Grocery List: How to Shop (and Eat) for Less Stress

A nutritionist explains how to fill your grocery cart with stress-busting foods

Stress can put a damper on your day and wreak havoc in your body. Not only can high stress levels leaving you craving sugary and high-fat foods, stress has been linked to more serious conditions, too—from asthma to diabetes to heart disease.

We asked Willow Grove dietician Joan Gangwer to help us find ways to reduce our stress. Her solution? Eat (and shop) your way to a stress-free life—here’s how.

How to Shop
Getting more stress-busting foods in your diet starts with what you put in your grocery cart. To help get you on track, Gangwer suggests shopping on the perimeter of your grocery store, and avoiding most of the aisles in the middle. All of the healthy basics, she says, can be found in the outer sections: First you hit the veggies, then the lean meats and finally the dairy products. Greasy, fatty foods like potato chips and mac-and-cheese are usually located in the middle of the store. So by avoiding those aisles all together you’re eliminating those temptations—and the opportunity to stress-eat.

What to Eat
Here are some foods that will help fortify the body under stress.

• Fruits and veggies
Oranges and grapefruits are a great source of vitamin C, which helps build your immune system and lower stress levels. Blueberries are also a great choice; they’re filled with antioxidants that will help control stress and give your metabolism a boost to boot. Veggies such as broccoli, kale and spinach are filled with magnesium which boosts the immune system, too.

Whole grains
“Everything is better for you in its whole-grain version,” Gangwer says. Whole-grain bread, cereal and pasta (Gangwer likes angel hair) are great stress reducers. Grains help the brain create serotonin, a calming hormone that will help you keep your cool. They’re also rich in vitamin B, which helps nerve function and regulates blood-sugar levels.

Fish and lean meats
“Cold-water fish are really good for you,” Gangwer says, especially salmon, tuna and halibut, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that help reduce body-inflammation hormones and prevent increases in stress levels. The less processed the fish, the better it is for you.

Milk, cheese and yogurt are filled with calcium and magnesium, which have a relaxing effect on your muscles. Those foods can make for a great snack—as long as you keep portions under control.

Want more stress-reducing tips? Here’s what Gangwer advises clients:

Stay hydrated. Be sure to drink lots of water, preferably six to eight glasses a day. Dehydration leads to added stress and fatigue.

Don’t skip meals. Skipping meals can cause mood swings and stress, so make sure you don’t deprive yourself. If you’re hungry between meals, eating healthy snacks such as apples with peanut butter or unsalted nuts can be good for keeping  spirits and metabolism up.

Plan and prepare meals in advance. If you have any downtime on the weekends, cook extra large portions of meals, making enough to last you two or three days. Having healthy food ready to go makes it easier to avoid the drive-thru.