Q: When I'm in a bad mood, what can I eat that will make me feel better?

A: Feeling stressed? Sleepy? What you eat could help you feel better.

Food is not the only answer to improving your mood, but getting the right balance of carbohydrates and proteins in your meals could help you stay on an even keel.

The Serotonin Effect: Serotonin is a brain chemical that provides a feeling of calm, well-being and relaxation.

It is also what can make you feel drowsy after a meal. More seratonin is produced by the body when you eat a high-carbohydrate meal, an effect that's blocked by protein. So?

If You Feel Stressed: Eating a healthy high-carbohydrate snack like a piece of fruit and some whole-grain crackers or a small bowl of pasta with tomato sauce for your meal could increase your serotonin and possibly calm you down.

If You Feel Sluggish: A low-carbohydrate, high-protein snack of some nuts or a meal with chicken or fish and a vegetable but no starch could help perk you up by minimizing serotonin.

When you want to stay alert, just think: proteins and vegetables.

(For more information, visit www.foodnetwork.com or write Ask Food Network c/o Viewer Services Culinary Department, Scripps Networks, PO Box 50970, Knoxville, TN 37950.)

SHNS