The best healthy recipes and foods to improve sleep and calm your nervous system

Struggling to get a solid eight hours? Nutritionist Rick Hay has put together a nervous system-nourishing weekly meal plan to help you get the shut-eye you deserve. 

We all do it, we can’t get enough of it and we all want more of it. Yes, we’re talking about sleep.

These days there are a myriad of tools to help you fall asleep, from weighted blankets to nod-inducing podcasts but something that goes under the radar is diet.

The right minerals, such as magnesium and potassium, play a big role when it comes to healthy sleep.

I’ve put together a seven-day meal plan, comprising recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner plus snacks, that help to nourish the nervous system. A supported nervous system means less anxiety and stress, which in turn contribute to better sleep.

You want a healthy breakfast to start the day, then a mid morning snack because eating every few hours helps control portion size and regulates blood sugar levels, which should reduce cravings and keep your nervous system steady.

Here is a one week plan to help with better sleep. It is broken into three sections Monday and Wednesday, Tuesday and Saturday, Thursday and Sunday, and Friday.

Monday and Wednesday

Breakfast

Porridge/ Oatmeal

A breakfast staple and one of the best foods to eat in the morning. It’s packed with filling fiber and slow burning carbs. Sweeten with blueberries, bananas, strawberries, dates, maple syrup or honey.

Oats contain B vitamins to help soothe and nourish the nervous system which is important to keep stress levels down and therefore also helping with a more relaxed sleep.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 cup water
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground Turmeric
  • ½ ripe banana
  • 3 walnuts
  • Maple Syrup (if needed)

Instructions

  1. Combine oats, milk or milk alternative like rice or coconut, water, salt, turmeric and cinnamon in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered for up to five minutes until oats have thickened. Stir occasionally.
  3. Remove from heat. Divide equally between two bowls.
  4. Add bananas and walnuts and additional desired toppings. Serve.

The cinnamon helps to regulate blood sugar levels and calm and bananas contain tryptophan which helps with nervous system function.

Lunch

Sweet Potato and Chickpea Curry

Ingredients

  • 1/2 can organic chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1 sweet potato,
  • 1 small parsnip, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Oil for cooking
  • 125 ml coconut milk
  • Salt, curry powder, turmeric powder and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice

Instructions

  1. Cook rice and parsnip, sweet potato in two separate medium-sized pans
  2. Heat oil in frying pan, add cooked potato and parsnip (cubbed)
  3. Add coconut milk and spices. Simmer for five minutes
  4. Add chickpeas, simmer for five more minutes
  5. Assemble in bowl. Place rice on the bottom, add veggies on top. Serve.

Plus, chickpeas are a good source of B6.

Dinner

Cauliflower Soup

  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 5 or 6 cauliflower florets
  • 1 tablespoon tahini1 teaspoon of turmeric (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon of chilli and a pinch of sea salt and black pepper

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients in a blender
  2. Pour into a saucepan and add 350 mls of filtered water and 1⁄2 veggie stock cube
  3. Cook for one minute, then simmer gently for fifteen minutes
  4. Top with pumpkin seeds and some grated vegan cheese. Serve

Soup is soothing mentally whilst broccoli and cauliflower contain tryptophan, which helps the body produce serotonin and regulates sleep. Don’t eat this too late though as you don’t want your body focusing on digestion whilst you are trying to wind down. I suggest before seven PM if bedtime is 10 PM. Pumpkin seeds also contain magnesium.

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Tuesday and Saturday

Breakfast

Avocado Toast

Ingredients

  • 1 slice whole grain bread1/2 avocado, smashed
  • Himalaya sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Add 1 soft boiled organic egg (optional

Instructions

  1. Place the smashed avocado onto your bread.
  2. Add salt and pepper. Enjoy!

The toast with the most contains “good” fats, and a great source of potassium and magnesium, which makes it a perfect choice for your breakfast. This combo like the oats helps to calm the nervous system.

Lunch

Honey-Glazed Tempeh Sandwich With Caramelised Onions

Ingredients

  • 1/2 block of tempeh, sliced
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 2 slices whole grain gluten free bread

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil in a frying pan.
  2. Add onions and sauté until they begin to soften. Cook until onions are golden brown.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, honey, and melted coconut oil. Place tempeh into the marinade to evenly coat, leave in for 10 minutes.
  4. Heat up coconut oil in a frying pan and add tempeh, broil on both sides until browned.
  5. Spread two slices of bread with the tahini. Place tempeh on bread, top with the caramelised onions.

Protein may help with sleep quality and to reduce night time restlessness. Whole grains help with feel good serotonin.

Dinner

Buddha Bowl with Broccoli and Butter Beans

Ingredients

  • 1/2 can organic butter beans, rinsed
  • 2 handful broccoli florets,
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Oil for veggie mix
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 tablespoon tahini

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place beans, broccoli, and chopped carrot on the tray.
  3. Season with olive oil, salt and pepper Roast for 15 – 20 minutes, stir halfway through.
  4. Cook quinoa while veggies are in the oven.
  5. Assemble bowl. Place quinoa on the bottom, add veggies on top.
  6. Drizzle tahini and one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil on top. Serve.

The complex carbs in the quinoa will help with better sleep.

Friday

Breakfast

Morning Smoothie

On a busy morning breakfast might be the last thing on your mind. Smoothies come in handy here, as they take only a couple of minutes to make. Protein powder helps to release energy slowly and that helps to keep the nervous system steady. The kale and spinach contain magnesium to help with anxiety and sleep.

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 tablespoon of almond butter
  • 1 serving of vanilla protein powder of your choice
  • 1 glass of oat milk (or water)
  • 2 handful of spinach or kale

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients into a blender.
  2. Mix until smooth. Serve.

Lunch

Spinach & Lentil Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cooked red lentils
  • Himalaya Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 5 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 cups fresh spinach
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Crumbled goat cheese for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine cooked lentils with chopped onions, tomatoes, spinach, and parsley. Toss gently.
  2. Add olive oil, salt and pepper. Add a crumbled goat cheese and then serve.

This recipe is rich in B vitamins, magnesium and protein.

Dinner

Roasted Sweet Potato, Beans and Hummus Wrap

Ingredients

  • 1⁄4 sweet potato cubed
  • 2 tbsp hummus
  • 2 tbsp kidney beans
  • handful of spinach
  • teaspoon cumin
  • teaspoon turmeric
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon linseed oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
  2. Mix all the spices together and toss them over the sweet potatoes and beans.
  3. Add one tablespoon of oil and toss them until the sweet potatoes are fully coated with the spices and oil.
  4. Roast the mix for about 20-25 minutes until tender. Remove from the oven to cool.
  5. Spread two tablespoons of hummus on a wrap and add the ingredients and top it all with the fresh spinach.

The magnesium and complex carb combo means better sleep.

Thursday and Sunday

Breakfast

Spicy Beans on Toast

Ingredients

  • ½ tablespoon olive oil (plus extra for drizzling)
  • ½ small onion, sliced
  • 227g can chopped tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon chilli powder
  • ¼ teaspoon honey
  • 2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 210g can organic Cannellini beans
  • 1 slice whole grain bread
  • Fresh oregano, finely chopped

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a small frying pan, add the onion and pepper, and fry for about 10-12 minutes.
  2. Add tomatoes, vinegar, beans, honey and chilli powder.
  3. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes or until thickened.
  4. Spoon beans over the toast, drizzle with a little olive oil and chopped oregano.

Beans aren’t only packed with fibre and protein they are also a great source of magnesium. They also contain B vitamins and iron to help with the energy you need throughout the day whilst helping to keep you feeling calmer.

Lunch

Quinoa with Salmon Fillet

Quinoa is a nutrient-dense super grain from South America. It’s an excellent source of calcium, magnesium iron, phosphorus, and lysine. Lysine may lower stress levels.

Ingredients

Quinoa

  • 1/2 cup quinoa, uncooked
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1/8 cup red onion, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoons oregano leaves, chopped
  • Zest of one lemon

For the salmon

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon chili
  • 1 salmon fillet
  • 1/8 cup oregano, chopped fresh

Instructions

  1. In a small saucepan bring 1/2 cup quinoa, two cups of water and ¼ teaspoon salt to a boil.
  2. Cover and reduce to a simmer, cooking about 20 minutes, or until fluffy.
  3. Turn off heat and mix in the tomatoes, onions, oregano and lemon zest, let it sit covered.
  4. In a small bowl combine salt, pepper, cumin, and paprika.
  5. Line a sheet pan with foil and lightly grease with olive oil or nonstick cooking spray before transferring salmon fillet to the pan, coat the surface of fillet with ½ of the spice mixture.
  6. Place rack in the lower third of the oven. Cook for 10 minutes, check with a fork.
  7. Sprinkle with oregano and serve with vegetable quinoa.

Salmon and some other kinds of fish like halibut, are rich in vitamin B6, which the body uses to make melatonin, the sleep hormone. This can also help with serotonin and mood.

Dinner

Organic Egg White Scramble

For dinner? Yes! Egg whites help the body prepare for bedtime by producing melatonin. Additionally, they are jam-packed with 11 vitamins and minerals, and tryptophan, an amino acid that helps you sleep better for longer by telling your brain to shut down for the night.

Ingredients

  • 2 egg whites + 1 yolk
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • Pinch of garlic powder
  • ½ cup cooked brown rice
  • ½ cup smashed avocado
  • Halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • Olive Oil
  • Add sweet potato (optional)

Instructions

  1. Whisk the egg whites and yolk with the salt, pepper, and garlic powder until frothy.

  2. Cook the scramble in olive oil.

  3. Serve with avocado, tomatoes and brown rice.

The addition of the sweet potato could help with better mood.

After Dinner Snacks

Cacao Treat

Ingredients

  • 1 Teaspoon of cacao with 250 mls of unsweetened rice or almond milk

This can be served hot or cold. Have with a handful of nuts and dried fruits if desired as they will help to stabilise mood and satisfy a sweet tooth.

OR

Vegan Chocolate Squares and Almonds

Ingredients

  • 2 squares of vegan chocolate
  • 5 or 6 almonds

For the feel good factor and as a reward to make you feel happier with the end of day.

Herbal Tea

Ingredients

Choose calming varieties like chamomile, lemon balm or valerian to hydrate and soothe.

Rick Hay is a nutritionist at Australian Natural Health News.