Anxiety and Depression: The Food Cure

August 7, 2021

In today’s world of processed foods, it is not always easy to start and stick with a real food eating plan. As parents and grandparents, we often know the connection between our mental health and our food, but how do we personally put it into practice? And how do we help our teens, young adults, or grandchildren follow a plan to do reduce anxiety and depression? Today, we introduce you to a new nutritionist on Dishing Up Nutrition who shares her personal story as a teen and offers wisdom to help the teens in your life.

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TERESA: Welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. Today, we will be discussing the food connection to anxiety and depression. But before we get into our topic today, we are very excited to introduce you to Alyssa Krejci, a new voice on our show. Alyssa is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian. She actually joined our team of dietitians and nutritionists over a year ago, but due to the COVID pandemic restrictions, we have not been able to have her join us on Dishing Up Nutrition. You know, almost everyone who works at Nutritional Weight and Wellness has their own personal story and health challenges, including Alyssa. Many of you may think that dietitians and nutritionists have always eaten perfectly so they can't possibly have any health problems or issues.

DARLENE: Well, that's not really true. We know that.

TERESA: That's right.

DARLENE: No one is perfect. And that includes all of us, all of the nutritionists and dietitians.

TERESA: That's correct.

DARLENE: You know, having health challenges like we do, you know, helps us relate to our clients and to understand their struggles. We also understand that in today's world of processed foods, it is always not very easy at all to start and stick with a real food eating plan. Even when we know that it's best for our health, we sometimes cheat.

TERESA: Yes we do. Yep. We're just a broken group of dietitians, aren't we Dar?

No, that's right. It's just a part of life. And there are challenges when it comes to health, you know, everybody, we all have it from time to time. So be sure to stay tuned today because Alyssa will share a little about her own challenges with anxiety and depression, particularly that she experienced as a teen. If you are a parent with a son or daughter going through the rollercoaster ride of anxiety and depression, I believe that you will find Alyssa has some wisdom to share with you today. Our hope is that her wisdom will help you cope with some of these daily behaviors that your teen may be struggling with. Now, speaking of wisdom, Dar, the founder of Nutritional Weight and Wellness is joining us today. And not only is she the founder of this wonderful company, she has been providing real food nutrition information for over 30 years to people. And she's been hosting this show for over 17 years. So she is here to make sure that Alyssa, who is newer to our team of dietitians, nutritionists, and radio co-hosts, that she is comfortable sharing her story.

DARLENE: Yeah, I agree. She needs to be comfortable sharing her very personal story today. So we want to make her comfortable.

TERESA: And just throwing it back to Dar we all love it when she's on the show because she is a wealth of wisdom.

DARLENE: Thank you.

TERESA: Okay. Now that you know a little about the other co-hosts this morning, I will introduce myself. I am Teresa Wagner. I'm a Registered and Licensed Dietitian and a mother of three very active children who do not always appreciate the fact that I am a dietitian and that I make real food home cooked meals most days. And they would love to eat fast food, like some of their friends, but they know that that's not happening, at least not in our home. Because you know, not because I'm trying to punish them or you know, shelter them. It's just because I care too much. I know too much. I care too much.

DARLENE: Yes. So, okay. Let's get into our topic today: The Food Connection to Anxiety and Depression. You know, as listeners, have you ever thought about what is the food connection to, you know, what are you eating? How is your depression, how is your mental health? So, as I was organizing the show, I thought, we need to talk about blood sugar, you know, the balance of blood sugar, whether it's good balance, or if we're lacking in balance and that connection to anxiety. I also thought we need to discuss the gut/ brain connection. Now that's a new thought for a lot of people, and we want to explain that feel good neurotransmitters that are made in your small intestinal track.

TERESA: That's so interesting.

DARLENE: Yeah. Who would ever think that? And most people would think that your neurotransmitters are made in your brain.

TERESA: Absolutely.

DARLENE: Yup. So then I thought as a parent or grandparent, we often know this information, but how do we personally practice it? You know, practice all these eating habits that we really need, or even more important, how do we help our teens or young adults or our grandchildren follow an eating plan to reduce anxiety and depression? You know, I finally decided that Teresa and I should ask Alyssa these questions because she's lived with these challenges. And Alyssa, you know, kind of share a little bit about your story of how you struggled with anxiety and depression, because I think many parents will be able to relate to what you were experiencing. I kind of know this one from a grandmother point of view too. So, you know, it's, it's all over these days. So share some of your struggles.

ALYSSA: Yes. Thank you. Well, I'll start by sharing a little bit about my background. I grew up in the dance world. My mom has taught dance for over 30 years and when I was younger, she danced professionally with Modern Dance Company. In my family, all of us kids took dance classes.

DARLENE: I bet they did.

ALYSSA: I don't think we had a choice. We were just, we were going to take dance classes. During my tween and teen years I really developed a love for dance and could be found at the studio four to six days a week, sometimes seven days, if it was right before, like the Nutcracker or something. Unfortunately I had no idea how to properly fuel my body and my mind.

DARLENE: You know, Alyssa, I think most kids at that age depend on their parents or their parents to help them choose the right foods for their body. And it sounds like you were very young and you kind of chose what you wanted to eat. Is that right?

ALYSSA: Yeah. I was picky.

TERESA: Well, I can understand that, you know, because my kids are kind of picky. But I think, you know, it just, in counseling and maybe you run into this too, or just maybe even just in personal experience that kids are given too much autonomy with food before they have the maturity to make those good choices. And you know, this is pretty innocent too, because I think just parents as parents, we're just very busy. And so, we sometimes just pawn over some of those responsibilities to our kids if they're, if they feel self-sufficient. And I think from what I've heard from you, you were pretty self-sufficient from a young age.

ALYSSA: I was pretty high functioning. I was doing well in school and everything. So yes, you know, I was a good student. I had A's, B's; things were going good. And most of my struggles started when I was in middle and high school. And I was making more of my food choices; leaving early for school, getting back later in the afternoon. The majority of my day was spent away from my home. But my parents did keep a kitchen full of healthy choices and they made a good dinner every night, but I decided what I ate for breakfast, lunch, and most snacks. Honestly, I did not know what foods were good for me. I just knew what tasted good.

DARLENE: I think that’s an interesting point because you, I don't think most kids do know. I mean, I bet your kids well, yeah. Maybe having a dietitian as a mother, they might know.

TERESA: They know a little. And you know, where I see it is that when my daughter is in charge of packing her own lunch, she actually does like put it into categories. Like, where's my plants, where are my proteins?

ALYSSA: My daughter has done the same thing. I was pretty proud as a mom. I was like, oh, you're doing good.

TERESA: And honestly, she's a little bit better about doing it when I am hands-off, but that she has had that guidance. So it wasn't like, it just was, you know, organic in her, you know, she did have that guidance for that. So yeah, it's kind of fun to see.

ALYSSA: Yeah, it is. Many, many kids think they know what to eat, but they really do still need that guidance from parents, teachers, and coaches, especially those kids who are active young athletes. And really here's what happened when I was a young teen and why my diet was really totally lacking in nutrients. I had to leave for school around 7:00 AM. It was an early start to my day, either in middle school, when I had to catch a bus or high school, when it just started early. I would often eat either a bowl of cereal and skim milk, or maybe a Toaster Strudel before I left. That was always a treat if we had Toaster Strudels.

DARLENE: You know, and I think that's a common, that's a common theme for a lot of people's breakfasts, especially the cereal.

TERESA: Yeah, cause it’s quick .


ALYSSA: Quick and easy, quick and easy, and you're out the door. And I often I did not take time to pack my lunch. You know, I was given that responsibility early because again, I was a picky eater. I was like, I'm not dealing with this.

TERESA: Yeah. I can understand that.

ALYSSA: I was a challenge. So not, yeah, I was, I was a difficult child sometimes, but I probably get my own difficult children because of that. So I didn't pack my lunch. And when I got to school and it was time to eat lunch, you know, I would try to spend as little as possible on my food. I wanted that to last a long time.

TERESA: So I can hear your anxiety even there. So not only were you, you know, anxious during school about what might be going on or what you were going to eat, but you also were conscious about the money you were going to spend, even though it wasn't even your own money.

ALYSSA: Yeah, I started getting nervous about how much money I had left on my account. You know, the fear of getting to the end of the lunch line and not having any money on your account.

TERESA: Even though you knew that your parents would refill your account.

ALYSSA: It does not make sense.

TERESA: My kids don't have that anxiety. They're, they're pretty, pretty comfortable with spending that money. In fact, before I was familiar with the school lunch program at our school, one of my kids kept draining their account. And I couldn't understand why. And it's kind of a funny story, but I'm going to have to share that with you after our break. You are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition, brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. Today, we are discussing how certain foods can increase your risk for both anxiety and depression and how eating real food can help reduce the risk for mental health issues. As we all know, the past year and a half has been very challenging for all of us, especially teens. If you are feeling like you could use some guidance and support, or if you have a teen who really needs to eat better, why not set up an appointment and get back on track before the new school year begins and that new daily routine sets in. Call us at (651) 699-3438, and we will be happy to set up an appointment with a dietitian or nutritionist who will work with you towards your goals.


DARLENE: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. For the past several months, we've been offering fun cooking classes through Zoom. And in August, we're offering Creating Healing Foods for Your Gut; kind of fits right in doesn't it?

TERESA: It sure does.

DARLENE: Many of you know that our immune system starts in your gut. I think you do. And if you have arthritis or other inflammatory conditions or digestive issues, such as, you know, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, you know, all the heartburn and all those things and IBS. So this would be a perfect cooking class for you to take. So I think Teresa you've taken some of the cooking classes.

TERESA: I have taken the classes. They're so fun. Yes. And I'm taking this one as well.

DARLENE: And as a dietitian, have you learned anything?

TERESA: I have because Marianne is a culinary expert where we are nutritionists and dietitians, where we are the science, we've got the science behind it. And I think she knows a lot of the science too. I'm not taking that away from her, but she's got the culinary side. So there's so many interesting facts that she has or ways of cooking or things that yeah; out of my, you know, or I haven't learned yet.

DARLENE: You know, and Marianne is right in her own kitchen and the cost is only $25 and it's on Zoom. And so if you want to sign up, just call 651-699-3438 and we'll sign you up. And I think you'll have a fun time with it.

TERESA: Yes. It is a fun time.

DARLENE: Now back to your story.

TERESA: Yeah. So before break, I was telling, telling you about my kids and not having anxiety of spending money. And one of my children kept draining their school lunch account. Well, it turns out that they were able to buy whatever they wanted through the á la cart menu, which fruit snacks was like the hot thing for them to buy. And as we know, and I hope listeners know that that really is just sugar.

ALYSSA: It’s candy.

TERESA: It has fruit in the name, but there is no fruit there. It is just high fructose corn syrup and I don't know, gelatin.

ALYSSA: Flavoring.

TERESA: Yeah, flavoring; yeah, exactly. So, so they were, they were able to do this even without my permission. So, you know, maybe that for some kids where they do have that autonomy, like we were talking about, they don't necessarily have the maturity for, maybe that could be a part of your kid's anxiety if they are able to choose those things that are, that are just there and very tempting because if it tastes good, it must be good, at least in their minds.

DARLENE: And we know biochemically, if kids have a lot of sugar, it sets up them to have anxiety because it shuts down their neurotransmitter flow and, you know, things are blocked in their brain and then things just don't work right. So, you know, we know it from a biochemical point of view. So limiting that amount of sugar makes a lot of sense.

TERESA: Yes, it does. And I'm sure the teachers would appreciate it too.

DARLENE: I think so, too.

ALYSSA: Yes. Yep. And in, in middle and high school, I was definitely one of those kids choosing those all á la cart items and not actually the, the school lunch. I would, I thought that the best option in middle school, it sure did taste delicious. I would buy the French fries with cheese sauce and a container of milk.


ALYSSA: There was some, some benefit to the milk, but yeah, the French fries and cheese sauce I was young. And then at the start of high school, I would get by with just a skim milk and a small bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal or sugar; delicious, but not providing the fuel I needed.

DARLENE: You know, I just, I'm going to stop you a minute. I wonder how many kids are actually eating like that.

ALYSSA: Hopefully not as many as I did.

DARLENE: As you did.

TERESA: Hopefully, but I'm, I kind of think there probably are. There might be some Starbucks thrown in there.

DARLENE: We know that the rate of anxiety and depression for teens has gone sky high and it isn't just the isolation from the pandemic I don't think.

TERESA: No I agree.

ALYSSA: And I, and I think I knew that, you know, that Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, because it wasn't even a big bowl. It was the tiny little ones that you would get. And it wouldn't last me through my day. So I would also buy a bag of Crispy M&M's to have in between my classes after lunch so that I could just get through to the end of the day. So yes, not fueling my body up properly. And I really struggled in those dance classes after school, not surprising. I was tired. I was constantly comparing myself to others in the class. And, you know, let me tell you, there's no win in comparison. But I fell into the cycle of just some really unhealthy, disordered eating behaviors. And I struggled for a long time with that anxiety and depression. And it, it did take a while to, to heal and get better with that.

DARLENE: You know, Alyssa, I don't think most teens or even many adults understand that to kind of compete physically in a sport, they need to feel really fuel their muscles and their brain for energy, you know, they need the energy for meeting real food because, you know, when we think about it, meat and vegetables and maybe some fruit and some good fat, these are things that help fuel our muscles and our brain. And you know, it's not, not big science. It's just the reality.

ALYSSA: Yep. But no, it'll, it'll get you set up to be able to handle all the stress in life. So yeah, it's important.

TERESA: You know, there's one athlete who is very careful with his diet, especially for performance. Tom Brady, you know, who is widely considered to be the greatest quarterback of all time. He has just now had a birthday and is 44 years old and he's had 10 Super Bowl appearances and won his seventh Super Bowl championship in 2021 as a 43 year old.

DARLENE: That's great.

TERESA: His diet consists of no sugar, no white flour, no MSG, no dairy and a limited amount of coffee and caffeine. Instead he chooses to eat lots of vegetables and small amounts of fruit, chicken, red meat, seafood, natural fats, and lots of nuts and seeds for snacks. Tom Brady eats to maintain this peak performance. It is his anti-inflammatory eating plan that gives him the focus and the energy to be ranked number one on the list of quarterbacks of all time. And I use him as example all the time.

DARLENE: Yep. I think that's those, he's a great example for people. And I think many of the Olympic stars right now, I mean, they're eating is very, very careful and thought out, well planned, you know, and look at their performance. It's amazing.

TERESA: Right. And when your performance comes down to a 10th of a second, everything matters.

DARLENE: Yeah. So, you know, looking forward to the fall, you know, our kids, our children and our teens will be back in school. They need our help to realize that for good academic learning, which I mean, a lot of kids want academic learning. They need to eat the right foods that will support their brain. You know, their brain actually requires, and I, this is something that I don't think most people realize that your brain needs nutrients that comes from the foods that they eat. You know, meat is high in nutrients, just thinking of the nutrients: zinc, iron, you know, vegetables.

TERESA: Magnesium, B vitamins.

DARLENE: And we could go on and on and the list of nutrients and vegetables. And I think it's really important to have natural fats like olive oil, avocados, nuts, coconut oil, butter, you know, avocado oil; all the good fats because that supplies the brain with the essential fatty acids that our brain functions on. So it's like we all have to get out there and talk to everybody about the good food for kids these days.


ALYSSA: And adults; it's really good food for everyone.

TERESA: Well, and it's funny because before the show, speaking of good foods for our brain, Alyssa and I were talking about how she used to dip her Baked Lays in ketchup for a low fat alternative to French fries. And I used to make ketchup sandwiches for a low fat sandwich; not great brain food. And many of you are probably saying yuck to my ketchup sandwich. And certainly you are correct. And my sister will not let me forget that regrettable snack.

ALYSSA: She won’t let you live that down.

TERESA: No, but Alyssa, you ate a breakfast of cereal or Toaster Strudels as a teen. So basically you were eating foods that were all sugar and no protein, certainly no vegetables or fruit. So much like our ketchup snacks.

ALYSSA: I did have fruit sometimes. So I could definitely down a bowl of strawberries. I love those, but, but yes, I was under fueling.

TERESA: But if you were sitting down today with a teen in a nutrition counseling appointment and knowing what you know, what do you suggest for, for, for teens? And I'm going to have you pause on that thought because it's time for our next break

ALYSSA: Oh, yay.

TERESA: You are listening to Dishing up Nutrition. In order to help you reach your goals, whatever they may be, including reducing anxiety. We are offering our fantastic one hour classes, all at a special price of $10 per class through the end of August. Here are some of the classes you may like: Good Foods, Good Moods, Eating to Reduce Pain and Inflammation, Immune Building Food and Nutrients, Five Steps to Boost Metabolism. And there are many more. I encourage you to sign up for one or all 15 of these individual online classes before the $10 per class special price ends on August 31st. Take advantage of this great opportunity to learn how you can use nutrition to live a longer, healthier life. Check out all these classes for $10 online at or call 651-699-3438. And we will help you find the perfect class or classes for you.


ALYSSA: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. Until I changed my eating habits I had no idea that just eating the right foods could make such a difference with my anxiety level. The big food companies make it so easy to eat poorly and all the while they make us think that they have all the answers to our health. Yes, ultra processed foods are convenient and they taste great, but it does not feed our brains or our body the nutrients needed to be happy and manage stress properly. If you, your child or your teen is going down that slippery slope of eating ultra processed convenient food and are struggling to maintain a positive relationship with food, I would love to help. I can help you make the switch to eating real food and support the maintenance of, or rebuilding of a positive relationship with food. Since I've been there, I totally understand. So let me help you make the change to eating real food today. Call the office at (651) 699-3438.

DARLENE: I think that's perfect, you were just offering to help people change their eating habits. And I think we were just talking before break about what you might suggest for a meal. Is that right Teresa?

TERESA: Yeah, I was asking just knowing what you know right now with your personal experience, your clinical experience, what would you suggest that teens eat so they would get the nutrients that they need in their body and brain? Are you recommending ketchup sandwiches. 

ALYSSA: No. No ketchup sandwiches today. Often when I sit down with a teen today, I think about what I would suggest to my younger self. I would suggest something like hard-boiled eggs topped with mashed avocado and maybe some red pepper flakes sprinkled on top to start the day off on the right foot.

DARLENE: So is that kind of like a deviled egg that you're talking about. 

ALYSSA: Well, I do not like mayo.        

DARLENE: But a lot of people do.

ALYSSA: A lot of people do. But yeah, maybe it would be my lazy version of a deviled egg. Cause I don't even mix the egg yolk with the avocado. I just put some avocado on top of the egg.

DARLENE: You know, at my house I always host Thanksgiving. And so when all the teenagers and kids come in, I have this huge platter of deviled eggs. And you know what? They're all gone by the end of the day.

TERESA: Yeah, they are popular.

DARLENE: Very popular.


DARLENE: But, but yours is an avocado egg.

ALYSSA: Yeah. It's, it's, it's kind of like avocado toast, which is pretty popular with some, some teens today, but it's just that the egg with the avocado and maybe a sprinkle of some red pepper flakes or the “Everything but the Bagel” seasoning. That's really tasty. And a lot of times I'll suggest, you know, if it does fit in the budget to choose those organic eggs from pastured chickens, because the DHA, that fatty acid that our brain needs, are higher in the eggs from the pastured chickens, just because of what the chickens eat. I would also suggest adding a half a cup of roasted sweet potatoes made with avocado oil and then have a side of sliced cucumbers, strawberries, maybe a couple of tablespoons of pumpkin seeds; got to love those nuts and seeds. It's overall a quick, easy to put together thing that you can have prepped the night before and just grab and go on your way out the door. It's free of added sugar, gluten-free and full of important key nutrients. So Alyssa, you know, my grandchildren love that whipped sweet potato. I mean I, and so my daughter just puts them in little containers. She has a bunch of them in the refrigerator and if they want to warm them up a little or they just eat a cold.

ALYSSA: Yeah. At my house, we do, we'll do a sheet tray of roasted sweet potatoes. My kids like the roasted sweet potatoes. Cause I can actually, when the, when the oven is hot, after I cook dinner, I'll just put another tray of vegetables, like the sweet potatoes in, and then they can cook while we're eating. And I have them ready for that next morning; super easy prep.

DARLENE: You know, I think a great deal of the population in the U.S., especially our listeners understand that “to think right they have to eat right”. That's an old saying from Dr. Amen. I love that saying, you know, “you have to eat right to think right”. So as you're thinking about that, what does that really mean? You know, here's some of the biochemistry behind that, especially when we are thinking about anxiety and depression. When we eat a piece of chicken or fish, or even whey protein powder, it is broken down or we call it digested in our small intestinal track into amino acids, which in turn are the building blocks of all of our brain chemicals, all of our neurotransmitters. And think about that. You need a piece of chicken, breaks down into amino acids and it makes our neurotransmitters, especially, it makes our dopamine. So when we have sufficient dopamine, we have focus, we have energy, we have a sense of wellbeing and we have great self-esteem.

ALYSSA: Yeah. I was lacking that as a teen; not getting enough protein that's for sure.

DARLENE: And you know, remember when Alyssa was talking about, she did not think she was a good enough dancer because she was not eating the right foods to have good performance, but there was more to that. She wasn't eating to have self-esteem. So it wasn't her performance maybe. Maybe her for performance was great, but in her head she didn't think so. So it was related to the lack of neurotransmitters. So the sugar she was eating actually gave her low self-esteem. I think that's, people are so focused on their self-esteem these days and they have no idea that it's coming from eating too much sugar. So it not only robbed you, Alyssa, of your self-esteem, but it robbed you of your energy. So what we keep saying is food matters.

ALYSSA: It really does.

DARLENE: You know, eating that high sugar breakfast led to low self-esteem, depression and anxiety and it just kept building didn't it?

ALYSSA: Yeah. So I think over time, it just, it did get pretty, pretty bad during, during the worst of times.

TERESA: Yes. So tell us again then. So what were you eating for lunch when you were in high school that was depleting you of all these good brain chemicals?

ALYSSA: The star lunch of my freshman year. Yeah. I'm definitely a creature of habit. And I, I find a meal that I like and I can easily eat that for lunch every day. And I chose every single day to eat the Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal with skim milk. And then I would also buy a bag of Crispy M&Ms to kind of snack on a couple at a time between classes to kind of keep my energy going.

DARLENE: And how did you feel?

ALYSSA: Oh, I felt horrible. I was, I was constantly comparing myself in dance class, but even in life and it was just overall, I was not a happy camper. I enjoyed the taste of the food and I thought I was getting by, but looking back on things, I think that I would have done a lot better had I actually been just even getting the regular school meal.

DARLENE: Yeah. Right, because it has some protein in it. The fat wasn't the healthiest, but it was least fat.

ALYSSA: It, it was more food and more nutrients than what I was choosing to eat. So yeah.

DARLENE: So now you've learned a lot, haven't you?

ALYSSA: I have come a long way.

TERESA: Yeah. So when you sit down with a teen who's maybe struggling with anxiety, like you were; depression, low moods, irritability, maybe they have the beginnings of an eating disorder. What would you suggest that they eat for lunch? So they don't make maybe some of the mistakes that you made or felt the way that you felt?

ALYSSA: Yeah. So my goal for them really is to start by making sure they eat some protein and then some vegetables and/or fruit. They don't even have to eat always vegetables, at least trying to get some type of a produce, you know, the fruit and/or the vegetables. And that's what I'm trying to aim for, because then we're getting more of those vitamins, the minerals, the protein that I want.

TERESA: Yeah. That's what I say to my kids: plants and proteins, plant and proteins.

ALYSSA: Every meal always offer plants and protein. So often I love to suggest kind of like a snack platter style lunch to my teens and even adults. We all seem to love the snack platter, like the charcuterie board per se. And I'll use those little bento box style containers to fill up first with like a protein choice. I love the, the recipe we have for Wild Rice Meatballs or adding some cheese cubes and then pick a vegetable choice like the little mini bell peppers, some celery, maybe a fruit like grapes and then a healthy fat like hummus made with olive oil and sliced olives.

TERESA: Yeah. I think teens would probably really like something like that for, for lunch in the lunch room, because it wouldn't look so much like a school lunch or like packing your lunch. It looks a little bit…

ALYSSA: It’s a fancy lunch.

TERESA: Yeah. It's more like a fancy, a fancy lunch.

ALYSSA: Yeah; a fancy Lunchable. And some of my clients, I do also suggest more of like a protein shake option for lunch. One recipe I start with a can of full fat coconut milk, add a cup of water, a package of frozen fruit, three scoops of the Wellness Whey Protein Powder. And then I like to add two scoops of the Key Greens and Fruits just for more added nutrients, antioxidants and flavor. I combine all of those ingredients in the blender and blend them up until smooth and creamy. To mix it up sometimes I'll add half an avocado or two to four tablespoons of peanut butter or almond butter. And I use this particular recipe because it actually makes three shakes. So meal prep is to just make three at once. And then my clients can freeze them, take one out in the morning. And by lunchtime, their shake is thawed and ready to go, but it hasn't gone into that temperature danger zone or anything. So, and besides that, then you only have to make shakes every three days.

TERESA: That's probably a good tip for the teens.

ALYSSA: Yes, they're usually not wanting to wake up so early.

TERESA: Yeas, keep it easy.

ALYSSA: Have it ready to go. Another idea sometimes I offer is to make a deli meat roll-ups with nitrate-free organic deli meat, some cream cheese, and I like to use cucumbers or some people like to put pickle slices in them. They're easy for school and easy to eat. It's quick on the go. My goal overall though is really to just make sure I get my clients to meals and snack ideas that they enjoy. So they actually eat the food, because if you don't eat it, you're not getting the nutrients into your brain. Adequately fueling their body and mind will set them up for success. So they're better able to manage all their daily stressors of life and school and better able to reduce that anxiety and mood disorders.

TERESA: Well, those are some great suggestions, Alyssa, and we are on to our third break. You are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. In the month of September, we are offering our popular Nutrition for Weight Loss program and we're heading back to the classroom for in-person classes; yay. But we will also have classes via Zoom, so whatever format makes you more comfortable. These will be at all six of our, the in-person classes will be at all six of our locations, Maple Grove, Wayzata, Eagan, St. Paul, North Oaks and our new Woodbury location will be open for in-house classes as well. We will be limiting the number of people for each classroom. So we will have the appropriate social distancing. And we do request that you wear a mask during class.

DARLENE: And the teachers have to wear a mask.

TERESA: And the teachers have to wear a mask. Yes. Well, in any case you can sign up online at or call 651-699-3438, and we will be happy to register you.


ALYSSA: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. If you are traveling this month or next, I suggest checking out a recent blog on our website, called Tips to Eat Healthy When Traveling. Each of us dietitians and nutritionists from Nutritional Weight and Wellness gave our own personal tips; so many great ideas. Also, if you missed the recent show, Food's Connection to Anxiety on July 19th, I suggest you listen to Cassie and Kara on that podcast at The more we know the better we do. Kara and Cassie are such great hosts and presenters. So take a listen.

DARLENE: When we were back to talking about anxiety and depression and your eating, Alyssa, you know, think of this. If you had made some of these very simple food adjustments that you help people with now at an earlier age…

ALYSSA: I might have recovered faster.

DARLENE: You could have. You wouldn't have struggled with anxiety and depression, and even this disordered eating that you've experienced. You know, I believe that living through this experience helps you understand what others are going through. And I really think you're going to be able to help a lot of young people adjust their eating and get free of anxiety and depression, but it takes time. Doesn't it?


DARLENE: That doesn't happen overnight.

ALYSSA: No, it doesn't happen overnight. Yeah. And I did get better, but it did take a long time. It's not a snap of the fingers kind of change. I remember slowly starting to switch my mindset by talking to myself, instead of always listening to my thoughts. Just because I had a thought did not make that thought true. And it did not mean that I had to actually act on that thought. I changed up my routine. I cut back on dance classes. I played on the golf team; probably got me some more vitamin D and I started to eat the school meals at lunch.

DARLENE: You know, Alyssa, we're just listening to you. And what you just said that has so much wisdom to it. You were able to adjust your mindset.

ALYSSA: Yes, it did. That was a lot of, it was a lot of actually working that muscle, my brain, how I talked to myself and really talking instead of the, the negative thoughts that I always had going on and starting to be like, nope, that's not true. Just because that thought came to me, doesn't make it true. And it's not true.

DARLENE: And, you know, it's so interesting. All those negative thoughts get fueled by sugar and processed foods.

ALYSSA: And one of those things I started to eat at school lunch included meat. My, my favorite meal ended up being the chicken wild rice soup. That was always a go-to favorite.

DARLENE: It's interesting.

ALYSSA: Yup. And I, as I kept learning more, I eventually became more interested in studying nutrition. First, I actually want to be a pharmacist, but then I switched to nutrition dietetics once I learned about it as a career option.

DARLENE: So that means you're going to be able to help a lot of young people.

ALYSSA: Hopefully.

DARLENE: I think so.

TERESA: Yes. And to our benefit that she's with us now. You know, Alyssa, when you were talking about your anxiety and depression and what you were eating, I would say it was a clear case of having out of balance blood sugars. We have explained this biochemistry many, many times on Dishing Up Nutrition over the years, but I want to explain this biochemistry once again. In fact, I'm going to read just a few sentences from Dr. David Perlmutter's book, Brain Maker. He said, “Surges in blood sugar have a direct negative effect on the brain. These effects cause inflammation. Those blood, those blood sugar surges lead to depletion of important neurotransmitters.” So we were talking about that a little bit earlier, but these neurotransmitters include serotonin, epinephrine, norepinephrine, GABA, and dopamine. The nutrients needed to make these neurotransmitters; they get used up. Even your B vitamins are used up with these blood sugar surges. High blood sugar also causes your magnesium levels to dwindle. And that impairs both your nervous system and your liver. As nutrition experts, we know high blood sugar levels are the result of eating high sugar or high carbohydrate foods. Alyssa ate cereal, a high sugar food, Toaster Strudels: high sugar food, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, another high sugar food and French fries, which is also another high sugar food.

ALYSSA: I loved sugar.

TERESA: She depleted her body and her brain of neurotransmitters and key vitamins and minerals. And as a result of this anxiety, depression and disordered eating set in. So a great book to reference and to read more and to more about this is Brain Maker. It's by Dr. David Perlmutter, who is a board certified neurologist and a fellow of the American College of Nutrition. So he puts an emphasis on nutrition as well. And you might have seen him around. I mean, he is, he is out there. He's been on 2020 and The Today Show. He's been on Dr. Oz and on Oprah. He's been on many podcasts. Dr. Hyman is one of my favorites, The Doctor's Farmacy spelled with an F: farmacy. And he actually has his own podcast. It's called The Empowering Neurologist. So if you want more information, read that book. It's a great book. Or, you know, maybe even check out his podcast, The Empowering Neurologist.

DARLENE: You know, Teresa, we talk about blood sugars all the time.

TERESA: We do. Yes we do.

DARLENE: And we know that high blood sugars lead to low blood sugars and anxiety and lack of focus, irritability and depression. It really takes a commitment to our health to eat, you know, every three hours and to eat on schedule and eat real food. It does, doesn't it Alyssa?

ALYSSA: It takes actually making a choice and telling myself, I'm choosing this, instead of saying like, I have to do this. I'm choosing this.

DARLENE: You know, but the payoff is good moods, mental sharpness, and a sense of wellbeing. And the bottom line, the reward for sticking to that commitment is that you have great results.

ALYSSA: Yes. Today I'm in a much better place mentally than I was as a young tween and teen, you know, when life gets busy, I still, sometimes don't choose to eat meals that are not very balanced. And afterwards, I start to notice that my anxiety can start feeling, you know, creeping up more and getting worse. But to feel my best throughout the day, and to really have that energy to do all the things I love, I choose to eat three balanced meals and usually one to two snacks at regular times throughout the day. I choose to start my meals with a good source of protein and pair it with real food carbohydrates, like vegetables, fruits, and some non-gluten grains. And then I anchor it all with a source of healthy fat.

TERESA: I like that you say that you choose to do it because it is a choice, right? When we are, the things that we are eating, it's not happening to us. We are involved. We are an active participant in those choices and we can choose to do meal prep and we can choose to prioritize those things in our lives, because…

ALYSSA: It really puts you in the driver's seat when you're saying that you're choosing to do something versus saying, I have to do it, or I can't have this, or I can't have that. So words really do matter. And I try to work with that with my clients as well. And reminding myself and my kids too, that, you know, we're choosing these things. These are all choices we make, whether we choose balanced meals or French fries.

TERESA: Right. And I also say that too, because work a lot with mindset too. And it's choose not cheat, right. When people say, oh, I cheated. No, no, no, you didn't cheat. You just chose. And that's okay. That just, let's choose something better next time.

ALYSSA: If you don't feel that great afterwards, well then maybe you decide next time I'm going to choose something else.

DARLENE: It's like, it becomes a habit then.


DARLENE: Because you're always making the choice that probably supports your body and brain.

ALYSSA: Yup, exactly.

DARLENE: Somehow you had the ability, Alyssa, to change your thoughts and your mindset and you started eating real food. That was really difficult because your brain had not had the nutrients that your brain had actually been starved of nutrients. And to be able to think logically and have that mindset was amazing.

ALYSSA: It was a slow process.


TERESA: Alyssa, do you happen to remember what that turning point was for you? Like was there some sort of a trigger, something, did it, was it like a rock bottom situation? Was it you just happened to eat some, a better lunch or something? And you're like, wow, I feel better.

DARLENE: Great question.

ALYSSA: I don’t feel like I had any like aha moments of like, oh my gosh, this is the answer. It was just really a small trickle of, you know, slow decisions. My, my parents being like, you know, let's, let's choose some other meals and, you know, learning the importance of having food and what it provided. I remember even taking health class and like your junior year or something where they were talking about, I think at that time is the food pyramid back then and just getting little tidbits of information. I didn't necessarily listen to it and follow all of these suggestions right away. But each time I learned something.

DARLENE: You actually started to make that connection between the food and your brain.


DARLENE: Amazing.

ALYSSA: Slowly.

TERESA: Yes, and I also think like maybe an important point in there too, was that your parents interceded there and they did see, okay, we need to make some changes. And that's, you know, for our clients that are younger, a lot of times, that's how we, how we have some younger clients is because the parents are, are making a decision for their children that it's, you know, there's maybe some extra help needed.

ALYSSA: Yeah, that these, these behaviors really aren't the best healthy options for you. And there's a better way of going about things.

TERESA: And certainly teenagers listen to, well basically anybody but their parents.


DARLENE: So I think a lot of teens will be listening to you as you sit down and talk to them. I think it's going to be a great support for a lot of teenagers and families is to have you on staff and work with people.

ALYSSA: Yes, it’s important for people to know that, you know, they're not the only ones struggling with it and they're alone. It's something that a lot of people deal with. So it's not just my, my only story. There's, there's many other teens and people I've known and even growing up, other friends that struggled with anxiety, depression, attempting suicide or eating disorders. So there was a lot of that going on and it's just remembering that you're not alone and we're here to help build each other up.


TERESA: Well, I think that's great. And I think that right now that so many teens are struggling and young people and adults are struggling. And you know, our goal at Nutritional Weight and Wellness is to help each and every person, including teens and tweens, experience better health through eating real food. It's a simple yet powerful message. Eating real food is life changing. Thank you for listening and enjoy the rest of your day.

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