Life can be stressful and when we are stressed, many of us turn to food as a coping mechanism. The problem is we usually choose foods that are high in fat and calories to comfort us. You see, stress causes our cortisol levels to rise which makes us crave sweets and carbs. While these foods might make us feel better in the short-term, they aren’t good for us in the long run. Instead, we should choose foods that are calming in a healthy way. There are many foods such as nuts, berries, teas and citrus fruits that have natural stress-reducing properties as well as nutrients that benefit our bodies. These calming foods can help us to feel focused, energized and balanced.

Besides the actual foods we eat, the process of preparing our meals can also bring Zen into our lives. We have all heard about mindful eating – eating with purpose, focus, and gratitude – but cooking can be mindful too. We should take the time to pay attention to the tastes and textures of our food, how it feels to gently tear lettuce or chop veggies, to the bitter, salty, sweet, tart, pungent and savory tastes of our ingredients and to how we arrange the colors and shapes of our food into a presentation that pleases the eye as well as the taste buds. When we enjoy the process of cooking, the food tastes better and is nourishing for our bodies and our minds.

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So if you’ve been feeling stressed and maybe not making the best food choices, tell yourself that you deserve better. Skip the takeout and forget the fast food. Put on some relaxing music, slip into some comfortable clothing and try these 15 recipes that will bring Zen into your life.

1. Green Tea Soba Noodles With Roasted Vegetables and Herbs

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Green tea contains theanine, an amino acid that is believed to reduce anxiety and promote sleep. These Green Tea Soba Noodles have roasted vegetables, fresh herbs, raisins and cashews for a balanced mix of tastes and textures.

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2. Dark Chocolate Banana Bonbon Bites

Dark Chocolate Banana Bonbon Bites [Vegan, Gluten-Free]

If you crave chocolate when stressed, that’s ok. Dark Chocolate contains flavonoids which have relaxing properties. These Dark Chocolate Banana Bonbon Bites also have almonds for three healthy ingredients in one delicious treat. They’re just the right size to satisfy any craving.

3. Maple Spice Oatmeal Bowl of Goodness

Maple Spice Oatmeal Bowl of Goodness [Vegan, Gluten-Free]

Whole grains with lots of fiber like oatmeal release calming serotonin at a slow and steady pace. This Maple Spice Oatmeal Bowl of Goodness has dates and maple syrup for natural sweetness, nut butter for protein and cinnamon and ginger for spice. A bowl of this in the morning will keep you calm all day.

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4. Super Protein Kale Caesar Salad

Super Protein Kale Caesar Salad [Vegan]

Leafy greens are high in magnesium which helps muscles relax and calms the nerves. This Super Protein Kale Caesar Salad not only has magnesium-packed kale, but the process of massaging the kale is relaxing too. The cashew-based Caesar dressing is amazing!

5. Simple Basil Citrus Salad With Balsamic Jam Dressing

Simple Basil Citrus Salad With Balsamic Jam Dressing [Vegan, Gluten-Free]

Vitamin C has been found to reduce stress, cortisol levels, and blood pressure and we know we can get lots of vitamin C from citrus fruits. This beautiful Simple Basil Citrus Salad is loaded with citrus from oranges, blood oranges, and grapefruit. The scent of the fresh basil is relaxing while the balsamic jam dressing is delicious.

6. Asparagus Tofu Tartines With Light Hollandaise Sauce

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Asparagus are high in folate which can help calm us and reduce stress. In these Asparagus Tofu Tartines with Light Hollandaise Sauce, the asparagus is both in the tofu scramble and on top for a delicious brunch dish that makes you feel better just looking at it.

7. Vegan Nicoise Salad With Avocado

VeganNicoise Salad

Avocados are rich in phytonutrients shown to reduce stress. This hearty Nicoise Salad with Avocado has fresh ingredients and intense flavors. It has a balanced combination of healthy fats, protein and carbs with lots of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Make this salad part of a lovely and relaxing meal.

8. Blueberry Acai Super Smoothie

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Blueberries and their relatives, acai berries, both have powerful antioxidants and help relieve stress. Get both in this Blueberry Acai Super Smoothie. The acai berries add a rich berry-cocoa flavor that complements the sweet, tart flavor of the blueberries. It’s a delicious way to sip your way to serenity.

9. Lemon Cashew Tarts

Lemon Cashew Tarts [Vegan, Raw, Gluten-Free]

Cashews are a good source of zinc which helps fight anxiety and depression. Our bodies have no way of storing zinc so we should eat some every day. One yummy way to get our zinc is by enjoying these Lemon Cashew Tarts. These super cute raw lemon and vanilla cheesecake tarts are light, refreshing and delicious.

10. Chamomile Ginger Lemon Raw Energy Bars

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People have known about the relaxing properties of chamomile forever. You can drink chamomile in tea or you can eat it in these Chamomile Ginger Lemon Raw Energy Bars. This bar is refreshing with healthy, wholesome ingredients. Chamomile promotes sleep too so these would make an excellent nighttime snack.

11. Nut-Free Wild Garlic Pesto

Nut-Free Wild Garlic Pesto [Vegan, Gluten-Free]

Garlic not only makes food aromatically amazing but it helps boost our immune system which can be weakened by stress. Insure your health with this Nut-Free Wild Garlic Pesto. Slather it on pizza or toss it with noodles or spread it on a sandwich for a beautiful and healthy garlicky topping.

12. Spring Greens With Creamy Walnut Pesto and Sunflower Sprouts Over Pasta

Pasta With Greens and Pesto [Vegan, Gluten-Free]

Walnuts contain higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids than any type of nut. Omega-3 fatty acids help the body produce serotonin to enhance mood health naturally. This Creamy Walnut Pesto is made with basil and spinach and has lots of flavor. It’s served with spring greens and sunflower sprouts over pasta for a soothing, relaxing lunch or dinner.

13. Insanely Good Baked Sweet Potatoes With Cashew Cauliflower Cream

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Not only are these Baked Sweet Potatoes with Cashew Cauliflower Cream insanely good, they are also insanely healthy. Top them with lots of veggies that you can arrange like a relaxing Zen garden.

14. Banana Cinnamon Crepes With Berry Ice Cream and Mango

Banana Cinnamon Crepes With Berry Ice Cream and Mango [Vegan, Raw, Gluten-Free]

Bananas contain tryptophan, an amino acid that helps to lower stress and reduce anxiety. These Banana Cinnamon Crepes are made from dehydrated bananas and taste like banana bread. Inside they have banana and berry ice cream and mango for a beautiful and soothing dessert.

15. Chia Pudding With Blueberries

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Chia seeds are high in magnesium, potassium, and B vitamins, all which help reduce stress. This Chia Pudding with Blueberries gives you a double-dose of calm from the chia seeds and the berries. It’s creamy, delicious and so pretty, you’ll be relaxed in no time.

We all get stressed but instead of reaching for something we’ll only regret later, we should reach for a food that’s healthy and reduces stress naturally. Let food be thy medicine and thy comfort with these recipes.

Lead image source: Banana Cinnamon Crepes With Berry Ice Cream and Mango