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Nutrition

How Eating More Fruits and Veggies Can Make You Happier

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cauliflower mac & cheese

Having a bad day? Grab a carrot. Okay, it’s not as simple as that, but a recent study did find an association between people eating more fruits and vegetables and improved mental well-being.

The study, published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, drew upon the United Kingdom Household Longitudinal Study, which contains information from roughly 50,000 people. Participants were asked how many and how often they ate fruits and vegetables; they also were asked about their mental well-being (for example, if they felt happy or depressed; felt a sense of purpose and self-worth; felt anxiety, life satisfaction, etc.).

The results: The researchers found that well-being went up with both the amount of fruits and vegetables people ate in a day, and the number of days per week they ate them. In other words, there was a correlation between chowing down on more produce and having lifted spirits.

How to Eat More Fruits and Veggies

Be honest: How many fruits and veggies do you eat per day? Take a second to do the math. The USDA recommends adult women eat about 1.5 cups of fruit and 2 to 2.5 cups of vegetables every day.

If you're like most people, you fall way short. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that only 1 out of every 10 people in the U.S. meets the federal fruit and vegetable recommendation. Yikes!

If you want to add more veggies to your diet, look at these easy ways to sneak more servings into your everyday dishes.

Cauliflower Mac & Cheese: Why not swap out macaroni for cauliflower? Not only will you get more vegetables, but it'll make this healthy comfort food lower in carbs and higher in fiber to keep you feeling full longer. 

Zucchini Noodles with Turkey Bolognese

Zucchini Noodles with Quick Turkey Bolognese: This lean Bolognese sneaks mushrooms into the sauce for extra heartiness. To double up on veggies, ditch the noodles for zucchini noodles (aka zoodles). If you want to make your own and don’t have a spiralizer, there are other techniques to make zoodles using what you already have at home.

Vietnamese Pork & Broccoli "Rice" Bowl: Whenever a recipe calls for rice, you may instinctively reach for brown rice over white rice (a good call, since complex carbs are generally better for your body than simple carbs). But don't forget about vegetable rice. Throw some broccoli in your food processor and voilà! It takes on the consistency of rice. (Another good candidate for vegetable rice? Cauliflower.)

Pumpkin Pancakes

Pumpkin Pancakes: Make breakfast more interesting by tossing some pumpkin puree into your whole-wheat mix for heartier, tastier pancakes. (It makes them a fun orange color, too.) Finish your stack with toasted pecans and, for an extra serving of fruit, apple topping.

Chocomole Pudding: The secret ingredient in this chocolate pudding is avocado, which adds a creaminess to this rich dish. It’s sweetened with dates for a high-fiber, vegan dessert.

Find other great health and wellness stories at EatingWell.com/Strive.