Foods That Make You Happy (and My Favorite Recipes!)

I woke up this morning feeling great and having more energy than lately. This is surprising since I am still up every couple of hours with a newborn. So, I started thinking about possible reasons for this improved mood and increase in energy. The answer? My diet! During my third trimester of pregnancy, I “indulged” myself with sweets and fats and carbs. Now that I’m out of excuses for eating all that junk food, I am making an effort to eat better and feed my family more healthful foods.

What To Eat

I decided to do a little research into what specific foods improve mood and energy and here’s what I found. has a great article describing foods that improve your mood and mention that foods with these nutrients are important to look for in your meal choices:

Three specific nutrients to incorporate

Omega-3 fats Significant work is being conducted in the area of omega-3 fatty acids on mental performance. omega-3 fatty acids are present in the brain at higher levels than any other part of the body, and although this area has not been thoroughly researched, several review papers fully support the omega-3 use in psychiatry. Of particular interest is the ability of omega-3 fats to be mood lifting and to help possibly alleviate depression. Certainly a nutrient worth considering, but always speak with your physician before starting with supplements.

Foods rich in omega-3 fats include: oily fish (salmon, mackerel and sardines), ground flaxseeds, canola oil, walnuts and omega-3 fortified eggs.

Folic acid and B12 Two B vitamins — folate and vitamin B12 — seem to be important for mood. Studies have shown that low blood levels of these vitamins are sometimes related to depression, although no one is exactly sure why. Some scientists believe that these vitamins are used by the body to create seratonin, one of the key neurotransmitters that help normalize mood.

If you suffer from a mood disorder, it is important to continue to follow your doctor’s treatment recommendations, but you may want to consider taking a multivitamin with appropriate amounts of folate and B12, in addition to your antidepressant medications. Of course, eating a diet rich in these nutrients is important for maintaining mood, even if you are not clinically depressed.

Foods rich in folate: fortified whole-grain breakfast cereals, lentils, black-eyed peas, soybeans, oatmeal, mustard greens, beets, broccoli, sunflower seeds, wheat germ and oranges.

Foods rich in vitamin B12: shellfish (clams, oysters, crab), wild salmon (fresh or canned), fortified whole-grain breakfast cereal, lean beef, cottage cheese, low-fat yogurt, milk (skim, skim plus, 1% reduced-fat) and eggs.

Vitamin D In the past few years, research has suggested that vitamin D might help relieve mood disorders because it seems to increase the amounts of serotonin, one of the neurotransmitters responsible for mood. In particular, vitamin D seems to help the type of depression called “seasonal affective disorder (SAD),” or the winter blues.

Foods rich in vitamin D: fish with bones, fat free and low-fat milk, fortified soy milk and egg yolks. Because vitamin D-rich foods are so limited, it’s often beneficial to take a daily multivitamin which provides 400 IU.

WebMD also turned out to be a good resource, using a slideshow to present foods that boost energy levels. Foods mentioned in this slideshow include apples, whole grains and brown rice, almonds, lean meats, leafy greens, salmon, fiber, water, and fresh fruits!

Recent Recipes I Loved

I love seafood and last night I tried two new recipes that turned out to be wonderfully tasty. I had 3 servings!! But they are so healthful that it was guilt-free!

Shrimp and Spinach Salad from

**Good source of Omega 3, B12, and Iron

The dressing for this salad was what really made it so wonderful. The salad was a bit skimpy for my taste, so I added raw sliced almonds and bits of turkey bacon. So delicious!


Crab, Corn, and Tomato Salad with Lemon-Basil Dressing ,

also by

Also an absolutely delicious recipe! I didn’t have the red bell pepper, but it still turned out really tasty.


 Black Beans by Melissa d’Arabian

I used these black beans for a healthy taco salad dinner. You can get creative with your taco salads and even make it with healthier ingredients than I did, but this is what I had on hand. I included lean ground beef cooked with chopped onion and garlic, plain greek yogurt (sour cream substitute), chopped tomato, black olives, fresh jalapenos slices, lettuce, green onion, shredded cheese, and multigrain chips.

Oatmeal and Fresh Fruit

I didn’t have to follow a recipe for this one, but we have been eating this for breakfast lately. I cook the oatmeal with milk and serve with some kind of fruit. The most popular is blueberries, but I love adding strawberries to my oatmeal. Try to keep away from too much sugar or butter though. The fruit should add plenty of sweetness and flavor!

I’ve never posted recipes on this blog before, but there is a first time for everything, and I am a stong believer that diet, exercise, and sleep play a role in our psychological health! If you have a recipe or related link to share, please do!

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Author: Kim Peterson, MA, LPC-S, RPT

Kim is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Clinical Supervisor, and Registered Play Therapist in Dallas, Texas.

5 thoughts on “Foods That Make You Happy (and My Favorite Recipes!)”

  1. Funny you mention omegas and seafood; I didn’t realize it til later but I have three seafood recipes to cook this week! I grew up on seafood and love it. I’m also so happy that it’s good for you, especially if you stay away from the larger fish with mercury.

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