According to Harvard Health, short-term stress can shut down appetite, causing people to skip a meal here and there. Many of us have probably noticed this on stressful and busy days when we simply forget to eat lunch. Long-term stress, however, can increase your appetite and increase your cravings for foods high in salt, sugar and fat on a more regular basis.

To beat these cravings before they start, try meditating, exercising and socializing … virtually, of course.

Meditating can relieve stress and help promote a positive mindset. It can also help you make healthier food choices as you become more mindful. Second, exercising can also help fight the effects of stress. Consistent exercise is key when managing stress. Lastly, visiting with friends (virtually, for now) can have a major improvement on stress and mood!

If you're dealing with stress and have cravings for sweets and salty foods, I have included some healthy alternatives.

  • Bananas — These fruits are loaded with potassium, which helps keep blood pressure low.

  • Tea — Herbal tea can help calm nerves.

  • Whole-grain crackers — The carbohydrates will give you a boost of energy and direct your brain to release serotonin.

  • Carrots – Munching on crunchy foods helps combat stressful feelings.

  • Nuts – Almonds, pistachios and walnuts are loaded with vitamins and zinc to help you deal with stress.

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I have included an easy and delicious snack mix that includes whole-grain oat cereal, along with different varieties of nuts. Feel free to get creative with your favorite types of nuts, such as pistachios or hazelnuts!

Five-Spice Snack Mix

1 cup whole-grain toasted-oat cereal

1 cup organic peanut butter and chocolate cereal

1 cup toasted corn cereal

1/2 cup dried pineapple pieces

1/4 cup walnut halves

1/4 cup pecan halves

1/4 cup dried cranberries

2 teaspoons canola oil

1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice seasoning

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking pan with parchment paper. Combine toasted-oat cereal, peanut butter and chocolate cereal, toasted corn cereal, dried pineapple pieces, walnuts, pecans, cashews and dried cranberries in the prepared pan.

Combine canola oil and Chinese five-spice seasoning. Drizzle over the cereal and dried-fruit mixture. Toss to coat. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Cool before serving or storing.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 170 calories, 8g fat, 1g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 25g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 13g sugar, 2g protein, 80mg sodium.

Emily McMillan is a registered dietitian for Hy-Vee stores in Rochester. This information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.