Heading into the holiday season can leave you feeling stressed about everything from gift shopping to deadlines at work. The cold, dark weather doesn’t help, either.
But while we can’t control the temperature, we can control our diets. During this time of year, it’s important to look for food that helps to mitigate anxiety rather than exacerbate it, according to Kyle Buchanan, a wellness expert based in Toronto.
When figuring out what to avoid, alcohol is the first culprit, Buchanan told Carolyn MacKenzie and Jeff McArthur, hosts of Global’s The Morning Show.
Excessive alcohol also impacts your serotonin levels and negatively impacts your sleep, he said.
Greasy, fried foods like chicken nuggets, fries and chips should be monitored as well if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
“You want to be kind to your body. If you’re under a really stressful time, this isn’t kind,” he said, adding that inflammation from certain oils can cause stress to increase.
Dietitian Kate Comeau previously told Global News that when we’re stressed, we often reach for foods high in fat.
“I rarely hear about someone who craves cucumbers when they are stressed,” she said. “It’s usually cupcakes, muffins, candy and chocolate.”
When dealing with office cravings, she recommends eating breakfast and drinking more water instead of sugary lattes as well as asking yourself if you’re hungry before you eat something.
“If the craving is coming from stress rather than hunger, food won’t satisfy it,” she said.
When figuring out which foods will help to relieve stress, pick out foods rich in vitamin C, like broccoli, berries and red peppers, Buchanan told The Morning Show. Food that contains omega-3 is also good, as it can help reduce inflammation in the brain.
“If you eat a really high-inflammatory diet, you’re more likely to experience stress, depression and anxiety,” he said.
Nutrition is important when it comes to mental health.
Healthy brain foods that can be incorporated into your diet other than fish include lentils, bananas and sweet potatoes.
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These foods play a role in increasing serotonin in the brain, which is a chemical that is known to enhance mood, according to Andrea D’Ambrosio, a dietician at Dietetic Directions.
But don’t put pressure on yourself to drastically change your entire diet, dietitian Tristaca Curley said.
“If you’re feeling in a suboptimal mood, maybe just pick out two of these foods to try in a week because you may not have the energy to overhaul your diet all at once.”
For more tips on sleep and stress management, watch Kyle Buchanan’s tips in the video above.
— With files from Global News’ Dani-Elle Dubé and Carmen Chai