Human beings want to be happy all the time, and when stress breaks through our happiness bubble, we turn to our favorite comfort foods, with their familiar rationalizations. “I deserve this, I work hard”, followed by “I’ll get back on track tomorrow”, and of course, “I’ll just have a little bite”. You’ll work just as hard before you eat those crisps as after, tomorrow either never comes or takes the scenic route around different parts of your body, and that little bite can kind of make a pint of ice cream go away! “The only thing that these rationalizations about your weight, your self-esteem and level of guilt cause is more stress during times of stress.
Everyone experiences different degrees of stress, and these days you don’t have to look beyond your television to find enough stress to add to your load. The good news is that you don’t have to ban comfort foods, you just need to redefine them and choose the types of comfort foods that keep your body functioning efficiently and in optimal health.
First of all, do your body and wallet a big favor by ridding your cupboards and fridge of junk food and replacing them with light, healthy snacks and light meals that are quick and easy. That cookie, bag of crisps or pint of ice cream you hear called, gives you momentary gratification, followed by regret, which leads to more stress.
Pay attention to what you eat, especially when you are feeling stressed. Thoughtless eating takes more pounds off the body than a yo-yo diet. Store several flavors of low fat yogurt in your refrigerator and add fruit or nut slices before eating. The crunch of fruits and nuts in your mouth is a great substitute for angry thoughts that you might otherwise express in hurtful and inappropriate ways. If you must have ice cream, choose a low calorie, low calorie variety or frozen yogurt. Placing your treat in a small cream cup instead of eating from the container controls portion size and satisfies your craving while keeping you guilt-free.
Keep fresh vegetables like broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, summer squash, zucchini, and other vegetables on hand. Cut into bite-size pieces and place in your fridge next to a container of plain yogurt to which you’ve added a pinch of garlic, chives, Italian seasoning and chili powder. Snack on them instead of high-fat, sodium-rich chips.
Make a salad with a variety of lettuce and your favorite vegetables and keep it in your fridge for a midday meal or snack with your favorite low-fat, low-calorie dressing.
Soup is a great comfort food that is easy to prepare. Buy low-sodium beef or chicken broth, add your favorite veggies, cook until the veggies are tender and crisp, and add a green salad for a quick, light, and healthy meal. When the temperature soars and the last thing you want is a hot soup, try a spicy glazed carrot soup. Peel and cut four carrots into chunks and cook until tender in three cups of carrot juice, two tablespoons of honey and one tablespoon of low fat margarine. Remove from heat, place in a blender or food processor and puree with half a cup of low fat milk and a teaspoon of ground ginger.
Enjoy seasonal fruits and vegetables. Summer berries are a great handy snack, and you can eat as much as you want without adding to your stress or waistline. Sprinkle the berries with cinnamon sugar made from sugar substitute and cinnamon. Sit on your patio or in your yard and enjoy the delicious taste of summer. Stack colorful fresh fruit in bowls and watch how the colors, fragrance, and texture lift your spirits and reduce stress.
When stress reaches a level where you can’t think clearly, it’s time to take a break. It might seem easier said than done, but it’s essential to your well-being. Take a moment to sit in a favorite chair with a cup of tea and your favorite fruit. Focus on the heat and flavor of the tea, smell the mug in your hand as you inhale the aroma of the tea and taste this fruit like it’s the first time. You are not only giving your body a healthy snack, your stress is also a “time out”.
Everyone is stressed on many levels and in many areas of life. When stress sends you on a comfort food-finding mission, make sure you’re well supplied with tasty and healthy alternatives to junk food.