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February 2013
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When life gets hard it is oh-so tempting to grab something sweet, salty, greasy, or crunchy — and all too often, high in calories. Here’s what to eat instead, to boost energy and ease tension without widening your waistline.

Traffic Jam Stress

Stress Case: You were stuck in a Saturday afternoon traffic jam and now you’re home, ravenous and on edge. Standing in front of the fridge, you prepare to dive into last night’s leftover Chinese.

Mellow Meal: Mix 1 tablespoon reduced-calorie mayo with 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish. Spread over 2 slices of rye bread and top with 3 ounces lean roast beef, lettuce, tomato, and red onion. Enjoy with a crisp apple — the crunchier the better — for chewing away any lingering stress. (418 calories; 10g fat; 2g saturated fat)

Morning Stress:

Stress Case: Your kids drag their feet, so you barely get them to school on time. Starving and mad, you’re ready to hit the drive-thru.

Mellow Meal: Top a whole wheat bagel with 2 teaspoons honey mustard, 2 slices of tomato, and 2 ounces of smoked salmon. (410 calories; 8g fat; 1g saturated fat)

Checkout Stress

Stress Case: It’s your day to bring snacks to soccer. When you stop by the grocery store you find the world’s longest checkout line. While waiting, you want to grab a candy bar.

Mellow Meal: Put together a stash of premade packs to keep in your pantry, and there will always be one ready to grab on your way out the door. In a plastic bag, toss 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds with 1/4 cup dried cherries. (165 calories; 4g fat; 0g saturated fat)

Work-Related Stress

Stress Case: You’re wrapping things up at work when your boss dumps a new project on your desk. Searching for something to tide you over for another hour, you head to the vending machine.

Mellow Meal: Buy baby carrots already in snack packs. Divvy up a big bag of almonds into small resealable bags. Aim for 15 carrots and 15 almonds per bag. While almonds are loaded with healthy fats, you can go overboard if you consume too many. (165 calories; 10g fat; 0g saturated fat)

Dinner Stress

Stress Case: You spend the afternoon shuttling your kids to and from activities. With no time to prepare a healthy dinner, you consider just nuking a frozen lasagna from a box.

Mellow Meal: Boil one 16-ounce box of whole wheat ziti until tender. Microwave frozen vegetables until thawed: 2 cups peas, 2 cups broccoli, and 2 cups sliced red peppers. Drain ziti and toss with 3 cups marinara sauce and the veggies. Top with 1/2 cup 2% shredded mozzarella cheese and microwave again until cheese is melted. Serves 6. (470 calories; 9g fat; 3g saturated fat)

Midnight Stress

Stress Case: It’s 12:30 a.m. and your teen was supposed to be home at midnight. As you sit worrying at the kitchen table, that pint of ice cream in the freezer calls your name.

Mellow Meal: Spoon half of an 8-ounce container of nonfat yogurt into a bowl (check the label to make sure it has several strains of live bacteria — it will probably say something like “live and active cultures”). Top with 1/2 cup strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries (fresh or frozen will do). Spoon remaining yogurt over fruit and top with 1 tablespoon low-fat granola. (167 calories; 1g fat; 0g saturated fat)

The Alcohol Equation

If you like to unwind with a glass of wine or a cocktail at the end of a hectic day, be sure to keep an eye on how much you drink. The good news is that one daily serving of alcohol (5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1 1/2 ounces of 80-proof spirits) can lower your risk of heart disease. “But drinking more than one glass may impair your reasoning ability,” says nutritionist Cindy Moore. “When you’re already stressed you don’t want to do anything to further cloud your judgment.” Knocking back a couple of drinks can also derail your diet. Not only is the alcohol itself high in calories, but you’re also apt to eat more than usual because you lose your willpower.

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