Palm Beach Gardens Fire Rescue Health & Wellness

Food and Mood

Firefighters are no strangers to stress – sometimes, that stress can lead to a “snaccident” (snack accident). Sometimes, having something sweet after a bad call is what your soul needs, which is okay! But did you know your diet can improve your mood and resilience to stress?

Eating to Improve Your Mood

Evidence suggests that the Mediterranean diet is a great protocol to start if you want to improve your mood and overall health! Studies support that those who follow a Mediterranean diet reported a reduction in depressive symptoms and notable improvements in overall mental health1

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes whole, plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Healthy fats, like olive oil, are also a diet staple. The main foods eaten in moderation are red meat and sweets. In addition to mood, the Mediterranean diet has been linked to numerous health benefits, including a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers1. It is also known for being delicious and sustainable; consistency is key to long-term success on any diet.

Certain nutrients can also improve mood – but note the best benefit is consuming these nutrients from food over supplements. Food will contain added vitamins, minerals, macronutrients, antioxidants, and more.

  • Omega 3’s (Fish Oil): is associated with a slight decrease in depressive symptoms with additional cardiovascular benefits2.
    • Ex. salmon, herring, tuna, sardines, shrimp, seafood
  • Fiber: promotes brain regeneration. A high-fiber diet can prevent neurodegeneration in the brain by increasing butyrate in the colon. Butyrate can protect the brain by altering gene expression to promote regeneration3. Polyphenols in plant foods may also reduce the risk of depression by 7-10%4.
    • Ex. fruit, veggies, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds
  • Magnesium: improved symptoms of depression with a high intake of magnesium food. It may enhance sleep quality in those with sleep problems and/or magnesium deficiency5
    • Ex. pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, peanuts, soymilk, black beans

Eating When You're IN a Mood

AKA emotional or stress eating – we all do it (even dietitians)! Here are some questions to ask yourself to prevent a future binge:

  • Did you eat enough today?
    • Regular meals and snacks help prevent a binge at the end of the day. If you have a habit of skipping meals, try adding in a small meal or snack to see how it impacts you later in the day. Pack a go-bag with snacks on duty to prevent an extra plate at dinner. 
  • Are you overly restricting or avoiding “bad” foods?
    • Incorporate your favorite foods into your diet. If you overdo them, move on. Eliminating your favorite foods often creates the “forbidden fruit effect,” which can intensify cravings and overeating later on.
  • Are you sleeping?
    • Severe lack of sleep can make appetite regulation challenging. One night of bad sleep can lead to a 24% increase in hunger and cravings for sweet or salty foods6. Incorporate 20 or 90-minute naps into your schedule when possible.

If stress binges are happening multiple times a month and you feel like you have lost control, it may be time to check in with a therapist. Therapy can help you develop better-coping strategies and work through some of the emotions that lead to stress eating. In the meantime, try incorporating some of these coping strategies:

  • Taking a walk
  • Calling a friend or family member
  • Start a hobby (woodworking, painting, drawing, etc.)
  • Take a free, online yoga class (ex. Yoga with Adrienne)
  • Take a nap (ideally 20 or 90 minutes)

Remember, being patient and kind to yourself is important as you develop new coping strategies. With time and practice, you can learn to manage your emotions and improve your relationship with food.


  1. Ventriglio A, Sancassiani F, Contu MP, Latorre M, Di Slavatore M, Fornaro M, Bhugra D. Mediterranean Diet and its Benefits on Health and Mental Health: A Literature Review. Clin Pract Epidemiol Ment Health. 2020 Jul 30;16(Suppl-1):156-164. doi: 10.2174/1745017902016010156. PMID: 33029192; PMCID: PMC7536728.
  3. Bourassa, M. W., Alim, I., Bultman, S. J., & Ratan, R. R. (2016). Butyrate, neuroepigenetics and the gut microbiome: Can a high fiber diet improve brain health? Neuroscience Letters, 625, p 56-63. Retrieved from on May 25, 2017
  4. Bayes J, Schloss J, Sibbritt D. Effects of Polyphenols in a Mediterranean Diet on Symptoms of Depression: A Systematic Literature Review. Adv Nutr. 2020 May 1;11(3):602-615. doi: 10.1093/advances/nmz117. PMID: 31687743; PMCID: PMC7231605.
  5. Gröber U, Schmidt J, Kisters K. Magnesium in Prevention and Therapy. Nutrients. 2015 Sep 23;7(9):8199-226. doi: 10.3390/nu7095388. PMID: 26404370; PMCID: PMC4586582.
  6. Sharma S, Kavuru M. Sleep and metabolism: an overview. Int J Endocrinol. 2010;2010:270832. doi: 10.1155/2010/270832. Epub 2010 Aug 2. PMID: 20811596; PMCID: PMC2929498.
Megan Lautz, MS, RD, CSCS, TSAC-F

Megan is a Registered Dietitian and coach who specializes in firefighter nutrition. Megan’s mission is to help firefighters perform better, recover faster, and enjoy long, healthy retirements. Megan is the owner of RescueRD LLC, which provides nutrition seminars and coaching for tactical athletes across the country. Check out @Rescue.RD on Facebook and Instagram.

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