Strategic Diets: 5 Snacks to Eat When You’re Stressed Out

The vending machine is not your friend.

When we’re under a lot of stress we tend to reach for comfort foods. This is because stressful events cause our cortisol levels to rise, and in result, cause food cravings.

As a stressful day wears on you’re going to feel yourself drawn to the vending machine, where potato chips and bags of candy are calling your name. But those options will only exacerbate symptoms like mood swings, low energy, reduced immune function and anxiety.

On particularly stressful days, come prepared with a snack made up of foods that will fend off cravings and actually help reduce the negative side effects of stress.

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Avocado Chocolate Mousse

Studies show that in women, cravings brought on by stress tend to be strongest for sweets. Instead of caving and grabbing a candy bar from the vending machine (which will only spike blood sugar levels and cause mood swings), prep this avocado mousse ahead of time. The creamy texture and chocolate will quell your dessert cravings, while omega-3 fats in the avocado help prevent stress hormones from peaking.

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Tropical Fruit Salad

Vitamin C has been shown to lower blood pressure and levels of cortisol after a stressful situation. Plus, it strengthens your immune system, which is hindered under stress. Throw together a fruit salad for a mid-afternoon snack—mandarin oranges, strawberries, pineapple, kiwi and mangoes pack in some major vitamin C. Top with a Citrus Poppy Seed Dressing for an additional pop of flavor.

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No-Bake Maple-Walnut Oatmeal Snack Bites

The flavor of a Snickers, but none of the refined, processed ingredients that will amplify the negative effects of stress on the body. Oats are a complex carbohydrate that cause your brain to produce serotonin, a feel-good chemical that helps promote relaxation. Walnuts and flaxseed provide a dose of stress-busting omega-3s, while dates and honey provide a natural sweetness.

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Vanilla Chia Pudding

If you’re stressed out, you probably don’t have much spare time on your hands. Luckily, this pudding can be whipped up in under a minute. Chia seeds are extremely high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are vital for brain function and improve neurotransmitter activity, combatting depression and preventing stress hormones from peaking. A touch of maple syrup and vanilla will provide sweetness to satisfy cravings.

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Collard Green Wraps with Sweet Potato and Chipotle Black Beans 

These wraps are packed with ingredients that combat stress: Sweet potatoes are a complex carb that cues the release of serotonin, avocado contains omega-3 fats, and collard greens are a smart alternative to a white tortilla filled with refined grains. Plus, black beans are a good source of micronutrients like potassium (which helps regulate blood pressure that surges when you’re stressed out) and zinc (which has been shown to improve anxiety symptoms like irritability and lack of ability to concentrate and plays a key role in the functioning of the immune system).