Wellness and prevention information from the experts at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing

How to eat well to help manage stress

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by Maureen Doran, RD, LD, integrative nutritionist

As an integrative nutritionist with the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing, I see patients who end up taking on poor nutritional habits during stressful times. It’s easy to do this. It’s a common way to cope.

In some instances, people stop eating real, nutritious foods and resort to living off energy drinks, coffee, or sodas with high caffeine levels. It doesn’t help that when we get stressed, we may have little time to plan, shop for or prepare healthy foods.

The body needs good fuel to work properly. Adding quick, easy nutritious options makes a dramatic difference in overall health. People usually start sleeping better, have a more balanced mood, and overall they look and feel better.

Sugar is like throwing paper on the fire. It burns quickly. Protein is like putting a log on the fire. It sustains. Whole and nutritious foods are key.

Tips for eating well to manage stress

  1. Eat whole food to feel whole. It sounds simple and we hear it all the time, but fruits, vegetables and whole grains are critical to a healthy diet and provide the nutrients we need so that we have a better base to draw from during stressful times.
  2. Eat breakfast. It doesn’t have to be a big meal. Quick, healthy options include a fruit smoothie with protein powder or a hard-boiled egg and a slice of multi-grain toast.
  3. Aim for color and variety in fruits and vegetables.
  4. Snack on healthy foods so that you don’t overeat later in the day or make poor choices. Doran recommends dried fruits, nuts or a mix of both. Nuts are packed with protein and healthy fats. Dried fruits contain powerful antioxidants. Instead of a cup of coffee and a candy bar in the afternoon, hydrate with water and a nut/fruit mix. A small quantity goes a long way, is portable, stores easily in a desk or purse, and will help you feel satisfied.
  5. Keep nut butters on hand. Examples include almond, peanut, cashew and sunflower seed. Enjoy a small serving with sliced apples or other fruits or vegetables.
  6. Don’t feel you have to spend a lot. To help with your food budget, consider canned beans, canned tuna, bean soups, nut butters, local farmers’ markets or frozen foods from discount stores.
  7. Keep stocked on these items to make healthy, nutritious meals and snacks:
    • Nuts – find a favorite from pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds and more
    • Beans – red, pinto, black, kidney and more
    • Vegetables – all varieties, certain vegetables even help the body detoxify and are helpful whether they are eaten raw or cooked including cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, bok choy and brussels sprouts
    • Fruits – fresh or frozen, again aim for variety, berries with anti-oxidants, and fruits with a rich color, such as plums, prunes or cherries, for necessary vitamins and minerals
    • Omega-3s – are important twice a week for brain health. Sources include salmon, canned tuna, sardines and flaxseeds.

To make an appointment with Doran, call 612-863-3333.

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