Fall is almost here. As much as I enjoy the summer, the fall season is my absolute favorite. Not only does it cool down just as I begin to become overwhelmed by the heat of summer but the colorful change in the environment is beautiful. It always makes so happy. I can’t count how many times I have found myself dancing in the rain walking through a park painted shades of pink, orange and red with remnants of green peeking through here and there.
Not everyone shares the joy I find in fall weather, though. During the fall and winter months, anxiety and depression rise for many people. One thing I think we can all agree on is that fall is most definitely a staple time for comfort food. Considering these two factors I thought it would be fun to share 5 of my favorite healthy comfort food recipes that also happen to contribute to reducing anxiety.
5 Healthy Comfort Foods That Can Help Reduce Anxiety
Lavender Coconut Ice Cream
I know I know, most people don’t crave cold treats once it begins to cool down, but this ice cream recipe is so incredibly easy to make and once you try it, cold or not, you will be hooked. Not only is it delicious but lavender has been proven to be an effective natural remedy for anxiety, with none of the side effects that prescription drugs may cause. The recipe only calls for four ingredients and all of them are healthy believe it or not.
- 1 cup coconut milk (beverage or canned)
- 1-2 Tablespoons edible lavender flowers (depending on how strong you want the flavor)
- 2 bananas, peeled, chopped and frozen
- Sweeteners (honey or maple syrup) if desired
- Add the coconut milk and edible lavender flowers to a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Remove from heat and stir thoroughly. Let steep, covered, for 20-25 minutes.
- Strain mixture, reserving milk and discarding lavender.
- Pour into a freezer-safe container and freeze for several hours or overnight.
- Once frozen, break apart the frozen coconut milk into chunks and add to a food processor.
- Add 2 bananas, peeled, chopped and frozen. Process until the mixture is smooth and creamy, adding additional sweeteners (honey) if desired.
- This will create a creamy “soft serve.” If you want harder “ice cream,” put the mixture into the freezer for 15 – 20 minutes to harden, then scoop and serve. This should serve two people nicely.
Dark Chocolate Hot Cocoa
Okay, it’s cold outside and I agree that a nice warm mug of hot cocoa is one of my favorite ways to end a long day during the cold months. Make that a dark chocolate hot cocoa and we have another natural recipe to help reduce anxiety. Dark chocolate contains large amounts of tryptophan, an amino acid that helps in the production of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects mood. Low serotonin is a large contributor to anxiety and depression. It is also known to lower blood pressure.
- 2 cups coconut milk
- ⅓ cup of dark chocolate
- 2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
- 2 Tablespoons brown sugar or coconut sugar
- 1 Tablespoon organic vanilla extract
- In a saucepan, bring coconut milk to boil then combine the dark chocolate, cocoa powder, and brown or coconut sugar.
- Turn down heat and cook until all ingredients are dissolved.
- Remove from the heat; stir in organic vanilla extract
- Pour into a mug. This should also serve two nicely.
Healthy Mac N’ Cheese
Mac n Cheese has been a staple of my diet since I was a kid. For me, you cannot get much closer to comfort food than mac n’ cheese. There was nothing like it and as an adult, the recipe has taken so many different forms. Baked mac n’ cheese and this recipe for avocado mac n’ cheese are my favorites. Two of my absolute favorite foods, ever. To a lot of people it seems like an odd combination, but try it and you will be extremely happy that you gave it a chance.
Using whole grain pasta will add to the anxiety-relieving attributes as well. Low magnesium contributes to anxiety and whole grains are rich in magnesium. Whole grains and avocado, like dark chocolate, are an excellent source of tryptophan, which contributes to the production of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that controls your happy hormones.
I originally found this recipe here, but change the pasta to whole grain, use coconut milk instead of whole milk and use mozzarella cheese instead of pepper jack. I have also added either spinach or cauliflower to this recipe for an extra punch of both flavor and health benefits. Super tasty.
Stovetop Avocado Mac and Cheese
Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod
- 10 ounces whole grain pasta
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 avocados, peeled and pitted
- 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 Tablespoons grass-fed butter (or your favorite butter alternative)
- 2 Tablespoons coconut flour (or your favorite white flour alternative)
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Fresh avocado chunks, for garnish, if desired
- Spinach or cauliflower for a punch of flavor and health benefits
- Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Salt the water and add in whole grain pasta. Stir and cook until Al Dente, about 8-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, make the avocado sauce by placing the garlic, avocados, lime juice, cilantro, salt, and pepper into a food processor or blender. Process until smooth and creamy. Set aside.
- To make the cheese sauce, place butter in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat. When butter is melted, whisk in coconut flour to create a paste. Whisk in the coconut milk until smooth. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sauce starts to thicken. Add in the cheese and stir until cheese is melted and sauce is creamy.
- Place pasta in a large bowl. Pour the avocado sauce over the macaroni and stir until well coated. Add the cheese sauce and stir until pasta is coated and creamy. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve warm. Garnish with fresh avocado chunks, if desired.
Note: The lime juice keeps the avocado from browning. The mac and cheese is best eaten the first day, but it is still good the second day. The pasta may turn slightly brown, but not bad.
Another favorite of mine. In my house, we do breakfast for dinner at least once a month once it begins to get cold out again. It’s always warm and extremely filling, plus finding joy in cooking with my daughter is one of my pass-times. Breakfast is her favorite and in the fall/winter months when she is cooped up in the house more often than not, even she becomes a little anxious. This is a great choice for a weekend breakfast for weekday dinner.
As stated above, whole grains are a great natural contributor to happy hormone production. Blueberries are also a wonderfully delicious addition to pancakes that are also great for fighting anxiety. Blueberries contain many antioxidants that fight cortisol, a hormone which causes anxiety. Blueberries also contain vitamin C, which is one of the most important micronutrients and fiber that helps control blood sugar.
One of the easiest snacks to make or even a quick breakfast to go, are parfaits. Tarts are like a parfait with crust in my opinion. In addition to being an easy go to for a snack or breakfast, these naturally sweet comfort foods are full of probiotics. Yogurt contains large amounts of probiotics which have been proven to naturally reduce anxiety and depression. Top it with blueberries and other healthy fruit and start your morning on a positive note.
This is one of my favorite tart recipes, but it is a little time-consuming in my opinion. An easy alternative to this is to buy graham cracker crusts or any kind of pre-made crusts that suit your fancy and then add the yogurt and fruit directly to that. Simple and looks really beautiful when finished. Portions and amounts of each ingredient are a preference call.
By no means are any of these an alternative to seeking professional help if you are suffering from anxiety or depression. Trying to treat anxiety or depression on your own may only contribute to the chemical imbalance. See a professional and then decide for yourself.
I hope that these foods contribute to the comfort of your evenings at home in the colder months as they have mine. Enjoy.