Foods that Help Calm Holiday Stress

By: Jacqueline Gomes, RDN, MBA

Holiday stress…we all know it well. Between the shopping, prepping and cooking, your energy levels may be less than optimal. If you’re feeling like your energy hits below zero mid afternoon or you feel cranky or even spacey once 2 or 3pm hits, it may be time to recharge your diet! Help calm stress and maximize your energy throughout the holiday season by choosing the right foods!

Small, healthy meals and snacks can actually improve your energy levels. The key is to include both protein and complex carbohydrates to keep your energy level high throughout the day.


Foods that help reduce stress and anxiety…

  1. Complex Carbohydrates will increase levels of serotonin, a brain chemical that gives you feelings of wellbeing.

Foods to Choose: Oatmeal, whole grain breads and crackers, brown rice, whole grain pasta

  1. Vitamin C: A study showed that vitamin C can help reduce both the physical and psychological effects of stress on people.(1)

Foods to Choose: Oranges, bell peppers, tomatoes, apples, strawberries, blue berries

  1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: One study found those subjects who received omega-3 fatty acids showed a 20% reduction in anxiety symptoms compared to controls. (2)

Foods to Choose: Salmon, Cod Fish, Mackerel, Tuna

  1. Nuts: Nuts such as almonds are rich in vitamin E to help strengthen the immune system and B-vitamins, which may help make you recover more quickly during stressful events.

Foods to choose: Almonds, walnuts, peanuts, pistachios

  1. Exercise: Although not a food, exercise is a time honored stress reducer! Exercise released those “feel-good” hormones called endorphins. Aim for 30 minutes three to four days per week.

Exercises to try: Dancing, kickboxing, jogging, walking,


Quick & Easy Stress relieving snacks…

  • Sliced apple with 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • Turkey and tomato on 1 slice of whole-wheat bread
  • Low-fat cottage cheese and a peach or pear
  • One hard-boiled egg and a piece of fruit
  • 1/3 cup unsalted almonds and ¼ cup dried apricots
  • A yogurt and fruit smoothie
  • ¼ cup Hummus and baby carrots
  • 1 ½ ounce Reduced fat cheese and 5 whole grain crackers



(1) Psychology Today

(2) Brain Behav Immun. 2011 Nov; 25(8): 1725-1735


Slow Cooker Raisin Nut Oatmeal

Makes: 6 Servings


  • 3-1/2 cups fat-free milk
  • 1 large apple, peeled and chopped
  • 3/4 cup steel-cut oats
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 4-1/2 teaspoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped almonds



  1. In a 3-quart slow cooker coated with cooking spray, combine the first eight ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours or until liquid is absorbed. Spoon oatmeal into bowls; sprinkle with pecans.


Recipe note: You may substitute 1-1/2 cups quick-cooking oats for the steel-cut oats and increase the fat-free milk to 4-1/2 cups.