Studies have shown that certain foods can uplift your mood, while other foods are associated with a higher risk of depression, anxiety disorders, and chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Learning which foods are uplifting for your mind and body, and which foods are not, will help you to create a mood-boosting food plate at every meal.

Embrace the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is a way of eating that is based on the traditional cuisines of France, Spain, Greece, Italy, and other countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. It is more of a lifestyle, rather than a diet, and is easy to incorporate into a variety of cuisines and daily life. 

Put the Mediterranean diet into practice by following this eating guide.

  • Lots of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices. 
  • Plenty of whole grains, like whole wheat bread and brown rice.
  • Plenty of heart-healthy fats like olive oil.
  • Moderate amounts of fish, seafood, dairy, and poultry.
  • Red meat and sweets are eaten only occasionally.

The idea of the Mediterranean diet is that the bulk of foods consumed should consist of nutrient-dense whole foods. The nutrient density of a food is the amount of nutrients you get for the number of calories. The foods with the highest nutrient density are rich in vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy foods. Nutrient-dense foods support a healthy mind and immune system. 

SAD Foods to Avoid

The Standard American Diet (SAD) includes fewer whole foods, more processed foods, unhealthy vegetable oils, and sugary products that are associated with a higher risk of depression and anxiety disorders. These foods also play a key role in the obesity epidemic and are associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes. 

Limit or avoid the following foods from the Standard American Diet.

  • Foods containing sugar and white flour.
  • Foods that are heavily processed.
  • Foods with hidden or excess sugars. Read more here about looking for hidden sugar in products like breakfast cereals, bars, pasta sauces, and salad dressings.
  • Avoid cooking and consuming foods containing canola oil (unless expeller-pressed), sunflower seed oil, corn oil, and soybean oil.

How to Build a Mood-Boosting Plate of Food

Create a mood-boosting plate of food (as shown below) based on the Mediterranean-style meal of greens, colorful non-starchy vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, as well as fruits, whole grains, and starchy carbohydrates in moderation. 

How To Build a Mood-Boosting Plate for a Healthier Diet by Erin Clifford Wellness Coach in Chicago

Mood-Boosting Plate Guidelines & Serving Size

  • Greens and Non-Starchy Vegetables: Enjoy 2 or more servings per meal. A serving is ½ cup cooked or uncooked and 2 cups of raw greens.
  • Protein: 1 serving of protein per meal. A serving is 4 ounces for women and 6 ounces for men.
  • Healthy Fats: 1 serving of healthy fats per meal. A serving is 1 tablespoon olive oil, 10 nuts, 1 tablespoon of seeds, or 1/3 avocado.
  • Starches: Enjoy 2-3 servings per day. A serving is 1 slice of Ezekiel bread, ½ cup whole grains, or a small sweet potato.
  • Fruit: Include 2 servings per day in your meals or daily snack. A serving is 1 cup of berries, ½ cup sliced fruit, or a small piece of fruit.

For a list of specific foods to eat to boost your mood, visit this blog post.

To keep your mind and body happy and healthy practice eating a mood-boosting plate at every meal.

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