Despite your best meal-planning intentions, there will be nights where your meal plan doesn’t work. Maybe an ingredient goes bad before you get a chance to use it. Or you’re just too dang tired when you get home to cook the elaborate meal that sounded like a good idea when you added it to the menu.
If you’ve been following along this month, hopefully you’ve decided to try out meal-planning. There are loads of advantages to planning out what you’re going to eat in advance, especially if you’re on a therapeutic diet like low FODMAP:
✔ No more staring into the fridge wondering what you can throw together for dinner.
✔ You have much more control over which foods go into your body.
✔ You can save time and money.
✔ “What’s for dinner?” takes up less brainspace and energy.
✔ You can stick to a once-a-week grocery store trip.
Meal planning is great. But what about when things don’t go according to plan?
Things go wrong — for whatever reason. But just because you can’t cook what you planned doesn’t mean you have to totally give up, throw your therapeutic diet out the window, and hit the drive-thru.
Don’t let perfectionism get in your way. As I’ve been saying all month, meal-planning is not an all-or-nothing proposition. On nights where life gets the best of you, there are still things you can do to stay on track with your therapeutic diet so you can keep working toward your health goals.
Meal Planning in a Pinch Tip #1: Have a back-up meal
As you get more comfortable with meal planning, you’re going to find some easy meals that you can make quickly without much fuss. If you keep ingredients for a few of these meals on-hand, you can pull one out in a pinch.
When you make your meal plan for the week, make sure you have some just-in-case ingredients so you don’t end up starving and staring into the fridge in dismay when your plan doesn’t work out.
Meal Planning in a Pinch Tip #2: Know where you can pick-up food when you need to
Just because you’re on a therapeutic diet like low FODMAP doesn’t mean you can’t ever eat at a restaurant or get take-out. Depending on where you live, there may be restaurants that work just fine with your eating style.
But even if there aren’t, sometimes it’s okay to settle for good enough. If you’ve been doing this for a while, you’ve probably figured out which foods are deal-breakers for you and which ones you can handle occasionally. It’s okay to not be perfect. If you put too much pressure on yourself, you’re much less likely to be able to stick with your health plan long-term.
I recommend you do some research on a day when you’ve got some downtime. Do a google search for restaurants in your area, maybe make some calls. It’s always easier to make a last-minute switch when you already know your options.
Here are some resources for finding restaurants that may work for you:
💡 If you’re looking for a gluten-free restaurant, check out findmeglutenfree.com.
💡 If you’re looking for low FODMAP foods, check out these low FODMAP options at chain restaurants.
💡 If dairy is problematic for you, check out this list of dairy-free restaurants categorized by state in the US.
Meal Planning in a Pinch Tip #3: Keep it simple
A dinner can be as simple as a meat and a couple of veggies. It doesn’t have to involve a complex recipe.
It’s a good idea to keep some meat in the freezer that you can make in a pinch. If you know in advance that you’ll need it for dinner, you can get it out to defrost in the morning before you start your day.
But even if you get home from work and need to make a thrown-together meal, it is possible to cook frozen meat. Just make sure you’ve got the right tools and do it safely. If you need some ideas, here are 8 meals you can make from frozen meat from Butcherbox (an online source for high-quality meat).
Then if you’ve got some frozen veggies or salad fixins on-hand, you’ve got a quick and easy dinner.
Meal Planning in a Pinch Tip #4: Prep in advance
If you have some time on the weekend, it’s a great idea to cut up your veggies in advance. Whether it’s for a specific recipe or just so you have an easy salad, you’ll be glad you did.
All you need are some boxed or bagged pre-washed greens, cut up veggies that fit with your eating style, and some balsamic vinegar and olive oil, then you’ve got the makings for most of a dinner ready to go.
Just add a protein and your meal is done. And remember, protein doesn’t have to mean meat. If you’re eating low FODMAP, you can add protein-rich foods like eggs, nuts, seeds, and low lactose cheeses like cheddar, feta, and Swiss.
If your practitioner has told you beans and legumes work for you, those can be good protein-packed choices as well. Just make sure they fit with your eating style.
Meal Planning in a Pinch Tip #5: Have breakfast for dinner
If you’re in a pinch, bacon and eggs or an omelet for dinner works like a charm, even if you’re eating low FODMAP. You can add a salad or sauteed veggies — along with some low-lactose cheese — and you’re all set!
There’s no rule that says breakfast foods must be eaten in the morning. This is just a made-up thing. So why not take advantage of this quick and easy meal from time to time?
My Most Important Meal Planning Tip
Cut yourself some slack. You don’t have to be perfect when it comes to meal planning. If you’re just learning how to adapt this skill to your life, it will take some time to figure it out. It’s okay to start slow. Plan just your breakfasts or snacks, or start with planning 1-2 dinners per week.
The important thing is to keep going. Meal planning will get easier and easier over time.
😁 You’ll find your go-to recipes.
😁 You’ll figure out a system that works for you.
😁 You’ll find prefab meal plans you can keep going back to.
😁 You’ll get really efficient at grocery shopping.
😁 You’ll become a meal planning pro!
But only if you try it and have patience with yourself. You’ve got this!
And if you need some help figuring out what to eat or how to make it work with your life, I’m here for you. I work with patients all the time who struggle with digestive issues and benefit from a therapeutic diet. If that’s you — or you think it might be — let’s chat. Just click the link below and we can get you on the road to feeling your best!