Help combat stress with these calming evening meals

-Apr 26, Hannah Hargrave, Nutrition -

If you want to manage your stress levels and set yourself up for a calmer evening it’s time to whip up healthy and stress-busting meals instead.

If you’ve had a long, stressful day often the last thing you want to think about is what you’re cooking for dinner. But if you want to manage your stress levels and set yourself up for a calmer evening it’s time to put down the crisps and ice cream and whip up one of these simple, healthy and stress-busting meals instead. 

Why does what we eat impact our stress levels?

To understand a little more about why a dinner can make all the difference to your stress levels we have to explain what cortisol is.

Stress releases the hormone cortisol which can negatively impact our mood, waistline, blood pressure, immune system and our appetite. 

While cortisol does play an important role in the body – its released when we’re stressed because it helps reduce inflammation – when the levels are too high for too long it does more harm than good. 

Therefore by following an anti-inflammatory diet we lessen the amount of cortisol need to battle the chronic inflammation.

Related article: The ultimate anti-inflammatory food pyramid

What foods are good for counteracting the effects of stress?

Stress often makes us want to indulge in comfort food which isn’t good for our bodies. It might feel good at the time to wolf down a salty takeaway or a mound of cheesy nachos but the euphoria will soon pass and you’ll be left wondering ‘why did I do that?’ Refined carbohydrates, processed meats, fried food and sodas should be avoided. 

Here are the sorts of anti-inflammatory foods you should be eating instead. 

Omega-3 fatty acids – salmon, mackerel, avocado, walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds

Fruits – blueberries, cherries, strawberries and oranges. 

Vegetables – leafy greens like kale and spinach.

Grains – quinoa and farro contain complex carbohydrates that limit inflammation.

The good news is that these ingredients, while healthy, don’t have to be boring and you can whip up  a meal like these two below in under 30 minutes.

Salmon burger with garlic, lime guacamole 

Put away your beef burger and switch it up with this delicious omega-3 packed salmon and avocado patty instead. 

Ingredients – serves 4

450 grams of skinless salmon fillets

60g panko breadcrumbs

1 beaten egg

60g chopped red onion

60g chopped red pepper

pinch of chili flakes

salt and pepper to season

2 avocados

1 large clove of garlic

1 lime

1 bag of leafy greens – spinach, kale, rocket will all do.


For the guacamole

1. De-stone and peel your avocados and put the flesh in a bowl.

2. Chop or crush the garlic.

3. Smash the garlic and the avocado together in a bowl with a fork. 

4. Add the juice of 1 lime and mix together further.

For the burgers

1. Mince the salmon by chopping it in chunks with a sharp knife. The food processor might make it a little too mushy.

2. Add all the other ingredients to the salmon in the bowl and combine using your hands

3. Form 4 burgers approximately 2cm thick

4. Heat up some oil in a pan on medium heat and cook the burgers for 4 minutes each side or until cooked through.

Serve your burger on a bed of leafy greens with the guacamole on top.

Chicken with Garlic Mushrooms and Quinoa

If you want to manage your stress levels and set yourself up for a calmer evening it’s time to whip up healthy and stress-busting meals instead.
Bowl of healthy food – Quinoa, vegetable and chicken salad

This recipe tastes like a dose of comfort food but it’s healthy at the same time. Loaded with mood boosting magnesium and high in fiber this meal definitely won’t leave you feeling hungry or deprived.

If you’re not a fan of mushrooms you can switch them out for something like sweet potatoes or butternut squash which both reduce inflammation.

Ingredients – serves 4

450g boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into small pieces

250ml chicken stock 

60g uncooked quinoa

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1.5 pounds of brown mushrooms

4 cloves of garlic – crushed

1 tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme

30g grated parmesan

salt and pepper to season


1. Cook your quinoa in the chicken stock for approximately 10-15 minutes until liquid is absorbed and you can fluff it up with a fork. 

2. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan (a skillet is preferred) and cook the chicken until it’s cooked through.

3. Remove the chicken from the pan and add the remaining oil. 

4. Cook the mushrooms in the pan for 2-3 minutes before adding the garlic. Cook for an addition 2-3 minutes. 

5. Stir in the quinoa, chicken pieces, thyme and parmesan.

If you’re looking for more culinary inspiration why not try these vegetarian dinners you’ll love and this broccoli and kale soup delivers a hearty dose of nutrition too.

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