Maintaining a Healthy Diet Under Stress (and in a Pandemic)

How much are the COVID-19 pandemic and other world events affecting your stress levels? Not only are families juggling daily responsibilities at home, but the ongoing situation is leading to an increase in stress for people of all ages. Even if you don’t notice an immediate difference in your stress levels, the compound effect can add up over time.

How a Pandemic Affects Your Stress Levels

Modern stress triggers the innate “fight or flight” response within the body, causing a domino effect on hormone levels and overall health. These problems have always been present, but the COVID-19 pandemic is now contributing to the stress that you experience each day.

According to the CDC, stress can increase due to an outbreak for a variety of reasons:

  • Ongoing fear about your health
  • Worry about the health of your loved ones
  • Changes in eating patterns
  • Difficulty sleeping or changes in sleep habits
  • Increasing chronic health problems
  • Worsening mental health conditions
  • Increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs

Keep in mind that every person has a unique response to stressful situations. You can manage the way you respond to this outbreak by evaluating your daily habits. More than ever, it is important to put self-care at the top of your priority list.

Food and Stress: Common Responses

Food can be a source of comfort in stressful times. Additionally, food can be a way to lighten the mood and provide enjoyment when your family needs a pick-me-up. As you are proactively managing your stress levels, focus on healthy eating to support yourself and your family.

In fact, staying at home can be a great opportunity to strengthen relationships by sharing healthy meals. Families no longer have the busy schedules that pulled everyone in different directions throughout the day. Being proactive with meal planning can be a great way to create opportunities to connect with your loved ones, while also boosting your physical health at the same time.

What are Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Diet Under Stress?

Here are a few tips to make it easier to maintain a healthy diet when you are feeling stressed:

  • Stock the fridge with healthy food options. If you don’t want to go to the grocery store, then look for a local grocer that offers online ordering and curbside pickup.
  • Clean out the cupboards. It’s hard to fight the temptation if your pantry is full of potato chips and chocolate. Be deliberate in removing these unhealthy options from your home, which decreases the likelihood that you will reach for high-calorie food when you are feeling hungry.
  • Plan ahead to ensure that you always have healthy snacks on hand. Keeping these foods available for your family decreases the likelihood of eating junk food and other unhealthy treats.
  • Keep it simple. You don’t have to plan elaborate meals to eat healthily. Instead, look for simple ways to add more fruits, veggies, and lean protein in your diet. These small changes can add up over time to lead to big health benefits in the future.

What Are Good Foods to Eat Under Stress?

One way to manage is by choosing foods that are beneficial for stress management: ingredients with high levels of nutrition and certain compounds that support adrenals and hormones.

Here are some of the best stress-busting foods that you can incorporate in your diet:

  • Fatty Fish: Salmon, halibut, and tuna provide heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which can have a positive impact on your brain, heart, and mental health.
  • Nuts: A handful of nuts can help to satisfy your craving for a salty treat, and also provide important B vitamins that your body needs. Studies have found that B vitamins can play a role in reducing stress levels.
  • Oranges: Did you know that vitamin C can ward off stress? Oranges aren’t the only source of vitamin C to add to your diet. Also enjoy other antioxidant-rich fruits such as grapefruit, strawberries, and blackberries.
  • Warm Herbal Tea: Not only is a warm drink soothing, but certain herbs can have a calming effect. Try drinking a cup of chamomile tea before bed to rewrite the stress response and boost the production of feel-good hormones.
  • Dark Chocolate: If you need an indulgence, then dark chocolate is a better choice than milk chocolate due to the lower sugar content. Additionally, dark chocolate is a great source of antioxidants that can help with balancing stress hormones.

How Can I Use Food to Help with My Families’ Mood?

Not only can good food improve your family’s mood, but the act of preparing a meal together can be a fun family activity. Mealtime is an opportunity to build a family culture and create memories together.

Be proactive in planning the menu around your family’s favorite meals. For example, you might invite each member of the family to pick the meal one night of the week and take charge of preparing the meal. Young children can be involved by partnering with a parent for meal preparation.

Also, look for ways that food can be used to create a fun stay-home activity. Sunday afternoon can be a nice time to bake with the kids. Enjoy a bowl of air-popped popcorn during your Friday night movie. Or, cook a healthy egg and veggie skillet for a shared family breakfast on Saturday mornings. 

What are Fun, Healthy Kid Snacks?

Meal and snack planning can be a challenge if you have kids in the house. Not only are the kids always hungry, but they will often skip by the healthy foods to choose something sweet instead. Try offering your kids some of these healthy snacks that are both fun and delicious:

  • Veggies with fun dips, such as low-calorie ranch dressing or hummus
  • Fruit plate with the colors arranged like a rainbow
  • Muffin tin with bite-sized selections of different healthy ingredients
  • String cheese and whole grain crackers

The most important thing is to make sure that you choose a meal strategy that works for your individual situation. For example, if you are often busy during the week, then have a collection of easy weeknight dinners for family recipes. Save the elaborate meals for the weekends when you have more time to spend in the kitchen.

Family-Focused Health Care Services

Our team at Rapid Med Urgent Care is here to support your family’s medical needs and health care concerns.

We offer more than urgent care services for injury and illness – you also have access to a team of professional medical experts who are available to assist with general healthcare needs.

Whether it is time to schedule a checkup, or you would like to talk to someone about a specific concern, sign in online or give us a call to book an appointment. We offer both in-office appointments and On-Demand, virtual doctor appointments if preferred.

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