Foods to Calm Holiday Stress

By: Jacqueline Gomes, RDN, MBA

Holiday stress…we all know well. Between all the purchasing, 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! Maximize your energy throughout the holiday season and choose the right snacks to maximize your energy!

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.


Mood-boosting foods to choose:

  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. Dark Chocolate: Chocolate is known to have many health benefits through the presence of flavanoid antioxidants and ability to increase serotonin levels. New research is demonstrating that consuming chocolate may help to improve mood and easing depressive symptoms.

Foods to choose: 60% dark chocolate or more


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


Almond Joy Oats

a bowl of cooked oats with almonds and chocolate chips

Total time: 5 minutes

Makes: 1 Serving 


  • 1/3 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1 tbsp dark chocolate chips
  • 2 Tbsp slivered almonds
  • 6 oz. fat free coconut flavored Greek yogurt



  1. Cook oatmeal with water according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, toast almonds in a skillet
  3. Stir yogurt into cooked oats, top with chocolate chips followed by toasted almonds.


Nutrition Information:

350 Calories; 23g carbohydrate; 12g fat; 17g Protein; 3g dietary fiber, 175mg sodium

Recipe by: Jacqueline Gomes, RDN