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The Impact of Stress & Mood on our Food Choices

The Impact of Stress & Mood on our Food Choices

by Sinead Belton | 19th Jan 2023

Hunger is the main driver for eating, but when it comes to food choice there are a variety of factors that influence our decisions and preferences. These include biological, economic, physical and social determinants, along with a few others. But today's blog is focusing on the psychological factors that influence our food choice.

Stress

Stress affects us all at some point in our life and how we experience, deal with and respond to that stress varies from person to person. Stress can impact our food choices in a negative way which can lead to adverse health effects, and so it is important to understand the relationship between food and stress.

Some of us may eat more when we are stressed whereas others may lose their appetite altogether and really struggle to eat during periods of stress. Food is fuel for our bodies. Too much has many negative effects and too little affects the daily functions in our bodies, hence the importance of finding the right balance. 

A busy period in work may coincide with increased food consumption or unhealthy food choices. At times like this convenience foods are what we tend to gravitate towards. Our range of tasty and nutritious meals are delivered straight to your door or office, so all you need to do is heat and eat - it doesn’t get more convenient than that! Having healthy, nutritious meals prepared in advance of a busy period will ensure that you can still fuel your body with nutritious meals with ease. 

What foods should we eat when stressed?

Salmon is just a great food all round. It contains Omega-3 fatty acids which provide anti-inflammatory properties. Including salmon in your diet is beneficial for your brain, nervous system and it can also help to prevent feelings of anxiety or depression which may arise during periods of high stress.

Chickpeas are packed full of vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, selenium and zinc. All of these vitamins and minerals help our bodies to fight stress. As they are a plant protein, chickpeas are great for brain health which is important when you experience periods of high stress. 

Wholegrain carbohydrates such as wholemeal pasta, rice or bread and sweet potatoes. These delicious carbs help to increase levels of serotonin, a hormone that can reduce stress and lift our mood. When we experience stress it can be hard to concentrate and make decisions. Serotonin helps with this by allowing us to have better focus and concentration, both essential when we are stressed. 

Struggling to eat?

If you find that you really struggle to consume three main meals when you are experiencing stress, why not try eating small quantities of food often such as healthy snacks. Having some healthy alternatives on hand will ensure you are still providing your body with the nutrients it requires. You may feel that snacking often is easier for you than sitting down for the main meals each day. Check out the list below for some healthy snack ideas!

- Hummus and veg sticks (carrots, celery, peppers)

- Greek yoghurt with fruit/nuts and a square or two of dark chocolate

- Banana on a slice of brown bread

- Scrambled egg/beans with a slice of brown bread/whole-grain toast

- Homemade smoothie with berries, veg, seeds, and yoghurt/nut butter

- Oat/whole grain crackers with hummus/pesto/salmon with tomatoes/cucumber

Mood

Mood and food go hand in hand. Our mood can influence our food choices and our food choices simultaneously can influence our mood.

It can be so tempting to reach for sugary, high fat foods and snacks when you're feeling down, but there are a long list of healthy alternatives that can provide your body with the same mood boosting characteristics. Always aim for wholesome foods even when your mood is low as it will benefit your mood and health in the long run.

Check out some of these mood boosting foods!

Eggs - Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin and eggs are full of it! Our bodies are low in vitamin D during the winter months and as the weather gets colder and the days shorter, our mood can take a big hit. Ensure you're getting enough vitamin D to help keep that mood up!

Chocolate - We all say that chocolate makes us happy but it really does. Endorphins and anandamide are boosted by a number of compounds found in chocolate. It can improve mood and cognition, plus it’s a rich source of antioxidants, iron and magnesium to help us relax.

Oats - Small but mighty! Oats contain fibre which helps to stabilise blood sugar levels. The fibre content allows for the slow release of energy which in turn keeps your energy levels stable and reduces feelings of fatigue or low mood. We love to include oats in our 400kCal Breakfasts so you can enjoy a delicious brekkie full of fibre.

What Now?

The various stresses we experience and our mood can both have significant effects on our food choices. Knowing this may provide reassurance during periods when our eating habits seem abnormal and potentially out of control. Acknowledging that you may be stressed out or your mood might be off will allow you to provide yourself with some solace that your regular food choices have not permanently changed.

If you struggle with choosing what foods to eat, meal planning and prepping may work wonders for you. Having healthy, delicious food ready to eat can really help during periods of stress and low mood. That's where GourmetFuel can help! Our team of Nutritionists and Chef's create and prepare healthy, delicious meals and deliver them straight to your door! Check out our Online Shop for our extensive range of delicious meals!

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