Eat Well, Be Well

Eat Well, Be Well
Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health

When talking about getting a handle on stress, it’s important to talk about food because eating well is another tool in a “Stress Less toolbox.” Eating well can reduce stress, and it does not need to involve overwhelming changes. Lark can help you stay aware of how daily food choices impact stress and which minor changes may be possible to lower stress and reduce or avoid emotional eating.

How Stress and Food Interact

Healthy eating in a relaxed, pleasant environment can lead to lower stress levels. At the same time, better stress management can improve food choices and health. 

Certain foods can raise stress by raising stress hormones, increasing anxiety, or playing with blood sugar levels. Other foods can lower stress, such as through improving mood, lowering levels of a stress hormone called cortisol, and reducing feelings of fatigue. Lark can remind you of the foods that can be good and bad for stress.

Foods That Can Raise Stress Foods That Can Lower Stress
  • Caffeinated beverages, such as coffee and caffeinated sodas and energy drinks
  • Sugary foods, such as ice cream, cake, candy, cookies, and pie
  • Chinese takeout, canned soup, and other high-sodium, processed foods
  • French fries, fried chicken, and other fried foods
  • White bread, pasta, and rice
  • Salty snack foods such as crackers, pretzels, potato chips, and tortilla chips
  • Olive oil
  • Avocados
  • Oatmeal and other whole grains
  • Peanuts and almonds and other nuts
  • Salmon, tuna, and other fatty fish
  • Strawberries, oranges, and other fresh fruit high in fiber and vitamin C
  • Spinach, asparagus, broccoli, bell peppers, and other vegetables with fiber and folate and/or vitamin C
  • Beans and lentils

Eating in a pleasant environment can increase the stress-busting benefits of eating well. Ways to relax while eating include sitting down to eat in a place you like, eating slowly, noticing the flavors in each bite, and enjoying the company, even if it is just yourself.

Stress can affect eating just as much as eating affects stress. A majority of people report that they sometimes engage in emotional eating, or eating due to emotions such as anxiety, anger, or loneliness. Effects of emotional eating can include weight gain, poorer food choices, and increased stress because of a sense of frustration, guilt, or inadequacy.

Stress management techniques aside from eating tend to be healthier ways of handling emotions. It can also help to keep junk foods out of the home, and to have an alternative plan for when you are about to start emotionally eating. For example, delaying with a 5-minute walk or two cold glasses of water can be enough to let the urge pass.

Keeping Stress out of Low-Stress Eating

Does worrying about stress-free eating add stress to your life? It does not need to! Remembering that you are choosing to make certain food choices because you want to, and not because someone is making you, can help take the pressure off. 

Another way to reduce stress surrounding healthier food choices is to plan ahead. This lets you avoid a last-minute search for something healthy, which can be stressful in itself. It also lets you avoid the possibility of not being able to find something healthy, and feeling sad or guilty about eating something less healthy.

Lark can help with stress management and with healthy food choices to support stress management. Small changes need not be stressful, and can be valuable as you manage stress!