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“Can I get your list of foods to eat & avoid in TBI?”

Read to me!

“Can you tell me what foods to eat and avoid” is probably the most common question I get from TBI survivors, concussion warriors, and other healthcare providers alike.

And it makes sense. A lot of the information out there about food and nutrition for brain injury focuses on this sort of “good foods” “bad foods” model.

Almonds, Candy, Chocolate, Choice, Sugar, Colorful

But I’m not here to give you more of the same. You can get opinions on “what to eat and avoid” pretty much everywhere. You’ve probably already been exposed to this kind of information a lot. Yet, you’re still here, looking for the answer.


Because you know deep down that those food lists of “good” and “bad” never actually SOLVED your problems. Those lists didn’t help get you cooking. Those lists didn’t get your appetite back on track. Those lists likely didn’t get to the root of YOUR digestive issues. And those lists certainly didn’t help you work with emotional eating.

All-in-all, those lists don’t address the actual day-to-day problems you have getting good nutrition with a brain injury. In fact, I’ve seen these food lists make nutrition HARDER for some.

So then, what are you to do???

My #1 tip for food lists:

Look at food lists like you would pictures of hair styles, clothing, or interior decorating — they are examples or inspiration that need to be adapted to your own unique style & needs.

Brown, White, and Blue Wooden Board

Let’s put this into practice by looking at the most popular dietary pattern recommended in Western culture: the “Mediterranean diet.”

In general, the Mediterranean diet says to eat vegetables & fruit, fish, some lean meats, legumes, nuts & seeds, olive oil, and whole grains. And this in fact is the general advice you’re going to find with most food lists for brain health. These food lists often boast foods such as tomatoes, broccoli, and kale. Berries, grapes, and melons. Walnuts, almonds, and pumpkin seeds. Beans, peas, and lentils. Sweet potatoes, whole oats, and buckwheat. Salmon, sardines, and mussels. Chicken, eggs, and greek yogurt… you get the idea.

Bowl of Vegetable Salad and Fruits

All of these foods are great foods! (mind you, you’ll rarely ever hear me say any food is bad, because I ♥️ food!). All of these foods can support your brain health. But it’s CRUCIAL we don’t look at food lists as set in stone. Because these food lists have come from research that might only chose to look at ONE way of eating.

Research is biased in this way. Who’s to say the Mediterranean diet is better than a Caribbean diet? A northern Chinese diet? Or Indigenous ways of eating?

No one can say this because it’s simply not true. There are many different ways of eating around the world that are good for the brain, body, and soul. It’s just not all of them have been studied or made popular.

I take my role as your dietitian very seriously. I’ve made some mistakes in the past encouraging certain foods over others when it was not appropriate. This is a problem when the food lists that are promoted come from only one cultural background — it excludes other culture’s foods and ways of eating.

Food lists based on research that only looks at European-inspired ways of eating can unintentionally give the impression that other ways of eating are “wrong.” And this definitely holds you back from good nutrition for recovery if your style of eating is culturally different.

Clear Glass Jars With Assorted Foods

As a white dietitian in Canada, I’ve had clients from different backgrounds ask me if their cultural food was “good” or “ok” to eat. They wouldn’t ask this if they saw their familiar foods represented in health campaigns or these food lists. This saddens me so much. Never have I ever told someone that their cultural food was “bad.” The connection that food creates between the person and their culture brings far more health benefits than any “Mediterranean diet” food list could.

And this, my TBI friend, is why I don’t focus on giving you just a list of foods.

Crop anonymous male seller at counter with assorted traditional Turkish sweets in market

But, I understand. You need a starting point. You need ideas. You want some inspiration! So consider this:

When a list says to eat specific foods, understand that there are other foods not listed that could give you the same benefit.

If a list says to eat kale and you prefer bok choy, eat the bok choy!

If a list says to eat sardines, but your local fish is pickerel or cod, eat that!

If a list says to eat sweet potatoes, but you’d rather plantains, don’t let the list stop you!

In my TBI Nutrition Masterclass, I do provide some examples of foods that have been studied, and I offer that up solely as inspiration, as something to consider trying or adapting.

But what we do in this TBI Nutrition Masterclass far surpasses what any dictated food list can. We build your capacity to create YOUR OWN food list so that you can choose foods easily. You actually start putting together meals of your favourite foods, with some additions that support your brain, body, and soul. This kind of nutrition strengthens your mental wellbeing by connecting you with food that matters to YOU.

Free stock photo of adult, Asian, asian cuisine

Are you ready to stop following someones else’s limited idea of what healthy eating looks like? Do you want to know what to eat, the skills to do it, and to actually solve your problems?

Then set up a call with me. There’s no cost. We’ll get clear on what your goals are, what’s holding you back, and what you need to get good nutrition today.

Set up that call HERE. I can’t wait to speak with you 🙂

Krystal Merrells

Concussion Warrior

Registered Dietitian

“All foods fit” kinda person ♥️

Explore this topic further:

The Mediterranean Diet Is a Healthy Eating Plan—But It’s Far From Universal:


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