Stress and snacking tend to go hand in hand. Eating feels comforting and carbohydrates can actually help lower cortisol, a hormone associated with stress. But when you want to stay on track with healthy eating or reach your weight loss goals, extra snacking can slow your progress.
Snacking isn’t a bad thing when you’re genuinely hungry. Snacks can also make it easier to not overeat, by preventing over-hunger. You know the type of hunger that makes you want to eat anything you can grab. It often hits in the afternoon or while cooking dinner.
During periods of stress, restriction, like low carb, low fat or low calories diets, can add fuel to the fire. I find it’s better to support your body through the stress with nourishing foods and better balance.
One way to do this is to choose healthy carbohydrates and pair them with healthy fats. Healthy carbs are real-food carbohydrates with natural fiber and include beans, whole grains, fruits and starchy vegetables. Fats help carbohydrates digest slower, so you’ll get more sustained energy and less of a crash. This can naturally reduce cravings and appetite, to make it easier to stay on track even when you’re stressed.
Typical snacks like packaged foods (pretzels, flavored crackers, chips or energy bars) and eating just fruit, can leave you feeling hungry soon after eating. They’re higher in sugar and simple carbs, which digest quickly. Fast carbs can spike your blood sugar, which is then followed by a crash. This cycle can worsen stress and anxiety as well as increase your hunger and appetite. Below are some simple snack ideas to help stabilize your blood sugar and give you longer lasting energy.
Apple and Almond Butter
Apples are a source of healthy carbohydrates, full of fiber and nutrients, especially with the skin on. They offer more volume for less calories, which makes them filling. But eating just an apple will likely leave you feeling hungry soon after. Pairing with almond butter, or any nut butter you prefer, adds healthy fats, more fiber and even some protein, which makes it a more complete and satisfying snack.
Greek Yogurt with Blueberries and Nuts
Greek yogurt is a great source of lean protein. So many varieties are flavored with added sugar, so I’d recommend getting plain and adding your own sweet ingredients. My favorite way to do this is to add fruit like berries. They add natural sweetness as well as volume and fiber too, making it more filling. You can also add a drizzle of honey. For healthy fats, top it with a couple pinches of toasted nuts, like walnuts, almonds or pepitas.
Hummus with vegetables (+ pita or crackers)
Hummus is made with tahini, olive oil and chickpeas, among various ingredients for flavor (like garlic and lemon). It’s a satisfying dip offering healthy carbohydrates, fiber and fats. Crunchy fresh veggies like carrots, cucumber, peppers, sliced radish and/or snap peas are great vessels that add extra nutrients, volume and fiber for minimal calories. If you need a little extra, you can add a few whole grain crackers or some wheat pita too.
It’s important to support your body through stress while staying on track with your health and weight goals. Rather than restrict certain foods, like carbohydrates, it helps to ease the pressure and add more balance. If you’re looking for more healthy and balanced snack ideas, you can check out this guide for satisfying options that will help you eat healthy and feel lean without feeling deprived.