These past few months have been unchartered territory for most of us. Experiencing stress and anxiety is natural, but the effects of hormones that accompany stress, along with too much free time, can make us vulnerable to overeating.
Follow these tips to help avoid overeating during times of increased stress:
Eat small meals throughout the day. A consistent meal pattern helps to stabilize blood sugar and prevent binge eating that often happens when you skip meals.
Refer to the USDA MyPlate and choose whole grains, such as oatmeal & whole wheat pasta, low-fat dairy foods, including milk, yogurt, & cheese, fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins.
Do your best. Forgive yourself to avoid the additional stress that can come with trying to follow a “perfect diet.” It’s okay to indulge in cravings occasionally – just remember to practice moderation.
Get creative in the kitchen. Mastering new healthy recipes or “better for you” variations of your favorite comfort foods can keep you occupied and tap into your creativity. Check out our recipe for maple spiced snack bars to get you started.
Stay active. If circumstances allow, try yoga or take daily walks. Take deep breaths and use this time to reflect and meditate. Exercise helps release endorphins, which are famous for making us feel good.
Get enough sleep. Many of the hormones that affect our appetite are influenced by sleep. Create calm at bedtime by putting away your phone and turning off the news. Limit caffeine and alcohol prior to bedtime, as well.
Snack smart. Choose snacks that provide sustained energy. Aim for healthy snacks that provide vitamins and minerals, including those that many Americans are missing in their diets – calcium, potassium, vitamin D and fiber. Pair Greek yogurt with fruit, cheese with whole grain crackers, or milk with trail mix for a snack that provides high quality protein and carbohydrates, to replenish energy and sustain you until the next meal.
Stress is a natural part of life. Creating habits, like eating a well-balanced diet, exercising regularly and getting adequate sleep, can help us better navigate through stressful times and stay healthy while we do it.
Callie Yakubisin, RD, LDN is the Manager of Food and Nutrition Outreach for The Dairy Alliance in North Carolina and Virginia. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Maple Spiced Snack Bars
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
2 1⁄2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1⁄2 cups whole wheat flour
1⁄4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 7-ounce container plain Greek yogurt
1 cup milk
1⁄2 cup pure maple syrup
2eggs lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
Preheat oven to 350°.
Coat a half-sheet pan or large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
In a large mixing bowl combine oats through cinnamon, mix dry ingredients until well combined. Set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together canned pumpkin, yogurt and remaining wet ingredients, stirring until well combined and smooth. Gradually add wet ingredients to the dry oat and flour mixture, stirring until mixed thoroughly.
Pour batter into prepared sheet pan, spreading out into one even layer. Bake for 20 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned and/or a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center. Remove from oven and let cool completely before cutting. Cut into 24 squares.