All About Stress Snacking

We’ve all had those hard days where we need a treat. “I deserve it!” we exclaim. Then we slide our dollars into the nearest vending machine or snag yet another sweet treat from the nearest micro kitchen. Stress has a sneaky way of making us crave foods we don't even think about on a normal day. 

The good news? While stress isn’t unavoidable, it can be managed! We have a few helpful tips to aid you in stopping your stress snacking, plus some bonus behaviors that can promote overall calmness and wellbeing.

What causes stress snacking?

Short-term stress suppresses your appetite. A typical stressor like occasionally running late won’t get your brain thinking about snacking. But persistent stress? That’s a different story. According to Harvard Medical School research, continued stress releases the hormone cortisol. Cortisol increases appetite and motivation levels, which, by the way, includes the motivation to eat! When the stressor disappears, cortisol levels return to normal. If stress becomes cumulative, a person’s cortisol levels will remain elevated – and so does the desire to snack!

A stressed brain has a sweet tooth.

While our brain might only make up 2% of our body weight, it consumes 50% of our daily carbohydrates. When we’re stressed, our brains want even more carbohydrate fuel. Often leading us to mindlessly grab whatever snack is nearest. But we don’t have to! There are quite a few snacks to keep on hand when those stress cravings hit.  Consider these snacks instead.

  • Edamame has tryptophan which helps produce the mood-balancing hormone serotonin. You can roast edamame at home and add your own herbs and spices to make a crunchy and savory afternoon snack. 
  • Pistachios are nutrient-rich and filled with magnesium, a mineral linked to lowering anxiety levels. A bonus: the process of shelling these green guys can be quite meditative! 
  • Looking for a sweet way to promote blood circulation and lower blood pressure? Look no further than dark chocolate. Bars with lower percentages of cacao have more added sugar and unhealthy fats, so make sure you’re snacking on dark chocolate at 70% cacao or higher.

Step away from the snacks!

We’ve got four suggestions to help you counter stress snacking. 

  • Get moving. Almost any form of exercise relieves stress. It improves your mood, boosts your self-confidence, and helps you relax.

  • Social Support. Spend time with friends or family. It acts like a shield against stress. For even more stress relief, try combining face-to-face family time with a walk or hike.

  • Meditation remains a proven stress reliever. Only 10 minutes a day can promote relaxation. As a mindfulness practice, it can also help you be more intentional about your food choices.

  • Get Creative: Listen to or play music. Start a journal or writing project. Paint, scrapbook, or dance! Creative expression can help with managing negative emotions in a fun way. Remember: creative expression needn’t be about perfection. Enjoy the journey! 

Want to share some of your own tips and tricks? Let us know by tagging us on Instagram @YourFFT!


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