What Should You Eat When You are Stressed?

12.1 min read

Why do I eat when stressed?

The sugar, salt, and fat found in desserts and other comfort foods, act like jet fuel for your brain, inducing positive, energizing sensations. No wonder it can feel so soothing to munch on a bag of crunchy chips when you are stressed. Stress eating and overeating are common problems among adults. Emotional eating is when a person eats over any emotion, such as fear, anxiety, worry, guilt, even happiness. It’s eating to comfort yourself. Unfortunately, emotional eating leads to struggles with weight, mood, and sleep. Luckily, there are helpful foods to eat when you are stressed that can help you boost your mood, sleep better, and maintain a healthy diet.

Can eating relieve stress?

Sinking your teeth into that decadent, fluffy piece of moist, chocolate fudge cake can make you feel as if your stress is melting away. However, any relief is only temporary, and isn’t going to help you manage your stress. You do not need to eat to cope, if you are reaching for food because you feel stressed or bored, use an ‘if’ and ‘then’ condition. For example, if I want to eat a donut, I have to go for a 10-minute walk first. Surprisingly, you may discover your donut craving was caused by boredom – and, now the craving seems to have literally walked away.

What you can do instead of stress eating

Piece together a puzzle, stroll around the block, or turn up your favorite tunes and have a kitchen dance party. Remember that eating is one coping mechanism used to manage stress. It works for the short term, but we can pay a price – in our health, energy, weight gain. The key is to find other coping mechanisms, such as walking or running outside, or listening audiobooks. Meditation is also a wonderful stress release, and is just one of 9 ways to cope and manage stress put together for you by Pritikin experts. Or, head on into the kitchen – cooking a new healthy recipe can be a fun way to help you manage stress. Here are 8 ways to maintain a healthy diet when you are stressed.

8 Ways to Maintain a Healthy Diet During Times of Stress

Easy strategies to help you maintain a healthy diet during times of stress:

  1. Only eat at the table – avoid eating on the sofa or eat while distracted, such as reading or watching television.
  2. Avoid grazing – being at home, close to the kitchen at all times, can make snacking out of boredom or anxiety too easy.
  3. Have a plan for food – at the beginning of the day, think about what you will eat.
  4. Plan for 3 meals a day – eating a snack is fine, but don’t eat three snacks to realize you really needed lunch.
  5. Write it down – start a journal to help you be more intentional about your healthy lifestyle, including food, exercise, and thoughts.
  6. Don’t try to be perfect – progress is what’s important, not perfection.
  7. Give yourself a break – let this time of stress be a chance to focus on self-care.
  8. Don’t restrict or skip meals – waiting too long to eat can cause overeating.

How to Stop Eating Comfort Food

In times of stress, many of us find ourselves hanging out in front of the pantry, or fridge, foraging for comforting foods. Why do you crave unhealthy food in times of stress, or boredom? Most unhealthy foods contain sugar, salt, and fat – a dynamic trio which cause a pleasurable sensation that is addictive to the brain, making you crave them in times of stress, or boredom. The best way to stop eating comfort food is to reach for healthy food regularly – avoid getting to the point of hunger where your body feels deprived, and depressed. This can make your cravings for unhealthy foods stronger. You can’t say, ‘I won’t eat the cupcake!’ But, eventually you will realize that you don’t need the cupcake. When you are choosing healthy foods… the cupcake doesn’t taste very good. It may be hard to imagine that eating healthy can become easy. But, it is possible! The Pritikin Longevity Center can help you understand what foods are best for you to reach your health goals. Plus, Pritikin experts show you how to master a positive mindset which makes it easy to eat healthier food, as well as help you master the culinary skills needed to cook them.

Top 8 Foods to Eat When You Are Stressed

Dig into these 8 easy foods when you are stressed and feeling hungry. From medical experts to researchers, there are certain foods that can help relieve stress:

1. Find Comfort in Oats

Eating comfort foods can be good for you – if you know which ones to reach for. Energize with foods that release energy slowly. This is key to keeping your mental power at its maximum – which is needed while you are stressed, struggling to cope, or trying to be productive while working from home. You can find comfort in oats! Oats are part of the healthiest diet, the Pritikin Eating Plan. Whole grain oats can easily be transformed into a cozy bowl of hot oatmeal. It’ll feel a little indulgent to top your oats with fresh or frozen berries but, it’s actually the best way to boost the nutritional value of your bowl.

Evidence suggests eating ultra-processed foods increases weight gain. People who eat ultra-processed foods have greater odds of developing obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure than those who eat most of their calories from whole foods. If your mornings include ultra-processed foods, a healthier choice is oatmeal.

2. Beans Make UnBEANlievable Recipes

Beans have a long shelf-life, are rich in vitamins, and can be transformed into a vast array of culinary delights from a spicy Bean Burritos, to a tasty Three Bean Salad, or a comforting Italian White Bean Spinach Stew.

3. Spinach: Power Up with Greens

Stress is difficult on the body, causing an increase in blood pressure, and inflammation. Sufficient stress can also lower the immune system’s ability to fight off infection. Power up with greens! Eating green vegetables, such as broccoli and bok choy, trigger changes in the gut’s lining that enhance the body’s immune function. According to researchers in the United Kingdom, green vegetables beneficially interact with immune system in your gut, helping boost immunity. Without leafy greens in your gut, there’s more inflammation, less surveillance for microbes, and poor growth of the gut lining. Grab a fork, and dig into something green!

4. Get Refreshed with a Splash of Water

The body is 75 percent water, so hydrate often. When you are less active, such as during lockdowns and quarantines, it’s easy to not feel thirsty. Create regular reminders to drink up. Set a timer, or put a pretty glass in a place you frequent often in the house so it lures you to take a sip more often. It’s best to avoid sweetened beverages as their high sugar content is harmful to your body, and can lead to unwanted weight gain.

5. Catch Good Vibes with Fish

Emotions, including stress, are coordinated by the body’s central nervous system which is made up of a lot of fat, called omega-3 fatty acids. Studies show the omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, are linked with your mood. Having more of these healthy fats in your body appear to help reduce stress, depression, and improve mood. High in protein, tuna, salmon, and anchovies are great foods to eat when you are stressed.

6. Devour Some Chocolate

Chocolate has a fascinating impact on your brain. You’d probably agree having experienced the pleasure of nibbling on a piece of sweet, velvety, dark chocolate. Eating chocolate triggers the release of serotonin and endorphins – brain chemicals that regulate your mood. That’s why eating chocolate makes you feel good! Go on and jump with joy – dark chocolate is on the list of top foods you should eat when you are stressed.

Can You Lose Weight by Eating Chocolate? »

7. Hug a Mug

Filling a tea cup with warm, soothing herbal tea can be a beautiful way to relieve stress. Sip it in a cozy spot, surrounded with comforting textures, uplifting colors, and serene views that bring you joy. Drinking tea is scientifically proven to lower markers of stress on your body, including cortisol. Cheers!

8. Squirt a Bit of Citrus into Your Life

Eating foods that are rich in vitamin C, may help improve your mood, report scientists. In a study of young male adults, those who ate more vitamin C were less likely to struggle with anger or depression. Top your oats with raspberries, or squirt some fresh lemon into your water as vitamin C is associated with improved overall mood.

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