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Column: Kitchen remedy for stress

Posted: April 9, 2018 3:50 p.m.
Updated: April 10, 2018 1:00 a.m.

“How do I know what I want to eat on Wednesday?”

Those were the words of a friend when I mentioned meal prepping.  Their idea of choosing what to eat for each meal was decided based on how their stomach “felt” that day.

As many people lead and live busy lives, whether it be stress from having to figure out what to cook and consume on a daily basis, or consuming convenience and fast foods, each can lead to it’s own type of stress on the body. You may not know what you would like to eat on Wednesday -- or even for your very next meal.

One way that may help to limit stress that ties into nutrition is by preparing nutritious meals in advance. Why not take the stress away from daily trips to the grocery store or preparing meals every evening? With things such as work, school, and family occupying most of our time throughout the day, preparing a meal each night may be unrealistic. Use that time to unwind, relax, read a book, exercise, or spend quality time with your loved ones.

Meal preparation, also known as meal prep, is a great way to overcome potential weekly stresses that may be holding you back from consuming well-balanced meals. Meal prepping also keeps cost down from those impulse turns into the drive-thru and high-fat snacks consumed to carry one over before dinner time. Meal prepping is beneficial to helping reduce stress, making healthier food choices while practicing portion control, and saves time and money throughout the week.

April is Stress Awareness Month and I encourage you to make the decision and take charge of your health when dealing with stress. Stress can affect your mood and your diet, yet, before you can reduce the negative effects of stress, you have to determine what is the cause of your stress. Start by identifying your stressors, be observant of your signals in the things, environment, and situations that aid in causing you stress.

Next, be proactive and create an action plan to manage your stress. Whether you should decide to take a small break from work, walk for a few minutes or step outside for fresh air, be sure to take a moment to free your mind.  Having a support system of trusted friends and family can also help to improve your ability to manage stress.

Oh, did I mention that it’s also National Garden Month? It’s a great time of year to start your container garden or raised bed. Be sure to dig your fingers into the soil and grow the nutritional goodness of the earth. There are a myriad of studies that reflect that natural areas such as gardens help foster an array of mental health benefits. Being in natural places fosters recovery from mental fatigue, helps one to handle and recover from stress and can help to improve productivity.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity level activity each week. Moderate-intensity level activity can reduce one’s risk for obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, along with depression. Gardening can be a form of stress relief and is a great way to become physically active while you enjoy the outdoors while soaking up some Vitamin D.

As we look forward to the wonderful weather of spring, take charge of your health. I challenge every reader to find ways to manage stress and incorporate more vegetables into your diet as you grow your food.

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