I Eat Plants: Eating Healthy When Stressed

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I’ve been on a little hiatus recently.

As some of you may know from my bio, I’m not a professional chef or food writer- I’m a nurse practitioner. I do full-time work, and like many of you out there, sometimes I get stressed to the max. And despite the fact that I am a vegan, plant-based eater, sometimes I make really bad food choices when I’m stressed out. (Did you know that Oreos and Sweet Chili Spice Dotiros are vegan?)

There was one day in the last few weeks where I had forgotten my lunch and was low on my stash of vegan convenience foods that I keep in my office. The day was incredibly stressful, but I made it out of the office during lunchtime- and headed to the nearby ShopRite. I bought several more nourishing options (Amy’s bean and rice burritos, hummus, cut up fruit), but I bought a package of Oreos, too. And that’s what I had for lunch.

I realized that day that it’s incredibly important to make healthy food choices part of my own self-care. Oreos aren’t even something I would choose as a treat if I wanted to have a cookie after a healthy lunch- they’re just a convenient vehicle for sugar and fat that happen to be vegan and easily accessible.

Here are five tips for eating health and plant-based when you’re on the run!

1. Don’t forget the plants!

salad in a jarAlthough it can be a pain to wash everything up for a salad in the morning and bring your own for lunch, there are salad bars all over the place- grocery stores like Whole Foods, Mrs. Green’s, A & P and Stop & Shop all have pretty decent salad bars, with the first two offering some awesome vegan proteins (though the other two will also usually have chickpeas or kidney beans). Most grocery stores and even a number of convince stores offer pre cut fruit, as well. And you can never go wrong with grabbing an apple. If you do have a few minutes at home, salads in a jar are great too, and you can make up a few of them at a time and they’ll keep pretty well for a few days.

2. Keep healthy foods around!

If I have a healthy choice around I might still want something not so healthy- but I’m less likely to actually make a bad choice. Especially if I don’t have the less healthy choices around. One of my big follies on the day of Oreos is that I had run really low on the foods I keep around the office. Better choices that will keep a while? (shelf stable) hummus & whole grain crackers; energy/meal replacement bars such as the vegan varieties of Lara, Luna, and Cliff bars (check labels); and canned soups, amount others. If you have a refrigerator or freezer available where you’ll be, bean burritos, baby carrots and other veggies can be a great treat. If you want to keep meals around, there are a number of frozen meals that happen to be vegan- like many of the Amy’s meals, some of the Kashi ones, and the Candle Cafe brand available at Whole Foods.

3. Use your slow and/or pressure cookers!

You have at least one of each, right?

vegan chiliFor a small time investment in the morning or even the night before, you can throw together a great plant-based meal in the slow cooker in the morning and have it ready for when you get home (timers and keep-warm functions make this feasible even when your hours are unpredictable). Pressure cookers can save tons of time if you’re making dinner when you get home- or if you bulk cook on the weekends/days off. Last week slow-cooker marinara gave me the insipiration to bring healthy lunches the rest of the week. If you batch cook even just once every few weeks, you can make up lunches to take later on and toss them in the freezer, as well. Just remember to bring them in the morning (or have a few healthy options in the office in case you forget). That reminds me of my slow cooked chili in the freezer…

4. Don’t be afraid of grocery delivery services. Yes, you do deserve it.

I’ve used Fresh Direct and Peapod (aka Stop & Shop), myself, but I understand that A&P and ShopRite have services as well. Yes, there is a cost associated with delivery, and though it’s not required, you’ll probably want to tip the driver for a job well done. This does make it more expensive. I figure I’m worth those few dollars- and you can often find offers/coupons/discounts/free delivery. You load everything into your virtual grocery cart, pick a time for it to be delivered (pay, of course), and it shows up at your door during the 2-3 hours window you’ve picked (Fresh Direct has pretty long hours they deliver and I’ve never had trouble with them arriving within the window). Food is packed so that if you can’t get right to putting stuff away, you’re probably okay for a little while, as well. I don’t do this all the time, but it’s great for the stressful times. My only issue? You don’t get to pick the produce yourself, but everything I’ve gotten has been fine. And I’ve been loving veggies from Gotham Greens!

5. Take time for yourself.

Not about food per se (though taking time to cook can count as taking time for yourself if you enjoy cooking), but if you’re feeling stressed, it’s so important to take time for yourself. Taking a time out can help you with making some better decisions about what you’re eating. All the planning and cooking in the world won’t help you if you’re so stressed and upset that you decide nothing but Oreos is going to satisfy you. Take a walk, listen to music, read a book, take a bath, talk to a friend… just do something you enjoy. Then you might be able to look at that package of Oreos and say to yourself, “you know, I don’t even like these.” You deserve better than that!

So is there one thing you can do for yourself this week to eat healthy while stressed?

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About Author

I Eat Plants columnist Jodie Deignan went vegetarian in 2004 and fully committed to veganism in 2007. By day she’s a psychiatric nurse practitioner and by night she spends a lot of time cooking delicious vegan food for herself and her friends. She’s a bit of a picky eater, with a special distaste for mushrooms, seaweed, raw tomatoes, and eggplant, though she’s discovered along the way she’s a little more open-minded than she once thought. She blogs at The Picky Vegan.

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