WARNING! Your mood is about to take a nosedive!\nFrom the time you crawled out of bed this morning, you made a series of nutritional errors that will have a direct and negative effect on your disposition.\nAs luck would have it, director of sports nutrition at the UPMC Sports Medicine Leslie Bonci knows exactly how you can correct those eating errors and keep your spirits high!\n\u201cIt\u2019s difficult to be in good character when you\u2019re feeling hungry or if your body is lacking key nutrients,\u201d she said. \u201cThere are quite a few things we can do, food-wise, to help.\u201d\nEat a Balanced Breakfast\nFirst, to avoid a mid-morning energy crash, Leslie suggests eating a balanced breakfast that includes lots of fiber and nutrients, some lean protein, good fats, and whole-grain carbs.\n\u201cTreating yourself to a doughnut or breakfast dessert probably makes you happy while eating it,\u201d she said. \u201cBut the effects of simple carbohydrates like these don\u2019t last long, and they leave you feeling sluggish.\u201d\nSome smart breakfast choices include fresh fruit, unsweetened whole-grain cold cereal, skim milk, whole-wheat English muffins or toast, natural peanut butter, oatmeal, and hard-cooked eggs. To remain alert and on top of your game, Leslie recommends eating smaller, regular meals throughout the day.\nInclude Protein for Fuel\n\u201cTry to include protein in the meals to help stabilize your blood sugar and keep your body feeling fueled all day long,\u201d she said. \u201cIf you put poor quality fuel in, like junk food, your body will feel it.\u201d\nOn days when you\u2019re careening down a path toward gloominess, foods with Vitamin C, like citrus fruits or kiwis, can turn your mood in the right direction, according to Leslie. Further, researchers have noted that omega-3 fatty acids found in fish may be mood stabilizers, playing a role in mental well-being.\n\u201cGood plant-based sources of this nutrient include ground flaxseed, cauliflower, red kidney beans and broccoli,\u201d she said. \u201cPlus, it can help increase the serotonin levels in your brain.\u201d\nSerotonin, known as a mood regulator, is made naturally in the brain from tryptophan, with some help from the B vitamins. As more tryptophan enters the brain, more serotonin is synthesized, and mood tends to improve.\nChoose \u2018Smart\u2019 Carbs\n\u201cYou can actually boost your tryptophan levels by eating more carbohydrates, but it\u2019s important to make smart choices, like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes,\u201d Leslie said.\nIf you\u2019re still not feeling as happy as you\u2019d like, try eating more foods with the mineral selenium.\n\u201cStudies have shown that low selenium intake is linked to gloomier moods,\u201d she said. Some selenium-rich foods (not including organ meats with high cholesterol) are oysters, albacore tuna, clams, lean lamb, pork tenderloin, sunflower seeds, flour tortillas, soy nuts, tofu, pinto beans, low-fat cottage cheese, and low-fat yogurt.\nWhen it\u2019s time to unwind at the end of the day, foods high in fat or sugar stimulate the feel-good endorphins in the brain, resulting in pleasant feelings of calmness, Leslie said.\nGo Easy on Caffeine\n\u201cAnd don\u2019t overdo caffeine,\u201d she warned. \u201cIn people with sensitivity, caffeine may exacerbate depression. If caffeine keeps you awake at night, this could certainly affect your mood the next day.\u201d\nLeslie says the scientific community still has much to learn about how our diet affects our disposition. The concept is based on altered behavior: Dietary changes can bring about changes in our brain structure, chemistry and physiology, which can lead to changes in behavior.\n\u201cThe good news is that most of the mood-related food recommendations offer other health benefits as well, so it\u2019s a win-win situation,\u201d she said. \u201cMy best advice is to aim for moderation instead of abstinence.\n\u201cYour favorite foods may make you feel great. Enjoy them every once in a while.\u201d\nVisit UPMC Sports Medicine Center online to learn more about sports nutrition.