Following on from expert Jane Clarke’s piece on children and stress, this piece really helps get your mind around stress and in particular foods that can revive and heal.
We can feel stress at any age, from children coping with exams and rivalries among their school friends to older people dealing with pressurised jobs and keeping family relationships smooth. Here are some tension-busting food and drink tips for adults and children.
Modern life is stressful for many of us, with long working hours and our personal space invaded by emails, texts, and calls to our mobiles demanding our attention. The symptoms of stress include a racing heart, digestive problems, sleeping poorly, fatigue, mood disturbances, and feeling fearful – but by making tweaks to your diet, you could feel a lot better.
1. Breakfast is important, as an empty stomach and low blood sugar will make any anxiety far worse. When you’re stressed you may wake up feeling sick, but try to have something small: stewed apple is one of the most settling foods (make a batch once a week and keep it in the fridge); or try fresh fruit, yogurt, or a slice of wholemeal toast with fruit spread or nut butter. Then have a healthy snack to eat mid-morning.
2. Avoid fatty, sugary foods in the morning – such as croissants, filled sweet pastries, sweet cereals, cereal bars, or fatty cooked breakfasts – as these will sit heavily in your gut and, in the case of foods high in refined sugar, will probably make you feel even more out of control. It helps if you eat mostly low- and medium-GI foods to keep your blood sugar levels constant .
3. Think twice about caffeine rich drinks, as they can lead to you feeling more wired and on edge. You may think you need a coffee to get you through the day, but many people find they are much calmer and in control if they cut out caffeine – which includes coffee, tea, energy drinks, and cola – and drink more water and herbal infusions.
4. It’s best not to look to alcohol for stress-busting. While it may be tempting to pour yourself a glass when you get home after a tough day, it seldom helps after the first few mouthfuls; alcohol is much more likely to make you feel exhausted and less inclined to eat anything nourishing. It’s much better to exercise and practise relaxation or meditation, and then eat food that nourishes you. Remember also to keep well hydrated all day as this can help you maintain a steady energy supply and a clear brain.
5. Try to think ahead about food, from what you’ll take with you for snacks and lunch to the evening meals, so that you don’t have to make big food decisions in a hurry. Ideally, plan and shop once a week, and cook, label, and freeze meals at the weekend, to take out as needed.
By Jane Clarke, author of Complete Family Nutrition