When stress and anxiety start eating at you, it's natural to want to gnaw your way through a batch of cookies or heaping pot of pasta. Carbohydrates are instant comfort food, but you don't have to derail your slim-down-for-spring desires just because you've got a hefty tax season bill. Instead of carb-loading on refined flour products, reach for whole grains to calm your nerves. Brown rice, wild rice, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, oats, polenta, bulgur, barley and popcorn are just a handful of whole grain goods that will satisfy your need for comfort food while also giving you a healthy dose of fiber, vitamins and minerals. Whole grains will not only stick with you longer than processed white flour foods, they will also boost your serotonin levels to help you chill out in the midst of a "taxing" time.
Before you raid the candy bar aisle at the supermarket, head to the bulk section and buy raw nuts and dried fruit to make a healthy trail mix loaded with nutrition sans the sugar, sodium, preservatives and oils found in most commercial brands. Throw in a generous serving of dark chocolate chunks to give your insatiable sweet tooth something to chew on. Pack single servings of your homemade trail mix in your bag and snack on it when your mind gets tax tunnel vision. Trail mix will give you a boost of B vitamins, which naturally help take the edge off, and can aid in lowering blood pressure.
A low-calorie but nutrient-dense source of stress-relief, dark leafy greens deliver folic acid and a bevy of antioxidants and other phytochemicals that can ease stress and anxiety as well as improve your mood. If you are a stress-induced volume eater, fill up on spinach, chard, kale, dark leaf lettuce, fresh herbs and other dark green veggies. Because they are low in calories and high on bulk, you'll feel satisfied without widening your waist.
Salmon is a great catch when you're reeling over your taxes. Teeming with quality protein and omega-3 fatty acids, salmon is not only a heart-healthy food, it can help keep your cortisol levels from going off the chart (cortisol is a hormone that rises when you are under stress) and lift your spirits. Bake, broil or grill salmon and dig in with a side of brown or wild rice and a green salad to give yourself a tax-coping trifecta of stress-relieving eats.
Warm, filling and loaded with carbohydrates, a baked potato also supplies a whopping dose of potassium, which can help lower your blood pressure. Potatoes can also naturally increase your serotonin levels to improve your mood. Bake a small potato and top it with sauteed leafy greens, smoked salmon and a dollop of plain Greek-style yogurt, for a tasty, balanced and stress-relieving meal.
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