Post election, don’t feel guilty about that mac and cheese and pizza — but don’t indulge for too long.
A doughnut, a fat bagel with cream cheese, a delicious grilled cheese sandwich, macaroni and cheese.
Those are foods people are telling physicians, nutritionists, friends and social media followers that they’re craving post election.
“I’ve had people coming in, crying, and saying they’ve been eating macaroni and cheese for the last 24 hours,” said Seattle-area nutritionist Judy Simon.
“In times of stress, people turn to comfort food,” said Robert Klem, a family physician and the Regional Medical Director for Primary Care at Swedish Medical Group. “They want bagels, doughnuts, pizza, ice cream and macaroni and cheese. Anything that is high in fat and tasty.”
Simon says comfort food makes people feel safe, for a minute, and the first couple of bites usually taste great, but after that the pay off dwindles. Too much sugar and fat makes people feel worse in the long run, she says.
“They are actually the worst choices you can make because you become lethargic, tired and less able to cope with stress,” Klem said. “And stress drives up blood pressure and cholesterol, increases the risk of heart attack and weakens the immune system.”
So, what to do?
Simon says that if you just ate a doughnut, or have one in your hand right this minute, go ahead and enjoy.
You’ don’t want to be living on doughnuts for a week, she says, but there’s no need to beat yourself up.
However, here are some things to keep in mind as you move forward.
When you find yourself craving foods that you know are unhealthy, ask yourself if you are truly hungry or simply seeking solace. One way to determine this is to ask yourself if a boiled egg, a banana or some raw broccoli sounds good to you. If yes, then you are hungry. If not, you may be looking to food for consolation.
Klem advises doing something to advance your long-term physical health instead.
“It’s hard to exercise sometimes, but you know you will feel better once you do it,” he said.
He and Simon also recommend what they call basic stress-reducing measures: eating with others, getting a good night’s sleep, going outside and enjoying the weather, avoiding TV and social media, talking to people and showing compassion to all. Simon recommends yoga, Pilates or a good stretch.
She also warns people not to skip meals.
- Stew or homemade vegetable or lentil soup.
- Cutting up seasonal fruit, such as apples and pears, and dipping them in peanut butter.
If you need something warm and cheesy, she says, assemble a quesadilla with black beans, veggies, salsa, avocado and a little cheese on a whole grain tortilla. Put it on a nice plate and sit down and enjoy it mindfully, she says.
If you need something sweet, make a cup of cocoa from scratch using less sugar than called for or an alternative like Stevia.
Klem says that while protein is important in a balanced diet, it does not affect moods the way fiber and complex carbohydrates do. Complex carbohydrates let people relax without sapping energy, boosts the immune system and helps the release of serotonin, the body’s own feel-good drug.
Items that are high in fiber prevent late-night binge eating and fruits and vegetables contain the antioxidants that help the immune system, he says.
Here are a few of his suggestions:
- A baked sweet potato
- Minestrone or lentil soup.
- Sauteed vegetables served with brown rice.
Avoid too much caffeine and simple sugars. “Caffeine increases anxiety and stays in the system longer than most people think, and things like doughnuts calm us initially, but they absorb into the blood rapidly and leave rapidly as well, so you have the crash. Pasta, beans and lentils soothe us without bottoming out,” Klem said.
If you don’t have the time, or the will, to cook, Simon suggests some of the “good, healthy frozen entrees from “Eat Local.”
Have the half and half option at Panera Bread where you can get a cup of soup and a small salad or sandwich.
Klem recommends relying on fresh fruits and vegetables when you can’t get to a kitchen. He says a bowl of soup to go is a decent option as long as the soup is of the clear, not creamy, variety.
That said, he knows it’s easier said than done.
On Wednesday, Klem indulged in a piece of Pagliacci’s pizza with “mushrooms, onions and lots and lots of cheese.”