10 Healthy Meals to Make After a Stressful Day

Here's what to eat after a long and challenging day.

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Simple Soup with Carrots, Parsnips, and Scallions

Updated Nov 12, 2018 @ 9:30 am

You get home from work, your boss/client/coworker has been at you all day, you forgot to get your BFF a birthday gift and hitting the gym was a fantasy that didn’t come true. In short: You are stressed. We’ve all been there.

The good news is: Stress relief is a healthy meal away.

“Research has shown that the food we eat is directly correlated with mood,” says Eliza Savage, registered dietician at New York City-based Middleberg Nutrition. “Cortisol, the hormone most frequently associated with stress, plays an important role with blood sugar regulation, weight, immunity, and can be directly affected by what you’re consuming.”

Here are some stress-busting foods Savage recommends, and easy, tasty meals to make that put them in the spotlight.

Seeds

Seeds

“Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are rich sources of magnesium, which is a natural relaxant in the body,” Savage says. Both bring salty, crunchy, savory flavor to a dish.

Recipes to try:

1. Zoodles with Pumpkin Seed Pesto: Since cherry tomatoes are out of season, try chopped sun-dried tomatoes instead. Or slather this tasty spread on fish or chicken.

2. Winter Crunch Salad: With kale, Brussels sprouts, apple, Parmesan and, of course, sunflower seeds, this hearty, dinner-worthy salad is everything you need to feel better in just one bowl.

3. Spring Roll Bowls with Sunflower Butter Sauce: Move over, peanut butter—sunflower seed butter is great for people with peanut allergies, or anyone who wants more sunflower seeds in their lives (that’s us). This tasty sauce also would work well on zucchini noodles.

Read more: 3 Healthier Ways to Get Your Crunch On At Mealtime

Salmon

Salmon

“Fatty fish like salmon packs a powerful good mood punch,” Savage says. “Salmon is full of omega-3s and proteins that support the building of mood-boosting neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.”

Recipes to try:

4. Salmon Avocado Poke: Yes, you can whip up this ultra-trendy dish at home. It’s super-quick and loaded with healthy fats.

5. Lemon-Pepper Salmon with Cauliflower Rice: A healthy dinner in 20 minutes that’s also a mood booster? Yes, please. We love this flavorful one, courtesy of health coach and Clean Plates Collective member Maria Marlowe.

6. Salmon Patties with Turmeric and Dill: Bring anti-inflammatory turmeric to the party with these piquant cakes, made from convenient canned wild salmon. Dill brings more nutrients and a fresh flavor.

Probiotics

Probiotics

“Metabolites from this healthy bacteria help to shift digestive patterns, which can help to resolve gut issues and decrease anxiety,” Savage notes. “There truly is a gut/brain connection, so stocking up on foods rich in probiotics like fermented vegetables, Greek yogurt, or low-sugar kombucha is definitely mood (and gut) boosting.”

Recipes to try:

7. Ranch Dressing with Greek Yogurt and Chia: Toss greens in it, use it as a dip for zucchini “fries,” spread it on sweet potato toast and top with smoked salmon—however you like your ranch dressing, upgrade it with this yogurt-based version.

8. Tofu, Kimchi and Bacon Tacos: We love mashups like this super-creative recipe. Tacos + Korean food? Tofu + bacon? Oh, yeah. Plus, you get the fermented goodness of kimchi, that spicy, flavor-packed vegetable dish made from cabbage and chilies.

Read more: RDs Pick the Best Non-Dairy Yogurts

Collagen

Collagen

“Collagen found in powder form or naturally found in bone broth works to heal the protective lining of the digestive tract, improving gut motility and digestive distress,” Savage says. “Restoring the functionality of the gut improves nutrient absorption and can help you to feel your best inside and out.”

Recipes to try:

9. Simple Soup with Carrots, Parsnips and Scallions: Sometimes a soothing, warm bowl of soup is just what you need to feel better. Use bone broth in this one (DIY or store bought) to boost the collagen.

10. No-Bake Matcha Collagen Bars: What, you never eat dessert for dinner after a stressful day? Plus, with calming matcha and collagen, these will actually boost your mood instead of giving you a sugar high/crash.

Read more: 10 Reasons to Eat More Collagen

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