- Indigestion. This can result from eating in the middle of a stressful situation, as the digestive system is not relaxed. It also can be due to eating on the run, so always sit down to eat and eat more slowly, chewing food properly. You will then really taste and enjoy your meals and snacks.
- Bloating. As we all know, bloating is unpleasant, and stressful in itself. It could be triggered by wheat products (bread, pasta, cakes and biscuits) and dairy products (milk, cheese, butter and cream), so try cutting out each food group for a couple of weeks to see if the problem eases.
- Caffeine dependency. Relying on caffeine to keep you going is a bad idea. It raises stress hormones and can lead to insomnia and dehydration, affecting your body’s ability to handle stress. There are many delicious caffeine-free alternatives, such as herb teas.
- Hangovers. No one functions well with a hangover, so drinking heavily will lead to trouble the following day. This does not mean that you need to avoid alcohol completely, just be aware of its effects, and resist using it regularly as a coping technique.
- Cravings. These often hit during the ‘post-lunch dip’, and increase at hormonal times and under stress. To curb your cravings, include small portions of the craved item into your usual diet, rather than trying to resist completely. Or distract yourself by getting involved in something else, and the craving may pass. Keep healthy food nearby, and do not wait too long between snacks.
- Sugar highs and lows. Although the brain needs glucose to enable it to perform effectively, very sugary foods cause your blood sugar level to spike and then plummet, leaving you sleepy and lethargic. This can lead to another sweet craving, and the cycle continues.
Theory into Practice
Some tips on improving your diet:
- Breakfast. Aim always to eat breakfast, even if you can only manage a piece of fruit. Fruit smoothies make a great choice for breakfast. They can be made with various combinations of fruits and with or without yogurt. Be adventurous by adding vegetables or spices.
- Lunch and the evening meal. Healthy options include baked potatoes with baked beans or tuna, sushi, vegetable soup, whole-grain sandwiches or salads. In restaurants, baked fish or chicken with vegetables are good choices. Or go for pasta with a tomato-based sauce.
- In-between. To sustain your energy, snack on healthy food throughout the day. This calls for a little planning. Bring a banana, yogurt, nuts and raisins, a few oatcakes or a bagel to work to have handy.
- Drinks. Cut down on stimulants such as coffee, tea, and soda as much as you can. Trade them for decaffeinated coffee or tea, 100 percent fruit juice and herb teas. Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration and protect your kidneys.
- Alcohol.Alcohol supplies little to no nutrients. Women should have no more than seven alcoholic drinks a week, and men no more than 14. Attempt to match each alcoholic drink with a glass of water or juice.
- Supplements. Consider a vitamin and mineral supplement to replace the nutrients depleted by stress, particularly the B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium and zinc. Herbal supplements to aid digestion include liquorice root, aloe vera, lemongrass and kava kava. Mint, dandelion, fennel, ginger, slippery elm and meadowsweet teas help digestion.