Strong emotional memories can be triggered by evocative smells, an old photograph or a refrain of music. But have you noticed how food can also transport you back to a special place and time?

Our deep connection with food starts early in life. As babies and toddlers, that calm, contented feeling of being full produces relaxing hormones. Then, as we grow up, we come to associate certain foods with loved ones, uplifting events and happy occasions. 

But there’s more to it than happy memories. There’s a tangible link between the chemistry of particular foods and our emotions. Some foods naturally lift our mood and can help us unwind. On the other hand, food that cause your blood sugar to peak and then ‘crash’ will tend to produce anxious feelings. Balancing your blood sugar throughout the day – by avoiding caffeine, sugary foods and drinks and eating healthy food at regular intervals – helps you to feel calmer.

If you’d like to learn more about the connection between your emotions, brain function and what you eat, take a look at our course, Food and mood: what's the evidence?

5 ways to heartfelt food

  • Cook a favourite meal from your childhood
  • Try a new dish. Sample something different without pre-judging what it might be like
  • Make someone else’s favourite meal for them or share your own special meal
  • Prepare a meal using homegrown ingredients, even if it’s just a cutting from a potted herb. Enjoy the fruits of your labour.
  • Cook a meal that takes you back to a particular place or time –maybe a celebration or a holiday—and savour the memory as you eat

Make a mindful meal

  1. Preparing a meal for yourself or others can be a relaxing, soothing activity. Slow down and enjoy the whole process – from preparation to the last mouthful. Every step is a reminder that you deserve the care and nourishment of wholesome, delicious food.
  2. Focus on what you’re doing, as you do it, with all your senses. Notice the texture of the dough as you knead it, the aroma of the herbs as you chop them, the way food changes colour as it cooks, the sounds of butter fizzing in the pan.
  3. Find your rhythm. Chop, slice and stir in a regular tempo that feels natural to you.
  4. Give the critical voice inside a rest and practice cooking without judging your technique or comparing yourself to anyone else.
  5. Make it special. Set the table and arrange the food (even it’s just a chopped apple) in a pleasing way on the plate. 
  6. Before you begin to eat, pause and acknowledge all the people that have contributed to making this food available to you. From the farmer, to the shop worker who served you and of course to yourself as well.
  7. Take your time to savour and appreciate the food you have prepared.