By Eva Fisher
When you're struggling with anxiety, it can be hard to eat well. We'd often rather reach for a box of chicken nuggets than make something from scratch. Sometimes it can be hard to eat anything at all. But cooking and eating good food can be a powerful way to combat your anxiety.
I spoke with Registered Social Worker Stacey Sanderson, who regularly works with clients with anxiety, about how to eat to feel calmer. She pointed out several foods that could be making you feel more anxious. “It's advisable with anxiety to avoid caffeine, processed food, foods with dyes, and to try to consume alcohol as moderately as possible.” Hands up if this list includes pretty much all of your comfort foods. Pizza, Kraft Dinner, and buckets of coffee can feel good in the short term, but chances are they're adding to your stress load.
So what should we be eating? Stacey recommends eating more like a toddler. That doesn't mean you should be toting jars of baby food (although if that's your thing, I say own it.) Stacey recommends small and frequent, nutritionally balanced meals. You don't want a dip in your blood sugar ruining your day.
Stacey recommends increasing protein intake and making sure that you get your omega 3 fats and fatty acids such as fatty fish, nuts, seeds and oil such as olive oil and avocado oil.
Stacey says that protein is particularly important in the evening. “A protein based snack at night can help with sleep.” So if you've been struggling with sleeplessness try not to skip that bedtime snack.
I have noticed that regular snacking is key to keeping me feeling calm and balanced throughout the day. Here are four of my favourite made from scratch snacks, each of which has a healthy balance of protein and carbohydrates to promote calm.
Even if you're not up to making something from scratch, try to eat small regular meals. Be kind to yourself. Eating well is an important step towards feeling better.
This smoothie is the ultimate in comfort food that won't leave you feeling crummy. How could oatmeal, bananas and cinnamon not be calming?
1 frozen banana
1/4 cup oatmeal
A dash of cinnamon
1/4 cup milk or water
1/2 cup yogurt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Add all of the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.
Roasted chickpeas can be eaten like chips or popcorn, but they pack sleep-promoting protein. Experimenting with seasoning is encouraged.
2 cans chickpeas rinsed and patted dry with a paper towel
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Mix the ingredients together in a bowl, then spread them evenly onto a baking sheet. Bake at 400F for 25-30 minutes or until crunchy
Sprinkle the chick peas with extra spices before you dig in. Here are some combinations that work well:
- garlic and cayenne
- dill, garlic powder and vinegar
- cinnamon and sugar
This omega 3 and protein rich snack is made using pantry staples. The leftovers can be refrigerated for later. Eat these all on their own, or add them to sandwiches and salads.
1 can salmon
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
A sprinkle of pepper
1 tablespoon oil
Healthy, antioxidant rich blueberries and protein rich Greek yogurt team up in this fast and easy recipe. A pinch of lavender is calming, but be careful that you don't add too much, or your frozen yogurt will taste like grandma's hand lotion.
2 cups frozen blueberries (or strawberries)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup greek yogurt
1 teaspoon lavender (optional)
Blend all of the ingredients in a food processor for five minutes or until creamy, then enjoy or freeze for later. If you like you can drizzle the frozen yogurt with honey.
Eva Fisher is a writer specializing in food and lifestyle content. In addition to her work with Cam's Kids she is frequently featured on kawarthaNOW. In her spare time she moonlights as a marketing consultant. Her home is in Peterborough, Ontario.