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  • Shannon Crocker MSc RD

4 tips to stop stress eating

Do you reach for a sweet treat when you’re stressed? Do you find yourself eating too much and then feeling even more stressed? You’re not alone.

Studies show that stress over a long period of time can cause some folks to turn to food for comfort.

As you probably can guess, the food most often craved is not broccoli; it’s foods that are high in calories, fat and/or sugar. Think donuts, chocolate, cookies and chips.

Eating to comfort stress is called emotional eating.

Emotional eating tends to lead to overeating, which not only causes digestive discomfort but also causes more stress and feelings of anxiety and possibly weight gain in the long run.

So what do you do? The next time you find yourself feeling stressed and craving a treat, ask yourself: am I hungry? If the answer is no, and that food you’re craving is about feeling stressed (or sad or bored), a snack won’t satisfy it.

Don’t let food be your comfort. Here are four top tips to manage stress eating:

1. Practice mindful eating.

  • Take time to truly enjoy your food. What does it smell like, feel like, taste like?

  • Put away your phone, turn off the TV and shut down the computer so you can focus on your food.

  • Pay attention to how you are feeling while you eat; eat when you are hungry and only until you are satisfied, not stuffed.

2. Enjoy nourishing meals.

  • Make meals with quality carbs, protein and fibre. That way, you will feel satisfied for longer so you’re less likely to reach for a treat. (What's a "quality carb"? It's a carbohydrate food that's rich in nutrients, like fruit, vegetables, plain Greek yogurt, whole grains)

  • Don't skip meals; when you get too hungry, you’re more likely to overeat.

3. Fuel your body with smart snacks.

  • Eat nutrient-rich snacks (e.g. nuts, veggies, homemade energy bites), not treats, if you are hungry.

  • Eat more snacks featuring vegetables and fruit; a recent study found that eating lots of fruits and vegetables might help to lower stress, especially for women!

4. Make physical activity your best friend.

  • Find something other than food to bust your stress. Physical activity has been proven to help with feelings of stress; take that exercise outdoors and it is even more beneficial. For me, hiking and running the trails through the woods are my go-to stress busters! But, you don’t have to run to get benefits; it can be as simple as a quick walk outside or a hot yoga class – as long as you are moving!

I shared tips on managing stress eating with CHCH Morning Live – watch it here:

Vibrantly Yours,


P.S. March is Nutrition Month and this post was crafted in part with Dietitians of Canada materials (I'm a Nutrition Month Spokesperson!). For more tips on how to deal with stress eating, or to find a dietitian in your area who can help you with personalized strategies for stress eating, visit


Mayo Clinic. Weight loss: gain control of emotional eating.

Mayo Clinic. Weight loss: gain control of emotional eating.

The Centre for Mindful Eating:

Medical News Today: Chronic stress may raise obesity risk

Medical News Today: Eating fruits and vegetables may lower women’s stress risk.

Gladwell et al. The great outdoors: how a green exercise environment can benefit all. Extrem Physiol Med. 2012;2:3.

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