficulties.

To learn more about Laila, or to inquire about working with her, visit

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