Read on to learn more about why it’s important for you to eat healthy when stressed, and how to make your new healthy lifestyle fit into your family’s routine.
You probably know what to do when it comes to eating healthy, but get tripped up on the why and how, right?
For example, it’s probably safe to assume that you know an apple is a healthier choice than a handful of potato chips.
But making those healthier choices often become just another burdensome chore that you don’t have time for, and you probably wonder if it really makes that much difference.
How Does Food Affect Stress Levels?
Knowing something is good for us doesn’t mean we fully grasp the payoff. Nor does it mean that we know how to fit it into an already packed schedule.
Eating healthy may require you to eat differently than your family or take time to prepare certain foods, but it’s an effort that has an immense payoff.
Think about the extra time you take to organize your day because you know it will go that much more smoothly. View this the same way, except this time the payoff is that everything will go much more smoothly!
And we’re not talking about changing your entire diet! Instead, we’re encouraging you to focus on foods that will help you reduce stress and sleep better.
If you do this, you’ll be supporting your health and reducing stress at the same time. In fact, research shows that certain foods help stimulate different metabolic pathways that can make you feel better when you’re stressed. For example, foods that are high in B vitamins help support energy levels and boost your mood due to their ability to assist in carbohydrate metabolism and neurotransmitter synthesis.
This can help you feel happier, sharper, and more focused. Foods that are high in B vitamins include green, leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and arugula.
These foods also help keep your insulin levels stable due to their high fiber content, which helps supply you with lasting energy throughout the day (no dips or highs).
Other foods, such as those that contain omega 3 fatty acids, can help control inflammation that leads to cortisol and hormone dysregulation.
You can also choose foods that help alleviate the physical response to stress, such as high blood pressure. Foods that are high in electrolytes, such as potassium, can help reduce high blood pressure, which is often linked to high cortisol levels.
Avocados and bananas are a good source of potassium. These foods also regulate hydration levels to keep you hydrated.
If you’re having trouble sleeping during stressful times, then focus on protein instead of starchy carbs, which can induce inflammation and disrupt the production of neurotransmitters. Starchy carbs, especially those that contain gluten, are also known for inducing brain fog and fatigue, which is NOT what you need while stressed! High-protein foods that contain the amino acid tryptophan can help assist with the production of serotonin, the precursor for melatonin, which is a hormone needed to help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
Finally, research shows that focusing on eating the rainbow can help you get a wide variety of unique nutrients and antioxidants into your diet that aren’t found in quick, processed food. These nutrients help reduce inflammation and balance hormones that make you feel stressed. According to one study, 88% of Americans are deficient in blue or purple foods, which are known for their unique antioxidant anthocyanin content. Anthocyanins have been shown to reduce oxidative stress and cellular damage that may occur due to high cortisol and inflammation levels.
Could lack of colorful foods be the reason why Americans seem to be more stressed than other cultures? It’s certainly one reason why we seem to struggle with the effects !
Incorporating Healthy Eating Into Your Routine
Do you recognize the impactful results including certain foods in your diet can have on your day-to-day life?
Think about the foods that you normally eat while stressed. They are probably quick, packaged, and don’t require much (if any preparation).
These foods lack nutrients that help reduce cortisol levels. They also contain inflammatory ingredients, such as sugar, refined grains, and dairy, that make you feel worse.
If this sounds like you, it’s time to start incorporating them in your daily diet, even if others in your family don’t eat like you.
Here are some tips for incorporating healthy foods into your lifestyle, even when your family doesn’t follow suit.
1. Combine several stress-busting foods into one meal.
Try to add two servings per week of wild-caught fatty fish to your diet, such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna. You can balance this meal by serving fish with the green, leafy vegetables mentioned above to support energy and neurotransmitter production while alleviating inflammation.
2. Ask your family to go to the grocery store (or meal prep) with you.
Is your family hesitant to change their eating habits or unsupportive in your efforts to do so? If so, try including them in the grocery shopping process.
Allowing them to pick from a variety of foods in the fresh produce section might make them more willing to eat healthy along with you. When you get the groceries home, ask them to assist in the food preparation process.
Sometimes we choose unhealthy foods simply because we don’t know how to cook them or put healthy meals on the table!
3. Practice other stress-busting activities together.
For many of us, family can be a large source of stress. However, combating stress together can benefit your entire family. Eating healthy is only one part of the equation.
Try engaging your family in other stress-busting activities, such as exercising, journaling, meditating, taking time-outs when needed, and deep breathing.
Getting your family on board with your healthy eating habits can be hard. If you must, remain focused on eating to reduce your stress levels even if it means you have to enjoy meals by yourself occasionally.
The payoff will be greater than doing nothing at all and falling back into old habits that may include grabbing quick, unhealthy meals!