The Realistic Way to Eat 7 Fruits & Veggies a Day
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They say money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does buy produce—and that can make you feel like a kid on Christmas.

Really! Scientists recently found that eating more fruits and vegetables enhanced the mental wellbeing of adults, with the magic number for happiness being seven servings a day.

That’s not too surprising given that produce is chock full of nutrients and antioxidants. And this study, published in the journal Social Indicators Research, isn't the first to link fruits and veggies to feeling good.

In a previous British study, more than 70 percent of the participants reported that upping their produce intakes improved mood, and 25 percent said that this simple change reduced both panic attacks and anxiety. Further research, which I blogged about here, found that those who stuck more closely to a produce-rich Mediterranean diet scored higher on a quality of life assessment, which evaluated both physical and mental well-being.

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to be happier. But I also know that you may be thinking, “How the heck would I eat seven servings of produce a day, every day?”

RELATED: Make healthy eating even easier with these 10 kitchen tools that make cooking a breeze!

For one strategy, check out my previous post about building meals around fruits and veggies. But for a more specific plan, I've come up with a day’s worth of meals that hit the mark. They don’t require becoming a gourmet cook, and they don’t even involve a lot time or effort (shortcuts like frozen berries and broccoli and unsweetened dried fruit are A-okay). Check it out:

Breakfast
Includes 1 serving fruit
Berry Almond Smoothie: Blend 1 cup frozen mixed berries, 1 cup organic skim milk or non-dairy alternative, 2 tablespoons almond butter, 1/4 cup rolled oats, and a dash of cinnamon.

Lunch
Includes 2 servings veggies
Mediterranean Salad (check out the pic here): Toss 1 cup organic mixed greens, 1/2 cup sliced grape tomatoes, and 1/4 cup each chopped cucumbers and red onion. Top with 1/4 cup cooked and chilled red quinoa, 1/2 cup cooked lentils, and 10 sliced Mediterranean green and black olives, and dress with white balsamic vinegar, cracked black pepper, and freshly squeezed lemon.

Snack
Includes 1 serving fruit and 1 serving veggies
1/2 cup hummus with 1 cup raw or roasted and chilled veggies (snow peas, cauliflower florets, celery, eggplant, etc.) and 1/4 cup unsweetened dried figs

Dinner
Includes 2 servings veggies
Sesame Stir-fry: Stir-fry 2 cups mixed veggies (fresh or frozen, such as broccoli, carrots, onions, bell peppers, and spinach) in 1 tablespoon roasted sesame oil and 1/4 cup low-sodium vegetable broth seasoned with 1/4 teaspoon fresh grated ginger. Serve over 1/2 cup brown rice and top with a lean protein (1/2 cup organic edamame or 3 ounces shrimp or chicken).

What do you think? Seem reasonable? Please share your thoughts or your own ideas for fitting in more fruits and veggies @cynthiasass and @Shape_Magazine.

The Realistic Way to Eat 7 Fruits & Veggies a Day-2

Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.

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