How to stress eat the smart way

It can be easy to feel the pressure as the pile of study materials grows higher and the number of hours until one’s next final exam quickly declines. But there is always that special something that will be there for comfort and support: food.

Final exams at the University are set to begin Friday and will carry on until Friday, Dec. 20. Although exams have not officially started, the libraries on campus have already flooded with students beginning to prepare for finals. 

Along with all the studying, University students confessed to having the bad habit of stress eating during exam preparation.

“A stress eater is someone who eats when they feel stress as a form of comfort or distraction,” said Kristen DiFilippo, registered dietitian and grad assistant at McKinley Health Center. “A food may remind a person of home, or a happy or fun event that serves as a distraction.”

Nick Prozorovsky, sophomore in Engineering, said he tends to stress eat while studying for finals. 

“I take a lot of breaks to eat just for procrastination,” he said. “I usually eat cookies, Nutri-Grain bars, fruit snacks and Oreos when I feel stressed. Eating these things just takes my mind off things and makes me feel mentally satisfied for a little bit.”

Prozorovsky added that the sugar in these foods makes him feel energized and awake, which he said benefits his study skills for a short amount of time. He also stated that he knows of other students who enjoy eating chocolate, ice cream and other sweets while studying.

“I don’t see a problem with any of these in small quantities,” DiFilippo said. “In large quantities, none of these are the best choice. These are all high-calorie foods, and if a student were eating these while distracted by studying, it would be very easy to overeat.”

According to the Reader’s Digest article “11 Healthy Ways to De-stress With Food,” sugary foods can help lower levels of anxiety-producing hormones. This happens through the production of the stress hormone glucocorticoid, which is connected to storing more fat in the stomach. 

“Just a little sugar on the tongue is enough to produce a feel-good effect, so don’t overdo it,” the article states. 

While some students may turn to sugary snacks to get a second wind of energy to study, other students go for more unusual and healthier alternatives. 

Johnny Saniat, sophomore in AHS, said some of his usual foods that help him de-stress are raisins, grapes, popcorn, strawberries, avocados and lettuce.

“Some of my friends just eat packs of lunch meat when they’re studying,” Saniat said. “This is stuff we usually just have in the pantry and fridge. Eating these foods actually makes me perform better, and pretty much makes me feel amped to keep studying.”

DiFlilippo recommends that students try snacks that have both carbohydrates and protein, such as an apple and peanut butter, when reviewing for exams. However, even with healthier snacks, there is still a risk of overeating.

“I think the quote ‘all things in moderation’ applies here,” she said. “The goal is an overall balanced diet, not perfection in every bite.”

The Reader’s Digest article also lists foods that can actually help students de-stress. A handful of nuts, broccoli, salmon and dark chocolate can all keep anxiety-producing hormone levels low and aid with stress relief. It also suggests consuming beverages such as milk, hot chocolate, black tea, green tea and a glass of cold water to de-stress. 

Although unaware of the full effects of the foods listed in the article, both Prozorovsky and Saniat agreed they would try some of them out.

“I would definitely try out some of the drinks,” Saniat said. “In fact, I might try drinking all of them while studying.”

Final exams may make University students feel overwhelmed, but eating certain foods in moderation can help during these stressful times.

Christine can be reached at [email protected]