An Eye on Your Health – Mood Matters!

Ice CreamHave you ever had those days where you just feel worn down?  Are there times where you don’t have the energy to do anything?  Do you often just want to plop down on your favorite chair with a pint of ice cream?  Most people have–and usually end up with an empty container in the end!  If this is you–fear not!  You are certainly not alone.  There may be a biological reason that you’re not registering how much of your fatty treat you’ve eaten!

A recent scientific study found a significant link between people’s sensitivity to how fat tastes and their mood.  Simply put, the fact that you’re feeling down may mean that you have lower sensitivity to high-fat foods.  This means that you may be able to pack  away more of those fatty treats without feeling any worse for wear–and that you may, without even thinking about it, end up eating more than you normally would!  The study also found that people in a poor mood had a very hard time telling low-fat and high-fat foods apart, while people in a neutral mood had a much easier time!

To compound the issue, another recent study (among many) shows a significantOlive Oil link between an increased risk of depression and a high-fat diet.   Specifically, having a diet high in trans-fats and saturated fats (those fats that are solid–like butter) was strongly linked to a greater risk of depression.  Unsaturated fats (such as olive oil) were shown to have the opposite effect–a lower risk of depression.

See the viscous cycle that could develop there?  Being stuck in a bad mood means you could overeat on high-fat foods–increasing your risk for depression–possibly leading to more overeating of high-fat foods!  So what’s the solution here?

Know your facts!

Fresh FruitArmed with this knowledge, you can break the cycle!  Aim to stick to those low-fat and more nutritious choices when you’re feeling those “curl-up-on-the-couch blues.”  Try some fresh vegetables, such as carrot sticks, sliced bell peppers, or cucumbers.  Or, for something more sweet, try some Greek yogurt with fresh fruit!  In doing so, you might just be helping yourself get out of your funk!




  1. Oral Perceptions of Fat and Taste Stimuli Are Modulated by Affect and Mood Induction
  2. Dietary Fat Intake and the Risk of Depression: The SUN Project

Not only what you eat–but how much!

So continuing on the trend of my previous post–Enjoy your food–but eat less!–I’d like to talk today about portion sizes.  Yes, I know…not the most exciting topic–but I would guess that portion sizes are the number one reason why most people fail at their diets.  People just don’t realize how much they eat!

Let’s take a look at my favorite diet and one of the most healthiest out there, The Dash Diet.  The Dash Diet calls for:

  • 6 oz. of meat a day
  • 4- 5 servings of fruit a day
  • 4- 5 servings of vegetables a day
  • 6-8 servings of grains a day
  • 2-3 servings of dairy a day
  • 2-3 servings of fats and oils a day
  • 4-5 servings of nuts, seeds, and legumes a week
  • 5 or fewer servings of sweets per week

So what’s all this “servings” mean?  Follow along at this wonderful website that helps you visualize portion sizes over at WebMD, located here.  WebMD also offers a refrigerator size portion guide and a wallet-sized portion guide, as well!  Let’s take a look at the first four items on the list and see!

6 ounces of meat a day

If you don’t think that sounds like much, you’re right!  Take a look at any restaurant menu in the United States, and you’ll likely see steaks starting at 8 ounces and going up to 24 ounces!  That’s four times your daily required meat in one sitting!  Now…try to imagine what a 3 ounces piece of meat looks like on your plate.  Did you imagine something about the size of a deck of cards, or the size of a typical smartphone?

Chicken Breast

Another idea to get you thinking about size is that most normal sized chicken breasts that you may get at a restaurant or at the store are about six ounces each (the double breast being 12 ounces–or more!).  One chicken breast is all we need for the entire day.  Think about this the next time you’re eating dinner.  Most of us eat double to triple the amount of protein our bodies need per day, each meal.

4-5 servings of vegetables and 4-5 servings of fruit per day


Here’s where people suffer the opposite issue–not eating enough!  Again, imagine your typical serving of vegetables when you eat (and to dispel a myth–corn is not a vegetable–it’s a grain!). Your vegetable serving should be the size of a baseball–or the size of your clenched fist.  If that seems like a lot, again, it should be!  And, our bodies need 4-5 of those servings PER DAY (of each fruits and vegetables!).  The average Americans eat 1-2 servings of vegetables and 0-1 servings of fruit per day.  If that’s you, your body definitely needs more!

6-8 servings of grains per day

Finally, let’s look at grains.  Again, here’s where many people over estimate.  A baseball or a Pancakesclenched fist is a good marker for a single serving most grains, such as cooked pasta, couscous, rice, corn, and popcorn.  For pancakes, bread, or waffles–one slice/piece is typically one serving.  Your sandwich?   Two servings of grains.  Your breakfast that includes a stack of four pancakes?  Just the pancakes is half your grains for the day.

So what’s this all mean?

If you’re trying to trim down, look at not only what you’re eating, but how much!  Use your fist as a guide for fruits and vegetables, and make sure you’re trying to get 5 servings each a day.  Don’t worry if you miss your goal one day–or if you scarf down a 12 ounce steak when you didn’t mean to.  Change takes time–and as long as you really want to eat better and you make the better choices more often than not–you’ll eventually be eating better without even knowing it!