Most of us don’t eat right when we’re stressed. Rationally, we know we should, but then the pressure hits and we’re grabbing food on the run, skipping meals and overdosing on premium ice cream and jumbo bags of potato chips.

Yet eating right during stressful times is particularly important because stress affects how we use what we eat. When you’re stressed, your body absorbs fewer nutrients as it excretes more, thus increasing your need for the vitamins and minerals found in nutrient-rich foods.

Eating the right foods helps us cope with these changes and ensures that we have the ammunition we need to fight the energy-draining effects of stress. Not only can a well-balanced diet help during times of stress, but how well we eat before a stressful event also plays a role in how we handle that event.

To avoid putting any more stress on you with complicated lists of nutritional guidelines, follow these four rules:

Forgo coffee. Caffeine only aggravates stress. Just a cup or two of coffee, or any other caffeinated beverage, such as tea or cola, can escalate feelings of anxiety because caffeine directly affects the brain and central nervous system, producing changes in heart rate, respiration and muscle coordination.

Do not skip meals. When you miss meals, you deprive yourself of the essential building blocks you need to function at your best. Too little of just one nutrient amplifies the stress you feel by straining the processes in your body that depend on that nutrient.

Eat breakfast. It’s arguably the most important meal. It doesn’t have to be complicated. A protein and carbohydrate source such as an egg with whole grain toast or Greek yogurt is an energizing way to start the day.

Get plenty of rest or you won’t be your best. Cheating yourself of required sleep increases stress and depression. It may be more difficult when you have looming deadlines and extra worries, but you’ll feel better in the morning and ready to take on your busy world.

Tracey Shaffer, RD, LD, is a Hy-Vee dietitian at the Blue Springs location. The information provided should not be construed as professional medical advice. Email her at


One-Minute Breakfast Smoothie

Serves 2

All you need:

• 1 c. canned mandarin oranges, drained

• 1 c. orange juice

• 1 container (8 oz) plain Greek yogurt

• ½ teaspoon vanilla

• 8 ice cubes

All you do:

Combine oranges, orange juice, yogurt, vanilla and ice cubes in a blender. Blend until smooth.