Healthy Ways To Beat Stress

Being busy and feeling “stressed out” has become the new normal for many. Sometimes we don’t even notice, which is kind of scary, right?! But ongoing stress has a dark side and is more than just a by-product of a so called productive lifestyle. Although stress starts in the brain, it affects the entire body and can over time cause some serious disruptions to our body’s natural balance by messing with our hormones, skin health, sleep, digestion, mood, weight and appetite!5 Compared to just a decade ago, I feel like there’s an endless amount of stimulation going on. And it can be so hard to disconnect from it all… From work emails coming in all hours of the day, to cell phones and social media – stress can be hard to avoid and can impact our health and wellbeing in so many ways.

I recently felt she sting of stress in a way I have never felt it before, and after it started to impact my sleep I realised something had to change. So today I’m sharing my favourite ways to fight off stress. Being healthy is not just about what we eat – its about the whole body and having that overall balance that in turn makes us feel and look awesome. I hope this helps you!

stress

1. Eat plenty of stress fighting foods

Research suggests that chronic stress often results in “stress eating”, which involves a greater intake of high energy and sugar rich foods4. Unfortunately these foods do not helps the body in any way but instead often worsen the burden of stress by depressing out immune system even more and causing further hormone imbalances (yes, sugar can absolutely mess with our hormones!). So focusing on stress fighting foods is essential and will help your body on many levels. These foods include, leafy greens (think; spinach, kale, arugula, and chard), omega 3 rich foods (fish, chia seeds, walnut, flax and fish oil supplements), brightly coloured foods full of antioxidants (including; berries, bell pepper, sweet potato, butternut squash, pomegranate) and easy to digest foods, such as avocado, smoothies, stews and soups, are helpful because they don’t require much digestion but contains plenty of readily available nutrients to energise your body. In short, any plant foods are amazing for combating stress as they are full of nutrients that support and protect the body against the damaging effects of stress.

2. Chew your food well

My stomach is one of the first things to play up when I’m feeling stressed. Feeling stressed makes me feel rushed and not very mindful when I’m eating, so reminding myself to chew my food properly is absolutely key and one of the best things I can do! No matter how healthy your food is, if you’re not chewing well your body likely won’t absorb all the nutrients as effectively. Meanwhile, any undigested food particles will only worsen your digestive stress more. As an easy rule to remember, try and chew until your food till its liquid. And never eat when stressed or while multitasking… in other words, try to avoid eating in front of the TV, your phone and computer. Research actually shows that when eating distracted in front of the TV or our phone, we not only impair our digestion but also end up eating more1.

3. Watch your caffeine intake

…and out crowd your coffee and black teas with herbal varieties instead. Herbal teas are caffeine free and soothing to the entire body. Many of them aid digestion as well, and while caffeine from coffee and black teas are irritating to the gut, many herbal teas have calming and healing effects on the stomach. Ginger, peppermint, liquorice and chamomile tea are among my favourites.

4. Go for a walk and prioritise time outside

Sometimes taking a brisk walk outside will is better for reducing stress than a run on a treadmill in a busy and stinking gym. In my experience, simply being outside have such an calming and de-stressing effect on my body, so if even its just for a short time, prioritise getting outdoors.

5. Turn on some music

Listening to your favourite music can be a very helpful tool for managing stress. Research shows that listening to music helps lower the body’s response to stress, making it an easy way to help yourself de-stress2. Another study researched the benefit of relaxing music as compared to silence. Interestingly, results showed that listening to relaxing music was able to stop cortisol (stress hormone) levels from rising, while silence had the opposite effect3.

 

Referenced articles:

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4077693/
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3734071/
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14681158/
  4. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0899900707002493 
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2474765/
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Divine Chocolate Covered Cashew Caramels

Divine Chocolate Cashew Caramels

The word ‘divine’ pretty much sums up exactly how I feel about these chocolate covered raw cashew caramels. After making them dozens of times over the past few weeks, I still can’t believe that they are made from just a few simple ingredients and yet taste like real deal chocolate caramels this much!? I dunno, but they do… and they are ridiculously good. And chances are you probably already have the ingredients needed in your kitchen cupboard! All you need are some raw cashew, soft dates, coconut oil and some dark chocolate. And an S-blade food processor to blend it all up.

Divine Chocolate Cashew Caramels

I always have small treats like these or my raw brownies or energy balls in the freezer to substitute other common sweets. They’re especially great for kids, and have none of the nasty additives (colourings, preservatives, fake sugars, etc.) found in common candies and chocolate bars. While dates do contain natural sugars they also contain fibre, which help balance the release of energy and insulin response. And in combination with the healthy fats from the cashews and coconut oil, you’re not getting hit with a rush of pure fake sugar the same way you do when diving into a common commercial chocolate bar.

There are so many easy and healthier options out there and on this site, so go and check out the Nyoutritious Index under the ‘Healthy Sweets’ section for more inspiration.

Divine Chocolate Cashew Caramels

My son, August, on his 3rd birthday scored some of the offcuts. 

Divine Chocolate Cashew Caramels

Divine Chocolate Covered Cashew Caramels
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Recipe type: Dessert
Author:
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: about 30 caramels (depending on size)
Ingredients
  • 75g raw cashew nuts
  • 75g (approx. 10) soft dates (I recommend soft deglet noir or medjool dates) Dry dates will likely not work for this recipe!
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean or extract (optional)
  • 30g (1 oz) 70% or 85% dark chocolate
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
Instructions
  1. In an S-blade food processor, combine dates, cashews, coconut oil, sea salt and vanilla extract. Process until the mixture starts sticking together and the oils from the nuts are starting to release (you can usually see the mixture becomes shiny and "wet" looking).
  2. Remove the sticky date and cashew mixture from the food processor and place on a piece of non stick parchment paper. Fold the parchment paper over so one end covers the mixture and flatten the mixture using your hands. Shape the mixture to a flat square and place it in the fridge/freezer while you melt the chocolate.
  3. While the date and cashew mixture is cooling down, melt the chocolate and coconut oil in a water bath. The coconut oil helps avoid the chocolate stick to the caramel layer, but is not necessary if you prefer to avoid it.
  4. Once melted, pour over the cooled caramel square and put it back in the freezer to set for minimum 30 mins. Cut the caramels into small squares and store them in the freezer to keep them chewy.

Divine Chocolate Cashew Caramels

I absolutely love seeing all your recreations. Please share them with me via InstagramFacebook and Twitter using #nyoutritious.

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Breakfast Quinoa Loaf

Breakfast Quinoa Loaf

This quinoa loaf is so delicious and a great breakfast solution that is so easy to whip up if you have a little extra cooked quinoa on hand. And you don’t need anything but a plain mixing bowl + a wooden spoon for this one! (minimal clean up is my favourite!) 

As I’ve mentioned before, I like to cook up a few staples each week to have handy in my fridge so all I have to do is literally assemble my lunch or dinner rather than cook everything up every night. This often means I have cooked quinoa ready in the fridge, which comes in handy for this recipe.

In the process of fine tuning the recipe for this I ended up with a lot of extra batches, some of which I sliced and froze for later. Turns out, this loaf freezes super well and is easily heated in the oven for a few minutes, which makes it taste freshly baked!

What’s good about it?

Nutritionally it is full of satisfying nutrition and fibre, which means it gives you a steady supply of energy that will keep you full for longer and help stabilise your blood sugar and minimise sweet cravings. It is naturally dairy and gluten free, which means it is easy for the body to digest and full of unrefined goodness that will leave you feeling energised rather than bloated and sluggish. I love the subtle taste of nutty buckwheat, but it is equally as delicious with almond flour or spelt flour. Check out the substitution notes for exact quantities as the do vary between the different flours.

I love serving this with a little nut butter topped with sliced banana and a few extra walnuts.

I love seeing your recreations so please share yours with me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #nyoutritious.

Enjoy!

Breakfast Quinoa Loaf

Breakfast Quinoa Loaf
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Recipe type: Bread
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 1 loaf (or 8 muffins)
Ingredients
  • 100 gm (1/2 cup / 3 oz) cooked white quinoa
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) nut milk (or other milk alternative)
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 4-6 tbsp natural sweetener (maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar, stevia etc.)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 60 gm (heaped ¼ cup / 2 oz) buckwheat flour (see notes for substitutions)
  • handful (approx. ¼ cup) raisins
  • handful (approx. ¼ cup) chopped hazelnuts (walnuts, almonds and pecans work well too)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 160C
  2. In a bowl, mix cooked quinoa, eggs, sweetener, salt, nut milk and chia seeds and combine well using a wooden spoon.
  3. Leave the mixture to set for a few minutes while measuring the dry ingredients. (This will allow the chia seeds to absorb some of the liquids and thicken up the batter).
  4. Once the batter has thickened up a bit, add the remaining ingredients and combine well.
  5. Line a loaf pan with non-stick parchment paper and slowly pour the batter into the loaf pan. Drizzle with a few extra chopped nuts.
  6. Place the loaf pan in the preheated oven and bake for 30-35 minutes (I used fan force). If you're doing muffins, the baking time with be around 12-15 mins.
Notes
Substitution notes:
Buckwheat flour can be replaced with either;
70 ml (heaped ¼ cup / 5 tbsp) spelt flour
120 ml (1/2 cup) almond flour

 

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Immune Boosting Waldorf Salad

Immune Boosting Waldorf Salad

I have been craving this fresh and bright coloured Waldorf salad all week and thought it was about time I share the love. I love all the crunch from the celery and sweet apples paired with the tart yogurt dressing, which is delicious even on its own. And I love the look of it… which is always a good sign.

While sitting down to write this post I started wondering about who this Waldorf was? I figured there had to be some sort of history attached to the creation of this salad, since it is always known as Waldorf salad. And sure enough… The Waldorf salad was first created in the 1890s at the Waldorf Hotel in New York City – the same hotel we now know as the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. So there you go. A little history lesson accompanied by a recipe. And this is my nutritious twist on it. Minus all the mayonnaise and plus a lot of extra fresh summer coloured vegetables.

Immune Boosting Waldorf Salad

During a regular week, I don’t cook a lot. Instead, I do a whole lot of food assembly. I usually cook up some staples, like quinoa, roasted sweet potato, broccoli and beets and have containers with already washed fresh vegetables; kale, arugula, carrots, cucumber, bell peppers… and so on, ready to be paired up into a meal that will take little more than 10 mins to prepare from start to finish!

As with most recipes on here, you really can give it your own twist and make it suit your needs using what you have on hand. The idea of aiming for food assembly makes healthy eating a lot easier and is often what I do myself and recommend to clients who are busy and/or don’t really enjoy cooking all that much. The only slightly tricky part is to plan for it and take a few hours a week to shop, pre-cook a few staples and organise your fridge to make it easy for yourself in those moments when you’re hungry and don’t have time or energy to start a whole big dinner project.

So if you don’t take anything else away from this post, simply take away the word; food assembly. Aim for that and stop feeling intimidated by eating healthy plant based foods. It really is a lifestyle change, and it may take some getting used to in the planning department, but it is so easy and you’ll soon feel the benefit and find your own rhythm.

Some of you may feel like a salad on its own isn’t enough. I personally find this salad to be quite a satisfying salad, but when serving it as a main meal I usually pair it with protein, such as grilled chicken or fish, or with a some cooked quinoa and feta cheese (a personal favourite combo!) to make it extra satisfying. It makes for a light but at the same time satisfying meal full of nutrients that won’t leave you feeling heavy afterwards.

Immune Boosting Waldorf Salad

Summer Waldorf Salad
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Recipe type: Salad
Author:
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: serves 1-2
Ingredients
Salad
  • 1 butter lettuce (also known as round lettuce)
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 small apple, sliced
  • small handful pomegranate seeds
  • handful walnuts
Dressing
  • ¼ cup yogurt
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (raw, unfiltered)
  • 1½ tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • salt + pepper
  • water to thin if desired
Instructions
  1. Combine all the dressing ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake vigorously until well combined and smooth. Set dressing aside.
  2. Wash and cut all the vegetables and mix together in a bowl.
  3. Pour dressing over the salad and toss to combine.
  4. Top with walnuts and pomegranate seeds and serve.
  5. Store the remaining dressing in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Immune Boosting Waldorf Salad

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