5 Stress Reducing Lunch Ideas

Teachers are under a tremendous amount of stress. In fact, teaching is one of the most stressful professions in the U.S. according to ABC News. These incredibly high levels of stress can lead to teacher burnout and eventually, in many cases, early departure from the profession.

Is it more stressful now than 20 years ago? Absolutely! According to a 2017 national study by the American Federation of Teachers, the amount of stress that educators are under has increased by more than 20% over that time.

If teachers are under this much stress, what can help reduce stress levels and improve overall health and well-being? Well, I can think of a lot of things, but let’s stick to things the we can control for now.

Food, interestingly enough, is something that can have an impact on stress. That may seem strange, but there are certain foods that can help to reduce stress and anxiety and we’ve not only put together a list, but we’ve found some yummy lunch ideas to make with these foods as well. Bonus tip: caffeine and alcohol can actually exacerbate stress, so while you are adding in the stress-fighting foods identified below, try taking one or both of these out of your diet for a period of time or moderate your intake.

Something to keep in mind when planning your meals is to focus on not only eating healthier, but eating the right foods that will help combat stress levels. A big player in this is actually your “gut health.”  According to Harvard Medical School, “The gut-brain axis is also very important, since a large percentage (about 95%) of serotonin receptors are found in the lining of the gut. Research is examining the potential of probiotics for treating both anxiety and depression.” Eating yogurt, sauerkraut, and/or pickles are great ways to get probiotics into your diet.

A list compiled by Harvard Medical School has identified the following foods as stress reducers:

  • Probiotics
    • Yogurt
    • Sauerkraut
    • Pickles
  • Magnesium
    • Spinach
    • Leafy greens
    • Nuts
    • Seeds
    • Whole grains
  • Zinc
    • Oysters
    • Cashews
    • Beef
    • Egg yolks
  • B vitamins
    • Avocados
    • Almonds
  • Antioxidants
    • Berries
    • Nuts
    • Beans
    • Leafy greens, beets, artichokes
  • Omega-3s
    • Salmon 

Lunch Recipes

Healthy Spinach Artichoke Dip

A ceramic bowl with spinach artichoke dip, a wooden spoon, uncooked broccoli, and tortilla chips

This recipe is not only delicious and healthy but it covers many stress busting foods all at once. Artichokes are rich in antioxidants, spinach is great for magnesium, and yogurt contains probiotics. You can make up a batch ahead of time for the week and use this as a side or your main meal. Dip your favorite raw veggies in it or add in some pita chips.


1 14-oz can artichoke hearts

1 10-oz package frozen spinach

1 8-oz package cream cheese or you can substitute with low-fat cream cheese

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

½ cup grated parmesan

½ cup shredded mozzarella

3 cloves garlic minced

Salt and pepper to taste

Optional: 1 4-oz jar green chilies drained


Full recipe here.


Apple Walnut Spinach Salad

A bowl of apple walnut salad and someone pouring dressing over it. A red and green apple in the background.

Salads are so wonderful because the possibilities are endless. This salad in particular is scrumptious. To really take this to a new level you can top it with salmon or grilled chicken. If making dressing is too much work, you can use your favorite store bought dressing.


6 cups fresh baby spinach

1 golden delicious apple thinly sliced

1 honey crisp apple thinly sliced

1/2 small red onion thinly sliced

1/4 cup walnuts roughly chopped

1/4 cup goat cheese crumbled

1/4 cup blue cheese crumbled


Full recipe here.


Avocado Egg Salad Sandwich

avocado egg salad in a glass bowl

Avocado egg salad is a great alternative to mayonnaise based egg salad. This works really well on whole grain bread/toast and to get probiotics in there, add a large dill pickle to the side. If you prefer to dip pita chips into this instead of using bread, that would be another great way to eat this as well.


2 small avocados, pitted, peeled, and diced

6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and diced

8 strips cooked bacon, crumbled

2 tablespoons Greek yogurt (or heavy cream)

2 tablespoons mayonnaise, optional

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste


Full recipe here.


Muesli Yogurt Parfaits

yogurt parfait with blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries

Muesli yogurt parfaits are similar to normal granola parfaits, but include muesli (grain free granola) instead. You can adjust this to include normal granola or use muesli, but in any case, the nuts, seeds, berries and yogurt are all great ways to help reduce stress.


1 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

3 tbsp honey

1 tbsp chia seeds

3/4 cup muesli

1/2 cup blueberries

1/2 cup raspberries

1/2 cup strawberries


Full recipe here.

Slow Cooker 3 Bean Chili

3 bean chili

Chili is a delicious way to add magnesium and zinc to your diet and reduce your stress. Instead of sour cream you can add a dollop of Greek yogurt to get those good probiotics in there as well. One batch could last all week, or you can freeze it for future lunches or dinners.


30 oz can kidney beans, drained

15 oz can black beans, drained

15 oz can pinto beans (vegetarian), drained

15 oz can diced tomato

2 large green bell peppers, diced

1 1/2 cups corn kernels

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 1/2 cups vegetable stock

1 cup mild to medium red salsa

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper to taste


Full recipe here.


If reducing your stress level means you have to eat deliciously healthy foods, then so be it! These recipes are wonderful for lunches or dinners, or even healthy snacks throughout the day. This list can be very helpful when you choose what you include in your recipes. You may want to print it out and stick it on your refrigerator for reference and inspiration.


For more lunch ideas, check out our post:

For dinner ideas, check out this previous post.


To help combat stress with simple at home exercises, check out this favorite post.


-Jenna Garvin


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