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7 Stress-busting snacks

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Snacks that reduce stress

When stress strikes, do you reach for the first semblance of comfort food in sight, even if you know it's not the healthiest choice? Seeking comfort and relief is a natural response to stressful times, but you don't have to let your need for stress-busting foods destroy your diet. In fact, the following seven snacks will not only satisfy your need for soothing nourishment, but also will deliver their nutrient-rich tastes and textures without making you worry about your waistline.

Blueberry Yougurt

1. Blueberries, almonds and yogurt

Stress makes some people crave salty crunch and sends others to a sweet and creamy escape. A welcoming bowl of sweet blueberries, crunchy roasted almonds and creamy yogurt can satisfy everyone. Blueberries are an excellent source of antioxidants -- particularly vitamin C, a nutrient that may help reduce stress. Almonds are high in B vitamins, zinc and vitamin E, also believed to relieve stress. In addition to creamy comfort, yogurt offers probitics, which can help with digestion, a bodily function that tends to get distressed during times of high anxiety.

2. small tuna sandwich on toasted whole-grain bread

Tuna is probably the last food you may consider when you are overwhelmed with worry. This healthy protein-packed fish, however, is just the thing to help stabilize your blood sugar levels, which rollercoaster in response to stress. Combine a small can of tuna with low-fat mayo with your favorite minced veggies and herbs, and slather it on a thin slice of toasted whole-grain bread for a savory snack that offers heart-healthy omega-3s, stress-busting B vitamins and digestion-friendly fiber.

3. Baked whole-grain chips and spicy salsa

A classic combination, chips and dip are a natural go-to when stress invokes the need to crunch (chomping on something crunchy is a delicious way to release stress). Compared to regular high-fat, fried chips, baked chips give you the tasty opportunity to crunch guilt-free. Even better, a spicy pepper-based salsa is rich in vitamin C and fiber, has immune system-boosting potential, elicits a release of feel-good endorphins (an effect of really hot salsas) and may even rev up your metabolism.

4. Whole-grain cereal and low-fat milk

Another crunchy choice is a bowl of whole-grain cereal topped with milk. Add a handful of nuts and berries for extra nutrition. Choose cereals loaded with B vitamins and fiber,  and opt for low-fat milk to cut down on this snack's calories.

5. Dark chocolate and raspberries

No surprise here: Chocolate ranks high as comfort food. With its intense flavor and melt-in-your-mouth texture, even a nibble of dark chocolate has been shown to boost endorphins and lower blood pressure. Just be sure to limit yourself to a nibble or two so you don't overindulge. Add a handful of fresh raspberries for an extra dose of vitamin C, some B vitamins and fiber.

6. Fruit and yogurt smoothie

Thick, rich and creamy, a fruit and yogurt smoothie will ease an upset tummy and nourish high-strung nerves with vitamins C and B plus an abundance of minerals, probiotics, fiber and protein. Opt for high-antioxidant super-fruits such as blueberries, strawberries or mango, and protein-rich low-fat Greek yogurt. Add a sprinkling of ground nuts for an extra boost in flavor and nutrition. Then sit back, sip and relax.

7. Low-fat creamy vegetable soup

If you tend to shiver when super stressed, a nourishing, steamy bowl of vegetable soup can warm you up and give you a bounty of nutrients to help alleviate your anxiety. Vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals, fiber and other phytochemicals that will help you endure your stressful situations as well as facilitate your recovery. The following recipe offers a creamy consistency thatt stress-worn body and mind. Soup may not be your usual go-to snack, but a small bowl of vegetable-rich soup is one of the most nutritious and filling snacks you can nosh.

Low-fat Creamy Vegetable Soup

Serves 6

Ingredients:
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 cup diced zucchini
1 cup shelled edamame
1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:
1. In a large heavy saucepan, heat olive oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, for 2 to 3 minutes or until onion begins to soften. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, for 1 minute or until garlic is fragrant.

2. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add vegetable broth, a little at a time, stirring constantly. Add carrots, celery, zucchini and edamame. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and allow to simmer for 10 minutes or until vegetables are crisp tender.

3. With a slotted spoon, remove 1-1/2 cups of the vegetables and transfer to a blender. Add the milk and puree. Add puree to the soup and stir to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until well heated through. Serve topped with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

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