Eat Away Your Stress the Right Way

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When we’re stressed, we often reach for things we know aren’t good for us – a bag of chips, cookies, ice cream or a candy bar. That stress may come from getting bad news at a doctor’s office, it may be feeling overwhelmed with everything on your to-do list, or worrying about your health or the health and well-being of loved ones.

It’s scientifically proven that stress increases your appetite. It activates our adrenal glands to release cortisol, says Dr. Melissa McCreery, a psychologist who has studied stress eating. So it’s no surprise that stress eating can cause you to pack on extra pounds.

There’s also guilt. Anyone who’s chowed down on junk food due to stress, can probably tell you that they felt guilty or frustrated with themselves afterward.

One of the best ways to avoid stress is a proper diet. There’s a close correlation between healthy eating and lowered stress levels. Since it’s impossible to remove all stress from your life, you need to have a game plan in place, so you don’t automatically reach for the ice cream when you’re stressed.

Here are some nutritious foods that can help calm your cravings, and help you eat your way to less stress:

Chocolate Stressbuster Treat

  • 5 oz cherry or strawberry Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon mini dark chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons Whipped Topping
  • 1 sliced strawberry for garnish

Directions: Spoon yogurt into a parfait glass or stemmed glassware. Top with whipped topping and dark chocolate chips. Garnish with strawberry. Enjoy!

Stressbuster Orange Smoothie

  • 2 ripe bananas, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (frozen for at least 2 hours)
  • 1 c orange juice
  • 1 orange, peeled and cut into chunks
  • ¾ c almond milk (or low-fat)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut up into 1 inch pieces
  • Ice (if you are not using frozen bananas you will want to add a few cubes of ice)

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend to combine. (If your blender has a smoothie/frozen drinks setting use that.) Omit the carrot, and the smoothie will taste like an Orange Julius or Creamsicle. Recipe from www.SimpleHealthyKitchen.com.

Mashed Avocado Toasts

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Sea salt
  • 2 slices whole-grain bread, toasted
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Directions: Cut the avocado in half, remove pit, and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Add lemon juice and sea salt, to taste. Mash the ingredients together with a fork, keeping the texture slightly chunky. Spread half the mash onto each piece of toast and garnish with red pepper flakes and drizzle with olive oil. Serve immediately. Recipe from www.Foodnetwork.com.

Other foods to reach for when you’re stressed and feel the need to eat include:

  • oatmeal with berries and walnuts (oatmeal has B vitamins, berries are a great source of vitamin C and walnuts have omega-3, all mood boosting and will help keep stress at bay)
  • whole grain crackers with nut butter will help stabilize blood sugar, which is key for managing stress
  • cashews, full of immune-system-boosting zinc,
  • dark chocolate
  • sweet potatoes
  • green tea
  • a glass of milk.

Knowing what to eat is key to help you reach for something healthier, but there are other ways to manage the urge to stress eat:

  1. Focus on the real issue. Stress eating can be a symptom of unmet needs. Ask yourself “How do I feel?” or “What do I need?”
  2. Think long-term. Ask yourself if eating those chips will help you get to your weight goal. Maybe you can reach for something healthier to satisfy the desire to eat, without sabotaging your waistline.
  3. Get mindful. Learn stress reduction techniques, how to recognize hunger and pay attention to taste. Sometimes making yourself step back, close your eyes and just breathe quietly for three minutes can help you gain focus and control.
  4. Be kind to yourself. Self-compassion can decrease stress eating. If you do stress eat, promise that you won’t beat yourself up and understand that it happens to everyone sometimes.
  5. If all else fails…it’s OK to give in. Sit down, relax and taste the ice cream or the candy, but do so in moderation. Have one brownie, not the whole batch.

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