When stress rears its ugly head, people tend to reach for chocolate, candy, chips and fast food. A smaller percentage will skip meals entirely and work solely on adrenaline, leading to the inability to make wise food choices later in the day.

What the body craves and needs when the going gets tough are the vitamins and nutrients found in fresh, wholesome foods. We’ve put together a list of satisfying snack foods and easy recipes that will help reduce stress and lower blood pressure throughout the work day.

(Consider doubling recipes and sharing. Studies have shown that feeding your boss can lead to promotions, fatter paychecks and a significant decrease in stress.)

Here are some stress-relieving foods:

Blueberry Oatmeal Breakfast


  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 and three-fourths cup water
  • One-half teaspoon cinnamon
  • One-half teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon milled flaxseed, optional
OatmealPreparation: Bring water to boil in small pot; stir in oats. Cook about five minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. For creamier oatmeal, combine oats with water before bringing to a boil. Add berries, cinnamon, cloves and flaxseed.

Oatmeal is a complex carbohydrate, perfect to satisfy a carb craving any time of day. It’s also a healthy fiber source of serotonin that absorbs slowly in the body, making the serotonin mood boost last longer.

High anti-oxidant foods, including red beans, blueberries and cranberries, counter the effect of stress hormones; Ground cloves, cinnamon, and oregano are also rich in antioxidants, so shake on a generous dose of these spices.

Mid-Morning Snack Mix


  • One-half cup dried cranberries
  • One-half cup dark chocolate chunks
  • One-half cup almonds
  • One-half cup walnuts
  • One-half cup pistachios
  • One-half cup sunflower seeds
Preparation: Mix all ingredients and place in resealable bag or container. Divide into half-cup single serve portions to avoid overeating this nutritious, yet higher fat mix.

Snacking on nuts and seeds in moderation can help lower blood pressure and keep it from spiking to dangerous levels. Pistachios help lower blood pressure, and almonds contain vitamin B and E, which help make the body more resilient during stressful moments. Sunflower seeds help the body produce dopamine, a feel-good chemical produced by the brain.

VegetablesStress Fighting Afternoon Snacks

A few ideas for what to eat in the afternoon:

  • Fresh oranges
  • Carrot, pepper, cucumbers, Jicama, celery, sliced
  • Salsa, hummus, or fat-free yogurt dip
The vitamin C found in oranges fights free radicals associated with stress and strengthens the immune system. Fresh fruits and vegetables also provide fiber to fill you up and curb cravings for unhealthy snacks.

Crudités are a great way to get a satisfying crunch without the fat and salt of chips. Munching on veggie sticks can also help release a jaw clenched from tension and prevent headaches. The trick is to prepare the veggies before stress sets in so they’ll be ready to eat and easier to access than the vending machine or convenience store.

Relaxing Beverages

In the mood for a drink? Here are some that will help you relax:

  • Chamomile tea, honey, ice cubes
  • Skim milk, dark chocolate syrup
  • Low-fat milk, fresh or frozen fruit
Iced or hot Chamomile tea sweetened with honey will provide a slow release sugar along with anti-oxidants. The chamomile relaxes stomach tension and general anxiety, and contains phenethylamine, the mood elevator found in dark chocolate.

Got stress? If you’ve got milk, it can help. The high calcium levels in skim milk can help reduce muscle spasms, soothe tension and ease anxiety. If you can’t drink milk straight up, add a squirt of dark chocolate syrup, or blend it up with some fresh or frozen fruit for a cool smoothie.

Power Lunch

Looking for a mid-day boost? Here’s a great lunch recipe featuring salmon and salad.

Main course:

  • 4 oz salmon fillet
  • squirt of honey
  • dash black pepper
  • dash garlic powder
Salad ingredients:
  • 5-6 leaves kale or Romaine leaves
  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves
  • One-half cup cooked asparagus, bias sliced
  • yellow pepper, thinly sliced
  • One-half cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • One-half avocado, cut in chunks
  • One-quarter cup walnut oil
  • 1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • One-half red onion, finely chopped
  • pepper and garlic powder to taste
SalmonPreparation: Spread honey over salmon and sprinkle on spices. Bake at 375 degrees until it flakes easily. For salad, combine kale, spinach, tomato, avocado and yellow pepper. Place all dressing ingredients into a bottle, shake well, and drizzle over salad. Serve with salmon fillet.

A small piece of salmon – rich in Omega-3 fatty acids – can help reverse symptoms of stress by boosting serotonin levels. Omega-3s also help suppress the production of anxiety hormones cortisol and adrenaline.

The magnesium found in leafy greens, such as spinach or kale, improves the body’s response to stress. Asparagus is high in folic acid, which helps to stabilize mood. Avocado is a good fat that provides plenty of potassium to help lower blood pressure.

Photos: norwichnuts/Flickr;[cipher]/Flickr; gkdavie/Flickr

In the comments section below, let us know which are your favorite foods to fight stress.