Seanna Thomas: ABC Kitchen


What to Eat When You're Too Stressed to Even Think About Food

Don't stress-eat, eat to lower stress!


I consider myself a very calm person.

I’m optimistic, positive, and happily let stuff just roll off my back.

I’m glad to be designed this way, because I really don’t like feeling stressed. But…as we all know, life happens. Stress happens. And we start to feel…overwhelmed.

It happens to everyone. And recently, it happened to me.

In September, my 37 year-old husband was diagnosed with thyroid cancer that had spread to his lymph nodes. This was after a month of tests, scans, and waiting. Lots of waiting…which meant not knowing. ENTER STRESS.

I have never felt overwhelmed in my life like I did for the month leading up to, and after, his surgery. Taking care of him, our three kids, managing moods, appointments, school, hockey, and keeping everyone calm and happy and normal was exhausting. Did I mention I’m also starting a business? Or that my son had a hockey tournament in a different city the same weekend my husband was in hospital? Or that my daughter has decided now is a really excellent time to push ALL. THE. BUTTONS.

Or that on Sunday night I forgot they had school the next day and had nothing prepared for them to eat? Or for me to eat?

Feeling overwhelmed doesn’t have to come from a family crisis. Stress can happen from a bad day at work or just the thought of the holidays. Anything, really. 

The foods that you eat can have a major impact on your mood, and can even improve feelings of stress or feeling overwhelmed. Let your meals help you stay calm, when your life may be exploding all around you.

I’m breaking down the best foods to eat to keep your mind and body calm so you can make it through to the other side of a stressful situation. Incorporating even a couple of these foods into your daily life will help you manage your stress levels.


Your mind and body are connected. If your belly is happy, your brain will be too. Probiotics are the happy bacteria that you need in your gut to absorb nutrients and fight infection. Find probiotics in yogurt and fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, and miso soup.

Magnesium containing foods

Magnesium is a calming mineral that can help prevent anxiety and stress. Foods containing magnesium include dark, leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale. Oats and quinoa are a good source as well as nuts, seeds (pumpkin and sesame), bananas and green beans.

Green Leafy Vegetables

As well as containing magnesium, these powerhouse leaves also contain folate which regulates your mood by producing serotonin and dopamine (which keep you happy). Starting your day with a green smoothie is starting your day off happy.

Dark chocolate

You bet chocolate makes you feel better! It might all be in your head, or it might be lower amounts of cortisol in your bloodstream. The flavanols in dark chocolate have shown to slow the release of cortisol (a stress hormone) making dark chocolate a perfect choice to de-stress. Just make sure it’s dark (72% or more) because a high sugar intake has been known to increase stress levels.

Vitamin C and D

Vitamin C containing foods can lower stress hormones while keeping you healthy. Being sick or having a compromised immune system can cause stress on your body that certainly won't help with any feelings of being overwhelmed. Being able to perform at your best is part of dealing with stress so make sure you’re getting your vitamin C from fresh fruits and vegetables such as oranges, peppers, broccoli, strawberries and kale.

Vitamin D may not be a “food” but it’s certainly an important element in staying healthy and strong. You can find it in eggs, salmon and fortified dairy products but the best source is the sun. Even in the winter, we need to get some sunshine in our life. You know how happy and calm you feel in the middle of the summer when you’re at a cottage, barbecuing with your friends? It’s not just the beer, it’s the sunshine-y vitamin D making you feel happy and calm.

I know it’s easier to give in to wine and ice cream (or straight up tequila and sticks of butter) when you’re feeling stressed (trust me…I UNDERSTAND), but eating foods to lower stress will keep your body on track even if your mind takes a little while to catch up. Be prepared, and instead of grabbing a pudding pack from your kids lunch when you’re hungry, make a smoothie, or an omelet full of vegetables and know you’re doing your body a favour.

When all is said and done, a glass of wine or cookie every once in a while won’t hurt. The last thing you want to do is add MORE stress about food into your life. It’s all about balance and doing the best you can. Deep breaths, you can do this!

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