How to stop stress eating – 6 tips from an expert

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The UK is in its third national lockdown and, for many, food is a source of comfort. Turning to food during times of stress, anxiety or sadness is a natural reaction, so it makes sense that Brits are piling on the pounds in order to cope with the pandemic. Express.co.uk chatted to nutritionist and dietician Jane Clarke from Nourish to find out how to stop stress eating.

It’s easy to graze on snacks when you’re bored or stuff your face with chocolate and other treats when life is getting you down.

Indulging in sugary or salty foods every now and then is fine, but long term stress eating can encourage an unhealthy relationship with food.

Stopping yourself from stress eating doesn’t mean making your favourite treats off-limits, it’s all about cutting back on unhealthy food and not allowing your emotions to control you.

Here’s how to stop stress eating, according to nutritionist and dietician Jane Clarke, founder of Nourish.

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Tea or soup

You don’t need to deny yourself of food or drink when you feel the urge to eat something but aren’t necessarily hungry.

Jane recommends making tea or soup instead, as both are full of goodness and will improve your mood.

She said: “Choose a favourite mug to make a relaxing infusion in – chamomile, lemon verbena or mint tea.

“You could even make our warmed Chocolate Nourish Drink, or a mug of homemade soup.

“You can wrap your hands around it for warmth and comfort.”

Snack

Snacks aren’t a bad thing, you need to give yourself permission to have a proper snack.

When people stress eat, they tend to constantly nibble and end up eating more than they would if they just accepted that they want a snack.

Jane said: “The trick is to decide what you want, then put the rest away BEFORE you start eating.

“If you opt for a sweet treat, try to have a little protein alongside to stop the classic sugar high then crash, which will make you feel worse.

“Some sweet dried fruit with a few nuts, or a chopped apple with some full-fat Greek yoghurt, is ideal.”

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Cut back on alcohol

Whether you’ve committed to Dry January or not, it might be a good idea to cut back on alcohol.

Jane said: “Alcohol means you are more likely to eat the sweet or salty snack foods which don’t make you feel great and it affects the quality of your sleep, too.”

If you are going to have a drink, don’t do it on an empty stomach!

Jane said: “This goes straight to your head and you may feel even more anxious after the initial euphoria of relaxation wears off.”

Ask yourself a question

Stop worrying about calories and think more about nourishing your body.

Jane recommends asking yourself ‘Is this going to nourish me?’ when choosing your food.

She said: “If the answer is no, try opting for a healthy alternative or do something completely different to distract you from your stress.

“A walk around the block, or a Zoom call to a friend, are bound to make you feel better.”

Diary

Find out the root cause of your stress and your reaction to it.

Jane said: “Try keeping a little diary and when you feel stressed, write down the answer to the question above, what you choose to do about it and how it makes you feel.

“You will soon spot the actions that make you feel good and when you are not treating your body, or yourself, well.”

Stock up

It’s easy to opt for a carby or processed snack when you don’t have any healthy food in the fridge.

That’s why it’s important to stock your fridge and cupboard with the better snack foods.

Jane recommends dried fruits, nuts, soups, stewed fruits or a healthy and satisfying Nourish Drink.

She said: “When you are feeling stressed and have the urge to snack, then you’ll be nourishing your body as you comfort your feelings.”

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