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Everyone has their own way of coping with stress. Sure, exercise, meditation, and spending time doing activities you love are great for combating stress -- but more often than not, the only thing we want to do is eat. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, what you snack on can actually help curb your stress, control your mood, and make you feel better almost instantly! So we talked with Marilyn Tanner, RD, a Missouri-based spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, and asked her to recommend her favorite stress-busting snack ideas.A Fresh Banana
These fruit favorites are the perfect choice when you're feeling stressed. That's because they contain potassium and vitamin B6, both stress-fighting substances. What's more, "bananas are easy on a stressed-out system, filling, and sweet," says Tanner. Because our bodies naturally crave sugar when we're under stress, that sweet taste is a healthy bonus!
Recommended serving size: 1 medium banana
When you're stressed, you want to feel soothed, and nothing soothes a system like carbohydrates. Baked tortilla chips combat stress because they're a great source of low-fat carbs. What's more, your body needs more vitamin C when it's stressed, so adding a half-cup of vitamin-C-packed salsa makes perfect sense.
Recommended serving size: 1 ounce of baked chips and a half-cup of salsa
Calories: about 135
These packaged bars were made for breakfast, but they're a great snack when you're feeling overwhelmed, too! Made with fruity fillings and whole grains, cereal bars give you the carbohydrate-loaded sweet sensations you crave when stressed. But because they're fortified with vitamins and minerals, they're a nutrition boost, too, providing extra calcium and iron -- which your body needs when it's stressed.
Recommended serving size: 1 bar
Calories: about 140
Stress does a number on the minerals in your body, depleting things like magnesium, iron, and zinc, says Tanner. Black bean soup is an excellent source of all of these important minerals. Even better, a warm bowl of soup takes a while to eat, so enjoying it forces you to sit down, breathe, and become calm.
Recommended serving size: 1 cup of canned, fat-free soup
"A latte has the package of nutrients your body needs for energy and to combat stress," says Tanner, referring to the calcium and protein in the milk. Choose a decaf version, since caffeine can make you feel anxious and interfere with sleep, which is crucial to get when you're under stress. And go fat free, as some studies have shown that a high-fat diet suppresses the immune system (something that stress already does to your body).
Recommended serving size: 1 16-ounce decaf nonfat latte
Ever notice how you want something crunchy to eat when you're feeling tense? The crunch we usually get from unhealthy snacks like potato chips is cathartic and it relieves tension, says Tanner. To get the same crunch in a healthy way, try baby carrots. They're packed with beta-carotene, too, which becomes depleted in your body when you're stressed. You can add some nonfat sour cream dip for extra tension-taming calcium.
Recommended serving size: 1 cup baby carrots with 2 tbsp. nonfat sour cream dip
Calories: about 75
This snack has got it all: Carbs, in the form of grains and dried fruit, to calm your mood; calcium to build your stress-depleted stores; and a sweet, satisfying taste to make your taste buds happy. What more could you ask for?
Recommended serving size: 1 slice of raisin bread with 1 tbsp. fat-free cream cheese
Originally published on FitnessMagazine.com, January 2006.