8 Foods to Reach for When You’re Stress Eating, According to Nutritionists
Stress eating? Us too. We’re all looking for comfort in any form we can get it these days—weighted blankets, rereading favorite books, one too many episodes of Married at First Sight—and food is at the top of the list.
“Stress can make us want to snack on high sugar or fat comfort foods. These snacks are typically made with animal product ingredients and are likely detrimental to your health,” offers Trista K. Best, MPH, RD at Balance One. “We've all heard the statement, ‘Oreos are vegan,’ but just because they are vegan doesn't mean we should reach for a whole sleeve when stress eating”
But before you reach for that trusty sleeve of America’s favorite comfort cookie or ye olde ice cream spoon, load up on these better-for-you yet equally soothing eats RDs swear by.
1. Unsalted Nuts and Seeds
Melissa Nieves, LND, RD, MPH, of Fad Free Nutrition Blog advises reaching for nuts or seeds like pepitas (pumpkin seeds) when anxiety strikes: “Eating crunchy foods such as nuts and seeds seems to help reduce tension in the jaw and neck, a common spot to hold stress. Packed with protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber, these nutritional powerhouses can help keep you satisfied as well,” she says. In lieu of salt, try sprinkling nuts with metabolism-boosting cinnamon or anti-inflammatory turmeric.
Raw carrots may help reduce stress for a variety of reasons.”In addition to being a great source of fiber and providing antioxidants like Vitamins A, chewing hard foods can act as a stress-reducer because it can help to relieve tension in the jaw and also may help to reduce the release of stress hormones as part of the stress response,” notes Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, Senior Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training, Herbalife Nutrition, referencing this study about chewing gum and how masticating can alleviate stress.
3. Hummus and Crudité
Hummus and veggies are an excellent vegan stress snack because they will curb your physiological need for fat during this time while also giving you the crunch sensation of chips,” recommends Best. “Hummus is made from chickpeas and eating it as a snack can help you meet your legume needs for the day, which many find difficult to accomplish.” Cashew nut hummus or easy classic hummus. The choice is yours, but the benefits are bountiful with either.
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You don’t need to tell us twice to scarf down a bowl of this delectable, teeny fruit. “Strawberries are a great choice to reach for in times of stress. Strawberries are in season in the spring and early summer which makes them sweet, juicy and wonderful this time of year,” offers Torie Silverstone, MS, RDN, a Denver-based dietitian and medical advisor for eMediHealth. “Strawberries contain phytochemicals that can prevent the development of inflammation and oxidative stress. This is ideal in times of external stress because when the human body is handling stress it can lead to inflammation and the release of negative free radicals,” she continues.
Whether it’s black or green tea, brewing up a cup of tea during stressful times amidst the coronavirus pandemic may prove a boon for your anxiety levels. “These teas are rich in beneficial tannins that combat stress beginning at the cellular levels. The tannins present in tea act by reducing oxidative damage inside the body and the process of stress leads to oxidative damage,” explains Silverstone. Another great selection? Chamomile tea, thanks to the flavonoid and terpenoid content of the dried
Chamomile flowers that may help calm anxiety and stress, says Silverstone. “Chamomile is an herbal relaxant and it may be beneficial to drink a hot cup of chamomile tea during stressful moments,” she adds.
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Whenever you find yourself feeling stressed, cooking up some of these nutrient-dense stalks may be worthwhile. “Asparagus is calming and filled with minerals, and both micro and macronutrients, to help restore balance in your body,” shares Mitchelle Wright, RDN. “[Asparagus] contains tryptophan, which helps create serotonin in the brain and blocks anxiety caused by stress,” she notes, also commenting that asparagus contains B vitamins, which may help boost your mood.
7. Whole Fruit
Eat the peel too, if it’s edible. (If your mom Barbara peeled each precious grape for you as a child and you still can’t bear to pop ‘em whole, give that habit up ASAP, friends). “Crunchy fruit such as apples, pears, and peaches also provide that satisfying crunch factor,” comments Nieves. “Plus, leaving the peels on contributes to additional fiber, which makes for a more filling snack,” she adds. As Nieves points out, raw fruits and vegetables may ameliorate your mood and even reduce symptoms of depression—Check out this research paper for more.
In addition to strawberries and whole fruit cum peel, watermelon deserves its own shoutout. “Watermelon is a great stress relief fruit as it nourishes you from the inside out, leaving you feeling balanced, positive, and healthier,” as Wright puts it. “Watermelon is high in lycopene, electrolytes, and potassium to help restore your body when you feel exhausted,” she elaborates.