Improving Health


Covid-19 & Stress Eating: How to Eat Well Under Stress

Posted by Katrina Christianson on April 21, 2020

Many people look to food for comfort during stressful times such as these. Managing your stress, emotions and eating habits is important to stay well. Here are some helpful tips on how to eat well and stay well, even during stressful times. 

Are you thinking about what you're thinking about? 

It's hard not to focus on the negative things happening around us right now. But what if you told yourself to find and focus on five positive things every day? Take some time to identify the silver linings and express gratitude for all that is going well. Are you

spending more quality time with family? Are you honing your culinary skills and cooking more meals at home? Are you able to devote what used to be your commute time to restorative, self-care -such as exercise, or even sleeping a little bit later?

Acknowledging these perks can help redirect your thoughts and put you in a more positive frame of mind. 

Schedule Emotional Check-Ins

Work to cultivate mindfulness of your emotions and behaviors. When a thought or emotion comes up, take a step back, acknowledge it and approach it from a place of curiosity. Think, "isn't that interesting?" Consider how these feelings might affect your behaviors. Carve out some time in the morning and the evening to check in with yourself to see how you are feeling, and then consider the impact that these feelings may have on how you treat yourself and others throughout the day. If the feelings are negative, what are some things you can do to productively process them? Even if you practice mindfulness and work to deflect your attention from the negative to the positive, feeling some stress and anxiety during these uncertain times is normal. The way you cope with those emotions matters! 

Emotional Eating

If you tend to turn to food for comfort when you are feeling stressed or anxious, bringing awareness to that habit or tendency is the first step in curbing it. Acknowledge this tendency without judgement -and then it's time to get to work in trying to address it. 

Turning to Food for Comfort or Distraction

Sometimes, eating can be a welcome distraction from negative thoughts or emotions. If you are eating emotionally or for reasons other than hunger, it is a good idea to consider why you do this. Does eating make you feel safe and secure? The smell and taste of certain foods can make us nostalgic for our childhood or warm, happy memories. If you have a favorite comfort food but it's not the healthiest, challenge yourself to make a healthier version of this recipe or at least, to stick to a reasonable portion of the original version. It's also worthwhile to explore other sources of comfort -does an afternoon nap, some yummy stretches, or a warm blanket and a good book have the same effect? 

Flavors and Textures

If it's the crunch of a potato chip or the sweet chocolate of a cookie that calls your name when you are feeling stressed, bored or anxious - try to find healthier versions of foods that provide similar flavors or textures. That way, you can satisfy the craving while also delivering health-promoting nutrients. Crunch on crispy vegetables and fruits (radish, jicama, carrots, celery, or apples) whole grain crackers, nuts, trail mix or popcorn. Fruit provides natural sugar that can satisfy a sweet tooth. If you are craving chocolate, opt for a dark chocolate, which will deliver more functional properties and nutrients. Pair with fruit to satisfy your appetite without overdoing it on the chocolate! 

Establishing Healthier Coping Strategies

If you are looking for a sense of calm when feeling overwhelmed, try meditation, movement (like a run or yoga,) taking a bath, or journaling. Try a new hobby that keeps your hands busy. Repetitive movements such as knitting, cooking, coloring or painting can promote self-regulation and self-soothing. Check out the book 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food by Susan Albers, PSYD


Try This Recipe 

Love cheesy pasta? Then try this healthy spin on an otherwise-cheesy-and-gooey dish. This version is lower in saturated fat, dairy-free, loaded with fiber and iron, and absolutely delicious! 

Stuffed Shells 

Recipe by Nicole Fagan Kimble


  • box of jumbo pasta shells 
  • cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed 
  • tsp white miso paste 
  • tbsp nutritional yeast* 
  • box frozen spinach or 10 oz fresh spinach, kale or other green 
  • bunch of fresh basil or 1 tsp dried 
  • jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce 

*Nutritional yeast provides a ton of nutrients and a nutty, cheesy flavor. It can be found at a natural foods store in the bulk foods aisle, baking aisle, or in the spice section. 


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. 
  2. Place the garbanzo beans, miso and nutritional yeast in a food processor. Process until almost smooth -- the consistency will mimic ricotta cheese. If it seems too thick, you can add a tablespoon or two of water. 
  3. Add the spinach and herbs. Pulse a few times to combine well. 
  4. Put about one cup of sauce and . cup of water in the bottom of a 13 x 9 baking dish. Fill each uncooked shell with the filling and place in the dish. Cover with remaining sauce. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 5 minutes. 


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Katrina Christianson

About The Author

Katrina Christianson

Katrina Christianson is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Health Coach at CareATC. She loves helping people achieve their health goals by making gradual behavior and lifestyle changes. Katrina believes in addressing not only the physical but also mental barriers to better health.

Post Topics Healthy Lifestyles, COVID-19