January 2022

Food Bank Bites

Eating to Boost Mood and Beat the Winter Blues

Eating to Boost Mood and Beat the Winter Blues

The winter months tend to be long and cold. Less sunlight means shorter days which can leave some feeling tired and less focused. Did you know that food has an influence on mood? Read on to find out how to choose foods that will support mood and help beat those Winter blues.

How does food impact mood?

  • After eating carbohydrates (starches, dairy, fruit, sugar) a chemical is released in the brain that enhances calmness and improves mood.
  • After eating protein (poultry, beef, pork, fish, beans, and legumes), a chemical is released in the brain that enhances concentration and alertness.

What foods to choose more often:

Carbohydrates provide the brain and body with energy needed to function. Choose carbohydrates that are high in fiber more often:

  • Whole grain bread, pasta, cereal
  • Fruit- fresh, frozen, canned (100% fruit juice)
  • Vegetables- fresh, frozen, canned (low sodium)
  • Beans and lentils

Food rich in protein and low in fat are easier to digest than high fat meats (salami, sausage, ribs), which can leave you feeling tired. Choose lean proteins more often:

  • Lean beef and pork
  • Poultry
  • Fish- sardines, freshwater fish, salmon, and tuna
  • Eggs
  • Tofu
  • Beans, lentils
  • Low fat dairy- milk, cheese, and yogurt

Overeating can leave you feeling sluggish. Pair high fiber food with lean protein which will help you feel satisfied for longer:

  • Apple with nut butter
  • Whole grain tortilla with beans
  • Fish with brown rice
  • Chicken noodle soup with fresh fruit on the side
  • Oatmeal with low fat milk topped with your favorite fruit
*Adapted from the Cleveland Clinic

One-Pan Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

Serves 4


  • chicken thighs or chicken leg quarters
  • 6-8 carrots, peeled and cut into carrot sticks
  • green beans (about 2 large handfuls), trimmed
  • 1 ½ cups red potatoes or sweet potatoes, cubed
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into wedges
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme or 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Toss the chopped vegetables and herbs with the oil on the baking sheet.
  3. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables. Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
  4. Cook until the chicken is cooked through and the potatoes and tender, about 30-35 minutes. Toss and turn the vegetables over once or twice while roasting.


  • Chop the carrots and potatoes to similar size so that they cook evenly.
  • Other vegetables may be substituted. Vegetables that work best include cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus.

Sourced from The Real Food Dietitians

Black Bean Soup

Makes 12 servings

Serving size: 1 cup


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 can (15oz.) low sodium diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups black beans, cooked or 2 cans low sodium black beans (15oz.)
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 4 cups water
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/3 cup lime juice or juice from 1 lime
  • Hot sauce to taste (optional)


  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes. Stir often.
  2. Add the beans, potatoes, and water. Bring to a boil; then reduce to medium-low heat. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.
  3. Add cilantro, cumin, lime juice and hot sauce. Stir and cook for 10 minutes. Serve hot.


  • Top the soup with low fat sour cream or plain Greek yogurt.
  • Freeze leftovers for a quick future weeknight dinner.

Sourced from Food Hero

Cooking with Kids: Cranberry Oatmeal Balls

Makes 16 oatmeal balls

Serving size: 2 oatmeal balls


  • 1 cup oats (quick-cooking or old fashioned)
  • 1/3 cup chopped almonds or walnuts
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries


  1. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients until well mixed.
  2. Form about 2 tablespoons of mixture into a ball and place on a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining mixture to form 16 balls.
  3. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Enjoy.

Kids can:

  • Help measure and mix the ingredients.
  • Help form the oatmeal balls.


  • Make this recipe nut free by substituting sunflower or pumpkin seeds in place of almonds or walnuts. Use sunflower butter in place of peanut butter.
  • Honey is not recommended for children under 1 year old.
  • Dampen hands with water before forming the balls to prevent the mixture from sticking.

Sourced from Food Hero


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