As happy as the holidays are, they can also be a time of high stress for us. Many of us turn to food to relieve the feeling of stress, but the foods we often choose can actually make us feel worse.Simple starches and sugars such as cookies and cake (which seem to be everywhere we turn this time of year!) may make us feel better for a few minutes, but then we have to deal with the inevitable crash…While it’s okay to grab a snack when you’re feeling stressed, but why not have one that will help you de-stress? Here’s the lowdown on what foods can keep you calm and collected this holiday season.

  • Vitamin C: Research shows that getting plenty of Vitamin C can help stop the secretion of stress hormones from the brain. I know, you’re thinking, “Gotta go grab an orange!” but actually, try snacking on a red or yellow bell pepper instead. They’ve got 3-4 times the Vitamin C of an orange! Other great sources include strawberries and papayas.MORE FROM SELF: Get Flat Abs With Jennifer Aniston’s Yoga Moves 
  • Hot Tea: Just the act of drinking a hot beverage can help us slow down. Try vanilla- or peppermint-flavored tea. Studies show that these scents can help you feel less anxious, more alert and boost concentration. Plus, they are calorie-free!MORE FROM SELF: Sign Up Early For the Jump Start Diet With A Workout From Jillian Michaels
  • Complex Carbs: We often crave carbs when we are stressed, and there is a reason for that. When we eat carbs, it triggers the release of serotonin, a feel-good hormone, from the brain, helping us to feel calm. To feel good all over and avoid a sugar crash, choose whole grain carbs like oatmeal, whole wheat breads, whole wheat pasta, and beans. 
  • Plus, Have Fun!: Trying to enjoy holiday parties while staying healthy can be a top source of stress around the holidays. Avoid extra anxiety with this rule: Don’t “save” all your calories and come to the party starving. This can lead you to overeat. Instead eat light, balanced meals throughout the day and bring a smart snack to the party.

Got comments or requests? Tweet me @sarahjaneRD or @SELFmagazine or find me on SELF’s Facebook pageMORE FROM SELF: Which Is Healthier: Soy or Regular Milk?For daily nutrition tips follow SELF on Facebook and Twitter.Get SELF on your iPad!