5 Foods to Make You Happy This Winter

When the cold, grey, winter days hit, it’s hard to feel anything but sluggish. To get your peppy mood back, you can always hit the gym or watch your favorite chick flick. Another solution for the winter blues? You could eat. Really.

HC spoke with Susan Kleiner, author of The Good Mood Diet, Power Eating, and Powerfood Nutrition Plan about five foods that can boost your mood this winter, or anytime.

One thing to keep in mind: these foods don't have the potency of a drug: “The effects are subtle, and accumulate over time,” Kleiner says. Start by eating a few of these foods in the morning, and occasionally munching on them throughout the day in order to gradually begin to feel your best.

1. Milk

Milk is high in carbohydrates and tryptophan, the building block of serotonin, also known as the happiness hormone.  Milk is “a natural source of carbohydrates which helps to usher tryptophan into the brain,” Kleiner says. "It contains the carbohydrates to raise serotonin which raises your mood."  Your body needs the vitamin D in milk to make serotonin, which is why drinking milk can contribute to feelings of happiness. Kleiner says milk also contains the ideal muscle recovery combo: whey protein and carbohydrate. Any percent fat (2%, 1%, skim, etc) will do, so just choose your favorite.

Boost your mood with milk with:

  • A bowl of cereal in the morning to start the day off feeling upbeat.
  • A cold glass of milk in the afternoon to keep your body ready for the next snowball fight.
  • Topping off your hot chocolate, coffee, or tea with a dash of milk.

2. Fish

Fatty fish contain essential fats like DHA and EPA. These can “enhance mental focus and elevate your mood,” says Kleiner. Not to mention the fact that DHA and EPA help promote healthy brain cells. For fish high in these fats, Kleiner recommends choosing salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, herring, or shellfish as your next fishy meal. “Eat fish 3-5 times a week, or take a fish oil supplement,” Kleiner says. Fish oil supplements or pills are an easy substitute if you’re not a seafood fan, or don’t always have the time to grill a salmon steak. Make sure that the supplement contains DHA or EPA; DHA is most important for mood. “You should have about 1000 mg/day, total, with at least 40% DHA,” Kleiner says.

Try these fishy mood-boosters:

  • Pop a fish oil supplement in the morning.
  • Whip up a tuna sandwich for lunch, or spread on crackers for a quick snack.
  • Make yourself a delicious seafood dinner.

3. Latte

Well, this should be an easy one for us collegiettes. Caffeine can give you just the kick you need to get up off that couch this winter. Kleiner recommends combining milk with a little caffeine. Do this at the beginning of your day or before exercise for a mood and energy boost. “Just don't overdo the caffeine,” Kleiner says, “and [make sure] it’s not too late in the day [so as not] to disturb sleep.” Try a latte or cup of coffee before your 11 a.m. class to keep you going through the rest of the day. Kleiner recommends keeping coffee off-limits after 5 p.m., and only going for that 2 pm. Caffeine fix when you need it. Generally, Kleiner says, do your best to steer clear of coffee after noon.

To get your caffeine boost:

4. Eggs 

Kleiner says the choline found in the egg yolk is “essential for the function of acetylcholine, required for every thought and every movement that we have.” The two phospholipids in egg yolk also keep brain cells healthy. “The yolk is a great source of a number of vitamins and minerals,” Kleiner says, “and both the white and yolk contain protein.” 

To reap the benefits of eggs, add them to your routine with:

  • French toast
  • An omelet
  • Eggs cooked your favorite way: scrambled, over-easy, or sunny-side up.
  • Include eggs in your lunch or dinner as a frittata or quiche.
  • Top a salad with sliced hard-boiled eggs.
  • Scramble a few eggs and add to brown or white rice.
  • A quick scrambled egg is the perfect afternoon pick-me-up.