food and stress

Dealing with stress on a daily basis is inevitable when kids, jobs, traffic, bills and a number of other factors come into play at the same time. While a little bit of stress keeps us aware, alive, and productive, too much prolonged exposure can have serious effects on our physical and mental well-being. Taking some time to unwind and relax, and teaching your kids to do the same, gives the body time to heal between stressful episodes.

Paying attention to what you eat is also important in helping to manage the negative effects of too much stress. Choosing foods that help the body produce serotonin, the hormone that helps you feel happy, and avoiding the urge to reach for high fat, salty, or sugary food in moments of stress can help you cope better with tense situations. A large order of French fries might sound like the perfect stress-busting fare, but keeping these five tips in mind can help you and your kids become a “Stress Manager” instead of a “Stress Eater”.

·         Substitute oatmeal for sugary breakfast cereal when the morning rush is too hectic. Comfort food, like a warm bowl of oatmeal, can have a calming effect on the nervous system. Sugary cereal might provide temporary feelings of contentment, but when the spike in blood sugar drops, the relief fades too.

·         Trade in the ham or bologna for sliced turkey breast on the lunch sandwich. In addition to being a more nutritious option, choosing a low salt, low fat lunchmeat can decrease the level of cortisol, the main stress hormone the body produces.

·         Switch from white bread to a whole grain bread that is high in complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates like whole grains are digested more slowly so they contribute to make you feel better longer.

·         Snack on an orange after work or school. Vitamin C not only improves the immune system, it can also help the body recover from stressful situations more quickly.

·         Add some raw vegetables to your dinner plate. Think of this as exercise for the jaw. The action of crunching on raw vegetables can help release tension in the jaw joint, which is area many of us hold stress.

The best recipe for keeping stress manageable is to follow the MyPlate guidelines, take time to relax and unwind, and get regular exercise. Remember to smile and have a sense of humor, too!