How To Avoid Stress Eating

As the pandemic progresses, it’s hard to maintain healthy habits that may have been lost in the upheaval that changed our day-to-day lives. Many of us may be reaching for snacks as a way to feel comforted, or to distract from other issues. Dietitian at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Elisabeth Moore, RD notes “this is a really difficult time for most of us.” Moore points out that being at home all the time makes it “much harder to stick to a healthy diet… so when it comes to our eating habits, I tell people to do the best they can do.”

There are a few great ways to choose healthy snacks during the pandemic.

Avoid Temptation

Moore reminds us that we control what we purchase. Try to avoid bringing processed food or highly sweet or salty snacks into the house. Consider avoiding the kitchen and do a “hunger check” (ask yourself if you’re really hungry) when you find yourself in the kitchen and reaching for a snack at odd hours. A growling stomach, low energy, or headache are common signs of hunger. If you are craving a snack without any indicators of actual hunger, you may be seeking a distraction or comfort. Other self-soothing options can be really effective once you realize that you aren’t hungry. Consider:

  • Meditation
  • Walking
  • Calling friends or family
  • Preparing healthier snacks/ baking
  • Drinking water
  • Spending time with a pet or housemate

Switch To Healthy Snacks

Health snacks can be great for heart health, can prevent stress eating, and can have fewer detrimental effects if you eat more than intended. Moore points out that “snacks help bridge the gap between meals,” so having “a small snack mid-morning or mid-afternoon curbs your appetite so you’re not completely starving when you sit down to lunch or dinner.” Snacking is especially good for helping with portion control at main mealtimes by helping you to avoid overeating.

While snacks from the store may say that they are “healthy,” the packaging can often be deceptive. Potato chips, for example, seem like an obviously unhealthy snack covered in salt and grease. What is less clear, is that low-fat and low-salt options are often equally poor alternatives. Even with less fat and salt these snacks “are still just low-fiber carbohydrates that are unlikely to satisfy your hunger,” says Moore. In fact, these choices will likely raise your blood sugar, which can leave you hungrier.

Healthy snacks are often whole foods rather than processed. They tend to be high in fiber, low in in salt and saturated fats, and balanced in nutrients. Options include:

  • Fruit slices (apple, banana) with nut butter (peanut, almond)
  • Nuts without salt (almonds, walnuts or any other type of low-salt nuts)
  • Cut-up vegetables (baby carrots, broccoli florets or cherry tomatoes) with hummus
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Homemade popcorn (not microwave popcorn or prepackaged popcorn, both of which contain excess salt and fats)
  • Roasted chickpeas snack (see recipe below)
  • Homemade trail mix (see recipe below)

Portion sizes are important to keep in mind. Purchasing containers to help with pre-portioning can help “for example, small bags of nuts instead of a single large container,” says Moore.

“Remember, balance is the key,” she adds. “Food is comforting and we all need comfort right now.” Give yourself permission to indulge, but make sure you have healthy snacks on hand to encourage better eating habits and prevent thoughtless snacking.

Recipe: Roasted Chickpeas

This snack is an inexpensive whole food that is rich in fiber and protein. It is simple to make and can be a great recipe for families to make together.

  • One 15-ounce can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • Olive oil
  • Your favorite spice, such as garlic powder, basil, rosemary, oregano, chili powder, or curry powder
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Drain the chickpeas in a colander or strainer and rinse under running water
  3. Spread the chickpeas on a large baking sheet
  4. Drizzle with about one tablespoon of olive oil and stir to coat evenly
  5. Sprinkle with your choice of spices
  6. Roast for 15 to 30 minutes, to desired crispness
  7. Let cool and store at room temperature in a resealable bag or container

Recipe: Sweet and Savory Trail Mix

This is a wonderful recipe.

  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup peanuts
  • 1/2 cup dried blueberries
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 20 small pretzel twists

Combine all ingredients in a dish. Serve as a snack or a sweet after-meal treat.

Nutrition Facts

Total calories 145; total fat 8 g; saturated fat 0.5g; cholesterol 0 g; sodium 25 mg; total carbohydrate 14g;p dietary fiber 3g; sugars 9g; protein 4g.