OTTAWA -- An Ottawa nutritionist suggests there’s some simple things you can do to boost your mood during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The physical distancing requirements, the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic and the wet, cool spring weather has left many people feeling sluggish, tired and unmotivated.

Rachel Caven of Caven Nutrition Group tells CTV News Ottawa “the best thing for your mood is going outside.”

“Go for a walk, get some sunshine, waive to people from a distance.”

When it comes to your daily diet, Caven says “one of the most important things” you can do to boost your mood is “plan to have three meals a day.”

Caven admits while you’re working at home and spending more time inside it’s easier to skip meals and snack all day. But she says having three meals is important, and make sure you incorporate some protein into each meal.

“Have some complex carbohydrates in your diet, pair it with protein.”

And while you’re working at home, watching TV, chatting with family and friends on the phone/video or going for a walk, Caven says drinking plenty of water is essential to helping you both physically and mentally.

“Make sure you’re sipping on water through the day.”

Caven shares with CTV News Ottawa five foods to help boost your mood during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fatty Fish (salmon, trout, tuna, sardines)

Fatty fish contains Omega 3 – an essential fatty acid (meaning your body can’t make it so you need to get it from food).

Caven says “your brain is made up of mostly fat so it’s important to have enough of these essential fats.” Caven adds fatty fish is “linked to lower levels of depression.”

You should eat fish three to five times a week or take a fish oil supplement.

Complex Carbohydrates (sweet potato, oats, bananas)

Caven says complex carbohydrates are “full of fibre to help stabilize your blood sugar and keep your mood consistent throughout the day.”

She adds complex carbohydrates are a “source of B vitamins which may help improve mood by increasing levels of neurotransmitters.”

Caven adds there is a bonus to consuming complex carbohydrates, “it will fill you up so you’re less likely to overeat chips and ice cream.”

Dark Chocolate

Caven says dark chocolate is “rich in many mood-boosting compounds”, including flavonoids, caffeine, theobromine, N-acylethanolamine (which is chemically similar to cannabinoids that has been linked to improved mood)

She recommends when shopping for dark chocolate to “look for 70 per cent or more coca content and watch out for added sugars.”

You can enjoy one-to-two small squares of dark chocolate per day.

Fermented Foods (yogurt, kefir, Kombucha)

Caven says “most people don’t realize that a lot of neurotransmitters are made in your gut!”

“Up to 90 per cent of your serotonin, a ‘feel food neurotransmitter’, is made in your digestive tract so it’s important to keep your gut healthy.”

Fermented foods contain probiotics, or what Caven calls “the good bacteria.”

Caven recommends looking for sugar-free versions and flavour them with berries, cinnamon, vanilla or honey.


Caven says you can enjoy one to two cups of coffee per day, but limit consumption in the afternoon/evening so it doesn’t affect your sleep.

“Caffeine acts as a mild anti-depressant by increasing the release of dopamine and norepinephrine (mood-boosting neurotransmitters).”

Caven says caffeine increases alertness and attention by preventing adenosine from attaching to brain receptors that promote tiredness.

There is one caution as you pour your cup of coffee – Caven notes too much caffeine can cause restlessness, anxiety, and sleeplessness.

If you want to drink decaf coffee, Caven says it has “shown to increase mood, possibly due to the antioxidants found in coffee.”