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In my recent post, Finding Balance with Diet, Nutrition, and Happiness, I discussed the burden that eating “right” sometimes puts on us. Food often becomes an obsession and creates stress and anxiety in our lives. Food is a necessary part of life, but stress is not. Stress leads to illness and disease and we should all strive to reduce and eliminate as much stress as possible. In my journey through different ways of eating, I have learned a lot about my body and nutrition, but I have also learned that it is very easy to become consumed with the “right” way to eat. It is necessary for all of us to find balance.

Over time, I have figured out different ways to help me on my journey to good health and eating well, along with major stress reduction. Here are some tips that help me find food balance. I hope they help you too!

Eleven Twelve Tips for Balance, Eating Well, and Minimizing Stress (last minute change :))

1. Take baby steps. Don't expect perfection from yourself or anyone else. Love yourself, love others, and don't pressure yourself to do more than you are capable of at any given moment.

2. Spend your grocery dollars wisely. The most important things to spend your money on are your grass-fed and pastured meats and dairy. Buy organic, especially the dirty dozen, as much as you can, but if you can't afford to buy everything organic, then don't fret. Just buy what you can afford.

3. Be creative. If you, or someone in your family, do not like a certain food, then try to find a way to re-purpose it. Mixing liver into chili takes an often loathed ingredient and makes it inconspicuous. Check out this post on my Facebook page for more tips and ideas!

4. Buy in season. Eat what's local and fresh when it is in season. Not only is it going to give you the best nutritional bang for your buck, it's going to save you money.

5. Join a co-op or split bulk orders with friends and family. One of the best ways to keep food costs down is to buy in bulk. However, this is often not a feasible option for a single family because they may end up wasting more of the product than it's worth. Find a local co-op to join or start a mini co-op of your own and see if you can split orders to help lower costs. Also, shopping online for products like coconut oil (affiliate link) can yield a substantial amount of savings if you catch the right sale.

6. Stockpile meals. Spend one day a week cooking meals for an entire month. Make huge batches of soup, chili, and stew, portion up in individual servings and pop in the freezer. Meatloaf and various casseroles are also a great way to batch cook because the dishes freeze and reheat very well. Sacrificing a full Sunday once a month can minimize a lot of “what's for dinner?” stress later on.

7. Forget the conventional rules. Want popcorn for breakfast? Go for it! Want breakfast for dinner? Whip some up! Forget about the rules of what is “appropriate” to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and eat what you want (as long as it's healthy). This might help eliminate stress as well.

8. Be thankful for the food on your plate. As cliche as it might sound, we all need to be thankful for every meal that we are fortunate enough to eat, especially if that meal includes wholesome, real food. In 2010, 17.2 million households were food insecure, meaning that they don't know if, what, or when they will have their next meal. Every single time we sit down to eat, we need to remember that we are blessed to be partaking in that meal. There are so many out there who are not as fortunate as us.

9. Make food fun. Find different ways to spice up the kitchen. Perhaps you like to design your meal plans around certain colors. Or, you could do what I have done in the past and strive to try one new food a week, whether it be a fruit, a vegetable, or an ingredient from a foreign culture. Find ways to make food fun and it won't seem like such a burden.

10. Fast every once in awhile. Fasting can be a great thing for the mind and body. Fasting gives the digestive system a chance to rest and heal. There are a variety of ways to fast, and I encourage you to find one that fits your specific needs, but I do encourage you to try it. Fasting is often recommended for disease prevention and is can also be used as a spiritual tool. Some of the benefits have been stated to include more energy and a longer life.

11. Get moving. I don't have to tell you how important exercise is to our physical health. Pretty sure we all know that. However, exercise is is also incredibly important for our mental health as well. It is a great stress reliever and can actually help treat depression and anxiety better than medication. The endorphins that are released during exercise help aid in pain relief and create a sense of happiness and peace. Exercise comes in many forms, from walking to running, cycling to rowing, hiking to yoga, there is something our there for you. The key is finding something that you like and that will be easy for your to stick with long-term and will be easy for you to make time to do. I personally find that when I am exercising regularly, I also eat better as a result. Exercise helps with balance.

12. Listen to your body. I have to give a quick shout out to my friend Mike, the Urban Organic Gardener. He reminded me about the principle that we all need to start getting in tune with our bodies and paying attention to what our body needs. Often, our body will tell us what it needs, but we just don't hear it. I think people are pretty out of touch with their bodies nowadays, so taking the time to recognize certain signs your body gives off can help you keep things balanced, both mentally and physically.

These are some of the tips that I have come up with over the last few years. I hope that some, or all, of the tips help you eliminate some stress. Finding balance in this crazy hectic world is often difficult and requires effort and work. However, the long-term results of living a healthy, stress-free life are worth it! What things do you do to achieve and maintain balance in your life and your kitchen?

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