If you’re on a low FODMAP diet, have lots of food sensitivities, or are dealing with IBS or other stomach issues, you know that it’s almost impossible to be fully spontaneous when it comes to eating.
You find yourself checking restaurant menus in advance, endlessly reading labels, or crossing your fingers and hoping you have something you can eat at home after a long and tiring day.
And let’s face it, watching all the cars pulling into drive-thrus and pizza places to grab something quick and easy feels even worse when you have no clue what you’re going to have for dinner. But when you’re on a restrictive diet to improve your health, you know drive-thrus and pizza places are just not a good option for you. It’s frustrating to say the least.
Not knowing what you’re going to eat — or having an idea but not the ingredients — can make it much harder to stick with the food plan you and your practitioner have developed. And any time you go off your therapeutic diet, you know it’s going to take just that much longer to reduce your symptoms and feel as good as you’d like.
But I have a solution. It’s not glamorous. But, it can save you time, money, energy, and frustration. And that’s meal planning!
What do you mean by meal planning?
Meal planning is just what it sounds like. You think ahead and plan your meals in advance instead of trying to figure out what to eat on the fly. This can be as simple as deciding to have eggs for breakfast, checking the fridge to see how many you have, and then adding a carton or two to your grocery list.
Meal planning can be elaborate or simple. What’s important is that you develop a system that works for you. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some of my best tips, tricks, and resources for low-maintenance meal planning.
So whether you want to spend hours scouring recipe sites or you just want to grab a prefab meal plan, you’ll be able to incorporate meal planning into your life in a way that works for you.
Meal planning doesn’t have to be difficult, boring, or super time-consuming. You can include your old favorites and try new things. You can make elaborate meals or throw together something quick and easy. You can even batch-cook or prep part of your meals ahead of time.
There is a learning curve for sure. But once you get the hang of it, meal planning will make your life easier and help you reach your health goals.
Why should I plan my meals?
Let’s be honest here. You’re busy. Like really busy. We all are. And if you don’t have your meals planned out in advance, trying to figure it out on the fly takes up valuable brain space and energy.
But if you can get a system in place to plan your meals in advance, you don’t have to worry or wonder about what you’re going to eat when you’re starving or exhausted.
There are loads of advantages to meal planning:
Meal planning saves you time.
A well-thought-out meal plan means only one trip to the store per week. No more running in for just one or two ingredients.
Meal planning saves you money.
Meal planning means not only fewer trips to the store (where you’re vulnerable to impulse buys), but also fewer times where you’ll end up eating out or grabbing take-out.
Meal planning helps you avoid frustration.
When you’ve got your meals planned and your kitchen is stocked with the groceries you need, you’ll feel a sense of satisfaction — I promise. And you’ll get to avoid the frustration that results from staring into your pantry or fridge, starving, and not sure what to eat.
Meal planning helps you keep your health on track.
It’s far easier to stick to your low FODMAP or other therapeutic diet when you have total control over what you eat and how your food is prepared. With a meal plan, you can make sure you have healthy meals at home that are either already fixed or easy to put together.
Meal planning doesn’t have to be rigid. You can have a plan and still be flexible.
Many people get overwhelmed by the idea of meal planning because it feels too rigid. What if my plans change? What if what I planned just doesn’t sound good? What if I’m too tired to cook the big meal that’s on the schedule?
There are lots of ways to stay flexible within your plan:
Plan your dinners for the week, but keep the days flexible.
You don’t have to know what you’re having each day of the week. Maybe on Monday you’re really tired. You can look at your plan for the week and pick the easiest dinner option for that day. Then on Wednesday when you feel more energetic, you can make that more elaborate recipe you’ve been wanting to try.
Keep some go-to and easy meal ingredients on hand.
A stocked freezer and pantry can be lifesavers. There are going to be times where your meal plan won’t work out for whatever reason. The meat goes bad in the fridge quicker than you thought. You forget to buy that one critical ingredient. Or you just aren’t feeling the dinner you planned. If you have some go-to favorites stocked and ready to go, you can shift from your plan and still eat a meal that works for you.
Meal planning? I don’t even know where to start…
There are people out there who pre-plan and batch cook months of meals. If you’re new to meal planning or find the idea overwhelming, you can totally lower the bar. There are many levels to the meal planning game. And stocking a big garage freezer with enough pre-cooked food to survive the apocalypse is the final boss level. I don’t recommend you start there.
Meal planning can be super simple. And you don’t have to go all or nothing. Consider starting off small:
💡 Plan one or two dinners the first week.
💡 Plan just your snacks or breakfasts.
💡 Make a double batch of one of your dinners and use the leftovers for lunch the next few days.
Meal planning doesn’t have to be hard or overwhelming. But it can be a game-changer when you’re on a therapeutic or restrictive diet like the low FODMAP diet. So for the next few weeks, we’re going to focus on meal planning — strategies, tips, and resources. And by the end of the month, you’ll be meal planning like a pro!
If you’ve got stomach issues or IBS and you’re not sure what foods you should be eating, let’s chat. I can help you figure out exactly what your body needs to feel it’s very best!