Having a varied diet and eating nutrient rich food is important at all times but during stressful times this becomes vital. When we are under pressure, eating often becomes an afterthought as we reach for junk food or a quick fix like crisps, often eating quickly at our desks or even worse on the way to the next meeting. Eating slowly, even grazing, simple easily digressed foods like salads and cooked fresh vegetables in small portions would be much better for you. These can still be delicious but work with the body not fight it.
I am not a chef or a nutritionist, but have taken advice from both, most of what I know, I have learnt from getting it wrong. Any extreme diets should only ever be taken under medical or trained supervision. However, I can offer a few small tips, which have worked for me and my friends.
We often crave the wrong foods (I know I do) like high calorie cakes and snacks high in sugar and salt. But these highly processed foods are not recognized by the body so cannot be broken down which leads to digestive complaints and food intolerances as well as weight gain. Caffeine is addictive we all know that, but it also is dehydrating so the more of it you drink the more dehydrated you become. Staying well hydrated with water or swapping out a couple of your usual tea and coffees with herbal drinks will make a difference. If your intake of caffeine is high reduce gradually rather that stopping overnight unless you were advised to do so, because you can get terrible headaches and even nausea if you stop abruptly.
Stress in the body can be due to nutritional deficiencies so a poor diet could make you more stressed. When digestion is poor you miss out on vital nutrients and become malnourished. Digestion needs energy and when your energy is focused elsewhere food can only be partially digressed, allowing toxins to build up and cause bowel problems like IBS and constipation.
Eating better will not take away the stress but having a diet that makes you feel better from the inside out and gives you energy is a great tool for combatting the stress in your life and cooking in itself is stress- relieving and enjoyable. Making your own meals can be cheaper and processed foods contain hidden sugar and salts. By batch cooking you can fill your freezer and fridge with healthier meals that can be reheated when needed.
There are some great books and online websites to help you find recipes to follow: I like Michael Mosley, Deliciously Ella, Joe Wicks, Grizzi Erskine and the BBC good food guide but there are plenty more to explore.
I have been a vegetarian on and off since I was a teenager, so I do know that there are some positives and negatives to following this diet and whether to eat meat or animal products is a personal choice. However, when the body is stressed, meat, particularly red meat, can become very hard to digest so reducing the amount of meat or swapping some meals with a high protein source like Quinoa (this deserves its own post) or trying a plant- based meal can nourish the body and assist in healing.
One of the most important meals of the day is breakfast and taking time to enjoy this time is very important. Slow releasing Carbohydrates, with a small amount of protein and some healthy fat will keep you full for longer and less likely to crave biscuits or sweets mid-morning. I tend to start my day with Porridge, oats or Quinoa with either chia seeds, flax seeds, goji berries, kiwi, blueberries, banana, apple, sunflower seeds, coconut, dates, prunes, Greek yoghurt and honey. I try different combinations to supercharge my morning. Eggs can also be a great start to the day.
Home- made soups are perfect for lunch and adding pulses like Lentils, Pearl Barley or Butter Beans give extra protein, fibre and complex carbohydrates. In warmer weather Hummus is very easy to make and has many variations just add carrot sticks, celery, an apple and oatcakes. A light evening meal like grilled chicken or fish with salad or vegetables not taken to late in the evening finishes off the day. ( Eating late at night can cause problems with digestion and stop you from sleeping)
I remember meeting a nutritionist several years ago who recommended eating only boiled brown rice and a small amount of steamed vegetables as a suitable diet and thought at the time it was hardly an encouragement to eat healthier food as it sounded very unapealling. Today we see a colourful array of varied ingredients which make up tasty food that we love to eat and our body’s love too.
I will post some of favourites for you!