When you experience stress your body undergoes a cascade of metabolic changes. When you are under stress for a long period of time, it can also contribute to everything from belly fat to disrupted sleep and chronic disease risk.
How do you know if you’re stress eating?
Common signs of stress eating are:
- Changing your eating habits when you have more stress in your life.
- Eating when you are not hungry or when you are full.
- Eating to avoid dealing with a stressful situation.
Why do we crave sugar when we are stressed?
When we experience stress, we have a high level of a hormone called cortisol, and we crave sugar because if we eat some sugar, we will actually get another hormone called serotonin, which is calming and relaxing. Therefore, we continue consuming high sugar foods for that “calming effect”.
Top Foods to Avoid
Thankfully, armed with guidance from your nutritionist, you can make more informed decisions around what foods to avoid during times of stress. Here’s the rundown of the top ones to limit:
Added sugars, such as soda pop, ice cream, chocolate, and brownies
Since cortisol itself spikes blood sugar to provide energy to help you fight off or run from a perceived physical threat, throwing sweetened beverages or sweets into the mix worsens an already-disruptive metabolic situation. Unused high blood sugar will get stored as body fat as well contribute to inflammation.
Options high in sugar — especially when not paired with protein or fiber — essentially mainline extra sugar (or glucose) into your bloodstream. What goes up must come down, and the associated blood-sugar crash shortly after their consumption can further spiral you into more frequent and intense cravings.
Refined grains, such as crackers, chips, snack foods, and cereal
Packaged snack foods tend to be high in refined and processed grains which break down very quickly. As a result, chips, crackers, or cereal can send blood sugar on a wild ride similar to that of the dessert options.
If you’re craving foods with added refined sugar, here’s what to eat instead:
Try this recipe:
Mango Mania Smoothie
8 oz. fresh mango
½ cup plain dairy-free yogurt
1 cup apple juice/cider
2 tangerines (seedless, peeled)
1 banana (peeled)
3 sprigs fresh mint (save 1 for garnish)
8 ice cubes
Add all ingredients to your blender except for 1 sprig of mint. And blend until smooth. Pour into a tall milkshake glass, top with a mint sprig and serve!
- Watermelon Pops: Look for pops that are 100% natural.
- Fresh fruit : blueberries, strawberries, melon