May 20, 2020

We’re certainly living in a different world lately! And it’s becoming increasingly more important to take time to focus on ourselves as well as our families. At the Y, we often focus on the spirit, mind, and body connection. We have always known that focusing on our overall health should be an important part of our everyday life. But sometimes other tasks and obligations just get in the way.

I’ve learned from many of you that you’re realizing not just how important your spiritual and physical health are, but also you’re becoming more aware of our mental health as well. So, how does food play a role? It’s always important to eat your daily dose of fruits and veggies, but now more than ever, eating lots of plants is crucial to help keep us happy and healthy. Fruits and veggies not only support our cells and muscles, but they can play a part in helping to support our mental health as well.

A research study from the Produce for Better Health Foundation in 2017 suggests that eating more fruits and veggies may be a factor in helping us feel happier and can have a positive impact on our overall mental well-being.

I’m all about keeping my and my family’s mental well-being taken care of, and I love to be able to promote eating fruits and veggies! Here are my 5 favorite ways to add more fruits and veggies to my day to help improve my mood!

Incorporate fruits and/or veggies in every meal.

Try adding some fresh berries (blueberries are in season now!) or a banana to your morning oatmeal, cereal, or yogurt. Add some spinach, peppers, or mushrooms to your morning eggs. Have a simple salad for lunch with some tuna fish, egg salad, or chicken salad. Don’t forget a veggie or a side salad with dinner. Remember a balanced plate should be ½ fruits/veggies, ¼ whole grains, and ¼ lean protein.

Snacks can be healthy too!

Try some of these snack ideas:

  • Low-fat or fat-free Greek yogurt with Berry Salad
  • 1 whole piece of fruit and 1 oz of almonds (about 28 almonds)
  • Low-fat cottage cheese and ½ cup of canned peaches (no sugar added)
  • Make your own trail mix (nuts, Honey Nut Cheerios, and raisins)
  • Celery sticks with nut or sun butter plus some dried apricots or raisins
  • Veggies (carrots, celery, snap peas) and hummus
  • One slice of whole-wheat toast with nut or sun butter
  • Popcorn (unsalted, no butter)

All types of healthy foods matter.

While fresh produce is always delicious, canned, frozen, and dried are other ways to add in a variety of textures and flavors. Frozen fruit is great for smoothies, canned beans are great for casseroles and sauces, and dried fruit can be the perfect addition for baking. Frozen veggies are great to have on hand and are simple and easy to prepare. (Don’t worry! Frozen fruits and veggies are still nutritionally dense.)

Try something new!

Have you ever tried a purple sweet potato, papaya, or dragon fruit? Now’s the time! Not only is it exciting to try new foods, but you may find yourself a new favorite!

Just add one more!

If you’re not getting your recommended 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day, don’t sweat it. It’s easy to add in just one more serving per day until you work your way up. It could be as simple as a piece of fresh fruit at breakfast or for a snack, or a few carrots or celery sticks at lunchtime. Little by little you can increase your intake of fruits and veggies, and improve your mood too.

I’m eating my fruits and veggies, and I hope with these tips you and your family are eating yours too.


By: Chef Gary Appelsies, MS
Director of Healthy Eating

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