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The best snacks to beat stress

Last-minute holiday shopping, dinner with the in-laws, office parties — this time of year can push your stress level to red alert. Now is the time to nourish your body with adequate sleep and good nutrition.

whole grain cookies

The right snacks will go a long way toward conquering seasonal anxiety. So bring on the mistletoe!

Snacks can be our worst offenders when we’re trying to manage the get-it-done list and keep stress at bay. While those mini snack bags of low-fat cookies seem harmless enough, the high sugar count and empty calories won’t help. You need quality snacks to keep your system fueled between meals and maintain your energy and good judgment. No one wants to snap at old Aunt Sadie when she scolds you about how short that gold shimmer skirt is.

Here are some top snacks to keep you humming right along (with all those Christmas carols):

Stress less with whole-grain cookies and energy bars

Carbohydrates increase the levels of feel-good serotonin in your brain, much like a natural anti-anxiety fix. Whole grains provide carbohydrates that are absorbed more slowly by your body, so the serotonin flows more steadily, too. And steady as she goes is the best way to navigate the holiday season! Ideally, whip up some homemade cookies or bars so you can control the ingredients or look for low-sugar, whole-grain products at the grocery.

Bite into an apple to keep blood sugar levels even

Always a sure bet for cold and flu prevention, apples have a lot to offer. They suppress appetite so you won’t reach for that bag of Doritos, and a new study out of the University of Iowa has found that these beauties contain ursolic acid, a compound that increases metabolism-revving muscle mass. Eat as many as you please and keep that holiday weight gain at bay. Try slicing yours and spreading with peanut butter for extra protein to carry you through to dinnertime.

Slow down and sip that coconut water

It’s trendy, sure, but toting a small carton of coconut water when you’re heading to the mall is a smart tactic to keep you cool and collected. Without proper hydration, you’ll get hungry and flustered. Coconut water is like a natural Gatorade, with the simple carbohydrates (sugar) and electrolytes (minerals including potassium and magnesium), but without refined sugars. Bonus: It contains no fat and is low in calories, and the taste is refreshing.

walnutsThe tension-taming power of walnuts

Foods rich in omega-3s can help make you feel calm and relaxed. While salmon and other fatty fish are great sources, walnuts are a portable, convenient choice to get your dose. If you like your nuts roasted to bring out the flavor, do it yourself and forgo the additives and sodium in some store-bought packages. Put the walnuts in a pie plate in a 160 degree oven for 15 minutes, stirring halfway through the cooking time.

Take a relaxing dip in guacamole

Oh, the mighty avocado! This nutrition superstar contains healthy fats to keep you full, so you can avoid those carb and sugar cravings, which send your mood and blood sugar levels reeling. Make your own guacamole with avocado, chopped tomato and onion, garlic and fresh lime juice. Add a hit of cayenne pepper for heat: The capsaicin in cayenne boosts blood flow and circulation. Pair it with a handful of whole-wheat crackers — the fiber in the crackers is another energy booster — and enjoy your creamy, crunchy snack combo.

More tips to eat to beat stress

How acupuncture can conquer your holiday stress
Foods for good moods and energy
Foods that rev up your energy

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