How can I optimize my nutrition?
But what does a "good choice" mean when it comes to optimizing nutrition to combat stress? Finding a good mix and balance of these foods is a start:
- Lean protein – Salmon, beans, chicken and other white meats
- Complex carbs – Beans, whole grains (brown rice or oats), starchy vegetables (potatoes or winter squash) and fresh fruit
- Omega-3 fatty acids – Wild salmon, walnuts, shrimp, chia seeds, flax seeds
- B vitamin-rich foods – Pork, beans, whole grains, leafy greens
- C vitamin-rich foods – Citrus fruits, peppers, broccoli
- Magnesium-rich foods – Leafy greens, whole wheat bread, beans, whole grains and nuts
The nutrition tacticianPlanning your meals ahead is a great way to keep on track with your health goals and reduce the likelihood of making poor choices. If you know the restaurant you'll be eating at, maybe you can look for healthy options on the menu in advance so you don't feel pressured to make a poor decision. Packing healthful, portable snacks to keep you nourished throughout your busy work day can help keep your blood sugar levels from crashing and make sure you get the energy you need for a productive day. Here are a few other activities to incorporate into your eating habits to promote good nutrition. Plan on using these tips a few nights a week during meals and see if you feel healthier, less stressed and more energized.
- Remember to breathe – It sounds simple, but it's easy to eat so fast you forget to breathe. Take five deep breaths before you start eating to put you in a state of mindfulness and bring a sense of calm to your digestive system. This prevents eating too quickly so you know when you're full.
- Remove passive stressors – Turn off your TV or cell phone while you eat. This keeps our minds off of stressors in the news or a work problem that's causing you anxiety.
- Put down your fork – Between each bite, set your fork down on the table. This helps digest food at the right pace and allows you to be mindful of how much you're eating.
- Sip on tea with or between meals – Sipping calming teas like tulsi, chamomile, peppermint, ginger and green tea may help ease stress and soothe digestion. Tea provides a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that can help reduce/repair stress-induced damage to the body. It can also soothe gas, bloating and other digestive discomfort commonly associated with stress.
To better understand what it means to be mindful when you eat, watch this educational video.
There are some long-term tools at your disposal to make meals more enjoyable and beneficial to your health. Give these two a try over the next few months to make a bigger change in the way you eat.Diet diary – Keep a diary of what you eat and what your sources are for nutrients. Download this template and try to record the same information after every meal. When you're going through a stressful period, look back and see what foods and eating habits helped you get out of it, or what poor choices made it worse.
Be social – Try to plan more meals with friends or your significant other. It can help reduce stress while you eat, and it also gives you the chance to split an entrée with someone or take your mind off of passive stressors.