As difficult winter months approach, new research by leading health and wellbeing charity, Royal Voluntary Service, identifies the toll the season takes on older people.

A concerning 46% of over 65s surveyed agreed* that they “dread the winter”, and half agreed* that winter negatively impacts their mood. When asked what affects mood most, 46% of over 65s surveyed identified the shorter daylight hours, 44% said cold weather, and unsurprisingly amidst the current cost of living crisis, 43% cited higher home heating bills as the biggest offenders.

Following the findings, much-loved TV chef Rosemary Shrager has stepped in to help banish winter blues by launching a collection of Happy Plate recipes which will be served at the charity’s lunch clubs. The Happy Plates are part of the charity’s Stay Safe, Warm and Well campaign, delivered with long-term partner Yakult, to offer people wellbeing advice and support this winter.

Rosemary’s Happy Plates are delicious recipes filled with accessible ingredients that have been identified by nutritionists at Yakult as top foods to help boost mood. The Stay Safe, Warm and Well guide includes vital information such as money-saving advice, energy-saving tips and contacts for mental health support.

Plus, tips on eating well including a tasty recipe packed full of mood-boosting foods. Rosemary Shrager, creator of the Happy Plate recipes, said: “I’m delighted to share these Happy Plate recipes, which utilise ingredients that are not only delicious, but are mood-boosting to boot.

“It’s heartening to think that they might be bringing comfort and wellbeing to people during these dark winter days. I’m proud to be part of the Stay Safe, Warm and Well campaign which is helping people to look after their health and wellbeing this winter.

“I know it’s a challenging time, but I hope that joy can be found in these recipes, both from that wonderful feeling of hunkering down with a warm bowl of stew, and from the nutrient-packed ingredients.” The research found that almost half (43%) of older people (65+) surveyed didn’t know that what they eat can affect their mood, and so are being encouraged to try Happy Plate recipes this winter as an easy way to increase their intake of mood-boosting foods.

Including high-fibre and nutrient-dense ingredients identified by nutritionists at Yakult, the Happy Plate recipes are:

  • Oat coated chicken breast with lentils and roasted red onion
  • Baked salmon in a peanut sauce, with broccoli and bacon
  • Beef tagine, mash potato with olives and a side of greens

Explaining the science behind these mood-boosting foods, Dr Emily Prpa, Nutritionist and Science Manager at Yakult, said: “Certain foods can impact mood because of the two-way communication between the gut and the brain, via a network of nerves called the gut-brain axis.

“Scientists are understanding more and more about the important role that gut bacteria play in supporting physical and mental wellbeing. What we eat and how we feel are closely linked, with one having a powerful impact on the other.

“A balanced diet, rich in fibre and nutrients can help beneficial bacteria thrive, supporting the communication between the gut and the brain and helping us to feel our best! We’re excited to be working with Royal Voluntary Service and Rosemary Shrager on the Happy Plate recipes, to encourage more people to nourish their gut bacteria and in turn, help us all to feel good this winter.”

Top mood-boosting foods and their nutrients which play a role in boosting mood, identified by Yakult scientists, include:

  • Eggs (tryptophan)
  • Chicken or turkey (tryptophan, B vitamins and zinc)
  • Leafy greens (tryptophan, magnesium, omega-3 and folate)
  • Wholegrain cereals (carbohydrate, magnesium and B vitamins)
  • Oats (carbohydrates, magnesium and folate)
  • Oily fish (omega-3)
  • Quorn (zinc) and Tofu (zinc)
  • Nuts (magnesium, zinc and carbohydrates) and seeds (magnesium and carbohydrates)
  • Liver (B vitamins, folate and zinc)
  • Avocado (folate and B vitamins)
  • Broccoli (vitamin C, folate and B vitamins)
  • Legumes (tryptophan, folate and zinc)
  • Potatoes (vitamin C, B vitamins and carbohydrate)
  • Berries, oranges and other citrus fruits (vitamin C)

Catherine Johnstone CBE, Chief Executive of Royal Voluntary Service, said: “These delightful Happy Plates are a brilliant addition to our Stay Safe, Warm and Well campaign this year.

“We have created the Stay Safe, Warm and Well guide every winter for the past four years, and every year we are told what a valuable resource it is for people who are older, more vulnerable or have no one else to turn to in the difficult winter months. As the research shows, the pressures of winter exacerbate the challenges faced by older people in our communities every day.

“At Royal Voluntary Service we are determined to be there for as many people as possible during their time of need, and generous support from Yakult in creating this guide, means we can get our advice into the hands of those who need it most.” Those looking for advice this winter can view the Stay Safe, Warm and Well Guide and an informative video at

In January, Royal Voluntary Service and Yakult will be hosting Stay Safe, Warm and Well events, including Happy Plate cook-alongs via the charity’s Virtual Village Hall, a free online activity hub and community.

*Strongly agree and somewhat agree responses combined