Health & Wellbeing: how university staff and students can eat better to feel better

Diet is one way individuals can influence how they feel – ideally combined with other lifestyle modifications such as exercise, better sleeping and relaxation techniques. To help staff and students eat better to feel better, Pelican’s company dietitian, Anna-Maria Holt, is offering a workshop, drawing together the latest scientific evidence to provide tips and practical advice to help people benefit from better health and improved mood

In the UK it is reckoned that 15 million days are lost to sickness a year – when that sickness is actually related to mental health issues such as stress, depression and anxiety. A survey conducted by the Mental Health Foundation found that 74% of people have felt so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope. 

In universities, staff and students can feel stressed from time to time due to workload and academic pressure. Supporting health and wellbeing in an educational setting can have a positive impact on how people feel – and how they perform.


The Food & Mood Workshop will help you understand how what you eat can:

    • increase energy level
    • support emotional health
    • improve concentration
    • reduce stress
    • increase productivity
    • reduce absenteeism

The link between the gut and brain is something we have long been aware of, with sayings such as “butterflies in your tummy” and having a “gut feeling” often being used to describe how we feel. The gut-brain connection is an exciting area of research helping academics and health practitioners better understand how these two organs interact. Emerging scientific research shows that what we eat can boost mood, especially when it comes to preventing and managing symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

We know that nutrient-dense foods provide the energy, vitamins and minerals needed to sustain energy levels, mood and brain function throughout the day. Key nutrients linked to mood include iron, folate, selenium and B vitamins such as B1, B3 and B12. Eating a healthy, balanced diet including wholegrain carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables, lower fat dairy and protein-rich foods can help meet these nutrient requirements. Polyphenols found in red berries, dark chocolate and tea, and omega 3s found in oily fish such as salmon and mackerel may also play a role in maintaining good mental health.


Client’s quote:

“I thought it would be a great idea for the team to learn how food affects mood because here at the University of Birmingham we serve such a diverse group of customers, and health and wellbeing is very important to us all.

“Anna-Maria is a very good trainer and she delivered a really informative and engaging session to our team of 14 consisting of catering managers, catering supervisors and supporting
team members.

“I would recommend it to others who are interested in this topic!”

Louise Sherratt, catering operations manager – University of Birmingham


An ongoing European study, known as MoodFood, has found that eating patterns appear to have the most positive effect on mood, rather than individual nutrients, foods or supplements. Having breakfast and eating regular meals that include starchy foods means the brain receives the fuel it needs in the form of glucose – which helps with focus and good concentration. 

Conversely, a lack of glucose can leave us feeling tired and weak – which often leads to us reaching out for sugary or energy drinks and food that is often high in fat, sugar or salt. Planning and preparing snacks in advance can help to ensure we avoid these temptations. Adopting strategies that support eating well, can support mental wellbeing and potentially prevent mental ill health.

In a nutshell, diet is one way that individuals can help manage how they feel – working even better alongside a range of other lifestyle modifications. 


To find out more about Pelican’s Food & Mood workshops, please contact company dietitian Anna-Maria Holt: anna-maria.holt@pelicanprocurement.co.uk
More general information about food and mood can be found here: www.bda.uk.com/resource/food-facts-food-and-mood.html

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