New Study: Happiness Recipe = Fruits/Vegetables + Sports

brain health healthy eating healthy living healthy recipes mindful movement real food resilience stress-free sugarfree Sep 18, 2022

Some good news about strategies to counteract the stress from 21st century living!

Do you want to feel happier? Can you?

New research from the UK shows that you most certainly can with the age-old advice to “eat your vegetables” (and fruit), and “play sports.”

“Lifestyle has a large and very significant impact on the physical health of individuals,” said the study authors. They wanted to find out whether lifestyle habits can also influence emotional health and life satisfaction.

Many factors affect how happy you feel:

  • Your personality traits
  • The environment you live in (neighbourhood, house)
  • Your demographics (marital status)
  • Your economics (job, income)

But, what about eating nutritious foods and being physically active? Can they also help people to feel happier?

The results of this recent study showed that, yes, both fruit and vegetable consumption, as well as participation in sports, are positively related to life satisfaction. This means that the more fruits and vegetables and sports that people partake in, the higher their levels of life satisfaction are. This is true for both men and women. In this study, the researchers found that women tended to eat more fruits and vegetables than men, and men tended to partake in more sports than women.

Researchers used data from the Understanding Society Database, to find out if people who have better lifestyles have more life satisfaction. What makes this study unique is that the researchers weren’t looking for more data on the links between healthy lifestyles and happiness, instead, they wanted to figure out if healthy lifestyles can result in happiness. To do this they used a few key questions to tease out what comes first: a healthy lifestyle or satisfaction with life. These questions tried to figure out who can delay gratification and have more self-control. For example, they asked participants how successful they are in sticking with diets versus always trying to eat healthier because it pays off in the long run. The researchers argue that the answer to this question would not affect the participants’ life satisfaction scores, but it may play a large role in how successful participants are in implementing healthy lifestyle changes like eating more fruits and vegetables or participating in sports. Their idea is that people who are better able to delay gratification and have a healthier lifestyle can then result in higher satisfaction with life.

This study shows that implementing day-to-day healthy lifestyle improvements and keeping a focus on long-term benefits not only makes one more physically healthy, but also can result in being more satisfied with life.

The conclusion of this study is that: “fruit and vegetable consumption and sports activity have a positive, significant impact on life satisfaction,” said the study authors. In fact, “Our ... estimates show clearly that fruit and vegetable and sports activity (both investments in a physically healthy future) are very effective in improving subjective well being.”

What can you do with the information found in this new study?

The first thing to do is to have long-term health goals and be prepared to implement healthier lifestyle habits day-to-day to reach those goals. 

In other words, think about your “why”?

Why do you want to eat more nutritious foods or be more physically active? This will be very unique to you, but may be, for example, to prevent or recover from a health issue, or to be strong enough to participate in an event or experience, or maybe to live long enough to make a difference in the world or to people you care about.

Then, when you have your long-term health goal—your why—clearly defined, be ready, willing, and able to take action, to do the steps you need to reach that goal. 

Delay the gratification you may get by eating a fast food meal (engineered to entice you to want more!), or spending a lazy afternoon on the couch.  Instead plan your day to include a healthy meal or getting outside in the sunshine first thing in the morning.

Focus on the long-term. Think about how happy and satisfied you will be with your life in the future when you keep those everyday commitments to eat healthier and be physically active. 

Pro tip: It may help to post some reminders of your long-term goal around your home and to make your healthier lifestyle habits convenient to do. For example, wash and chop your fruits and vegetables when you get home from the grocery store or market~or pre-make some salads (see below)~and have your sports gear ready to go the night before. Then, do it.

The Bottom Line

As the researchers say: 

“Given the amount of information provided by health professionals regarding the impact of lifestyle on health, it is clearly not a lack of information that mitigates against healthy lifestyles. The fact that New Year's resolutions often involve such activities is testament to this awareness. The fact, however, that in the vast majority of cases, New Year's resolutions are broken is also testament to the fact that there are other factors at play here. 

Chief amongst these is the difficulty in delaying gratification. 

Note that the “planner” has different objectives from the “doer” and it is clear that the planner who sets New Year's resolutions is, in many cases, defeated by the doer who breaks them by concentrating on short term consumption gains

Behavioural nudges that help the planning self to reinforce long-term objectives are likely to be especially helpful in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Try employing reminders and nudges such as habit-tracking apps (Awesome Habits is my favourite!) to remind you to get off the couch to move your body, or try meal-prepping to ensure easy decisions when it comes to eating lots of fruit and veggies, and other healthy foods.

Check out the directions below for Build-your-own Mason Jar Salads, with an endless variety of combinations.  BTW, some recipes for Salad Jars will say that they can last 5 days - but to me, 3 days is the max!  Enjoy!


Build-your-own Mason Jar Salads

Ingredient Matrix

Dressing Olive Oil and Lemon Juice Balsamic Vinaigrette Tahini Dressing Coconut Yogurt Ranch
Protein ⅔ cup chickpeas 4 oz. diced cooked chicken (or any other cooked meat) 4 oz. grilled shrimps 2 hard boiled eggs (layer at the top)
Grains orStarchy Veg ½ cup cooked quinoa ½ cup corn niblets, cooked ¼ cup chopped, cooked sweet potatoes ¼ cup tortilla (corn) chips (layer at the top)
Crunchy Veg ¾ cup chopped red and yellow bell pepper ½ cup carrots, julienned ¼ cup red cabbage ½ cup broccoli florets
Soft Fruit/Veg ½ cup cherry tomatoes ½ cup chopped cucumber ½ sliced avocado ¼ cup fresh blueberries
Nuts & Seeds 2 Tbsp pumpkin seeds 2 Tbsp hemp seeds 2 Tbsp chopped pecans 2 Tbsp chopped walnuts
Leafy Greens 2 cups arugula 2 cup mixed greens 2 cups romaine 2 cups spinach
Other ¼ cup grated cheddar cheese ¼ diced red onion ¼ cup sliced radishes Cooked bacon pieces


  1. Select 1 (or 2) items from at least 4 of the categories.  Make sure you include a variety of colours and textures!
  2. Layer into the jar in this order: dressing, protein, beans or grains, crunchy veggies, soft fruit/veg, nuts and seeds, leafy greens & sprouts.
  3. Cover with a lid and store in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  4. To serve: give everything a good shake upside down to mix the dressing, and eat right from the jar or pour out into a medium size bowl.


Gschwandtner, A., Jewell, S., & Kambhampati, U.S. (2021). Lifestyle and Life Satisfaction: The Role of Delayed Gratification. Journal of Happiness Studies.

​​Fruit, vegetables and exercise can make you happier


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