As the old adage goes, if you want something done right, do it yourself. I never would have described myself as a Type-A, control freak personality as a teenager (or even as an early 20-something – ask my mom), but somehow over the years it just sort of happened (along with getting a hangover from 2 glasses of wine and using the phrase “I don’t get kids these days…” like a I’m a senior citizen at 31 – which I probably am to a 15 year-old). This personality change now means I get stressed – like, really stressed – when work and life go berserk and sleeping seems like a nice dream I had once (see what I did there?). The stress has also made my food cravings go a little something like this…
Cathy – I feel ya, girl.
BUT since finding that my ass has maxed out along with my workload would only compound my anxiety, I am choosing to quell my chocolate cravings with food that will actually help support my mind and body in this busy time while still tasting awesome. Enter my Sweet Potato Brownies.
Now some of you may be thinking “why does this bitch keep trying to sneak vegetables into my dessert?” (read: Fudgy Black Beans Cookies) but I swear these are delicious (a fave of my husabnd and his friends at the CrossFit box). These brownies have the amazing fudgy texture I love in a brownie without being soggy (like some sweet potato brownies are), and are the perfect amount of sweet. They’re also paleo, low-fat, high-fiber, and low in sugar (especially if you use melted stevia-sweetened chocolate chips like I did).
Since I’ve already touted all the amazing health benefits of sweet potatoes here, I thought I would instead chat about some of the best foods to eat when you’re stressed. Like our comic friend, Cathy, many people reach for chocolate and other sugary treats in times of stress, hoping to get a kick of energy as well as some comfort. But sugar (as usual) is the worst thing you can eat. It may boost your energy and make you feel good briefly, but your blood sugar levels will quickly plummet after the spike, leaving your energy levels low and your mood even worse than before. Instead, it is better to choose healthy foods that will give your body the nutrients and energy it needs to power you through the craze. Here are some great options:
When you’re stressed, your body releases hormones that affect your mood. Eating certain vitamins and minerals like folic acid and B vitamins can help keep your mood steady because they’re needed to make serotonin, which is a chemical that directly affects mood in a positive way. Luckily, Asparagus is high in both! I like to make a big batch of Asparagus soup on a Sunday evening so I have a fast and easy lunch or dinner option throughout my busy week.
Even though beef often gets a bad rap, it’s a great dinner option for a stressed-out family. Beef contains high levels of zinc, iron, and B vitamins, which are also known to help stabilize your mood. However, I am not recommending you go pound a burger (although I do do that from time to time if a good restaurant has one). Instead, stick with leaner cuts like flank steak.
Many people crave carbs when stressed (I myself am keeping Skinny Pop popcorn in business). Carbs help you produce serotonin, a calming hormone that helps fight anxiety’s negative effects—which is probably why many of us crave them when we’re stressed. Go with the craving but choose healthy sources. Oatmeal is high in fiber, which means that your body will absorb it slowly. In one fell swoop, you’ll prolong the serotonin boost, keeping yourself feeling full for longer (and on less) and making sure your blood sugar’s in check. Like many, I usually don’t have time to eat before work so I take a container of raw oat bran or oatmeal with cinnamon and berries with me to work. Simply add water and pop it in the microwave and I have a delicious and filling breakfast to power me through the busy morning.
A good source of Vitamin B2 and E, as well as magnesium and zinc, almonds are high in fat, but most of the fat is unsaturated and therefore good for you. Also, vitamin E has been shown to fight the free radicals associated with stress, and in particular, those free radicals that cause heart disease. Plus, almonds are pretty much the easiest snack to take on-the-go. Simply throw a small bag in your purse and when the hunger pangs start, you’re all set.
I LOVE fruit, especially berries – which happen to be my go-to when I want something sweet but healthy that takes no time to prepare and can come with me on the go. Very rich in antioxidants, blueberries offer a high-fiber, low-calorie fruity treat that is also rich in stress-fighting vitamin C. Try them with some Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
A great fast and cheap lunch option, tuna is high in stress-fighting vitamins B6 and B12. Tuna is also a good low-fat protein source. Just don’t load it down with tons of mayo – which obviously totally defeats the purpose. Try a big dollop of Dijon mustard for a creamier texture with a flavour kick.
Like most things in life, sticking to a healthy diet takes some work – especially when your schedule blows up and time feels like a rare commodity. But with a small effort and some simple planning in the kitchen you can make sure you’re armed with healthy and delicious meal and snack options to keep you fuelled the right way. And when you feel the stress starting to take over, simply close your eyes, center yourself, and inhale….a plate of Chocolatey Sweet Potato brownies. Works every time.
The Natural Blonde
Chocolatey Sweet Potato Brownies
- 4 oz 70% dark chocolate (I used Stevia chocolate chips for a sugar-free version)
- 1 cup mashed sweet potato (about 2 medium
- 2 Tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
- 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
- 3 Eggs
- ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 Tbsp. Vanilla extract
- 1 Tbsp. coconut flour
- 1 Tbsp. coconut oil
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- ½ tsp. sea salt
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Melt the dark chocolate in the coconut oil in either a double boiler, a steel or glass bowl over a pot of boiling water. Make sure to do this slowly as chocolate will burn.
Peel the potatoes, chop, and boil for 20-25 minutes or until soft. Next, mash or puree the potatoes, making sure they are smooth and there are no lumps.
Add in all of the other ingredients (including the melted chocolate) into the mashed sweet potatoes and mix until very well combined and creamy (either with an electric mixer or by adding the ingredients into the food processor if you pureed your potatoes).
Transfer the batter to a parchment lined 8×8 baking sweet and pop it in the oven for 35-40 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a fork or knife into the middle and seeing if it comes out clean. If not, cook for another 5 minutes and test again. Allow to cool before slicing into 16 brownies. Then, you eat!
These are best stored in the fridge for up to a week.