The difference between rigid meal prepping (picture bland chicken and rice for every meal of the week) versus meal preparedness in IE is the intention behind the planning. Just because you plan or cook meals ahead does not mean you’re automatically dieting. If batch cooking a few meals, keeping your fridge stocked, or having a flexible plan in place helps you honor your hunger, then it absolutely can be a helpful part of intuitive eating. I personally couldn’t live without it!
On the other hand, if you meal plan to follow rigid food rules, to “control” your eating, and feel stress or guilt if you stray from it, then this isn’t a helpful way to meal plan. So many of my clients struggling with disordered eating plan their meals in advance to a T as a means of “control”. They may avoid eating out due to fear of straying from their diet or “plan”, and therefore this form of meal planning is not healthy. We then work towards bringing in more balance, challenging food rules, and facing their food fears, all while learning to reconnect with the body.
The difference is this – are you able to be flexible with your meal planning? Is it more of a general guideline and source of ideas? Does it help reduce stress, instead of add stress? Does it allow for pleasurable foods? If the answer is yes, then it may be in alignment with intuitive eating! Having balanced meals ready to go at times can be an important act of self-care. If you know you are going to busy, and having a plan in place allows you to be able to make more conscious eating decisions (we don’t want to wait until we’re hangry to come up with a plan), then go for it!
Here are some things to think about when it comes to meal planning in intuitive eating:
I like to build my grocery list each week based upon what I already have on hand that I can use (saving me money), and then by food group. What carbs, protein, fat, fiber, and fun foods I want. I also like to think about some meal inspiration and go from there. Balanced meals are key to satiety, getting enough nutrition, and fueling your body each day.
Think about which type of cuisines you may want this week, and maybe even consider trying 1 new recipe! Instead of focusing on numbers, focus on sensory qualities of food that would be satisfying to you.
If you’re used to choosing what to eat based on a diet plan, or food rules, throw those out the window and start fresh. Look to new cookbooks that aren’t diet focused (see my Resources page for a few ideas). Ask your friends and family members for their favorite recipes. Look to inspirational chefs to get some ideas. I also highly recommend the app Paprika, which is like having a digital cookbook on your phone! I use this every week to brainstorm what I want to make during the week, as well as building a grocery list. Highly, highly recommend! You can easily save any recipe online (hello pinterest and food blogs) and have it categorized by different categories (I have everything from meal prep, soups, vegetarian, chicken dishes, to my favorites category).
If you’re a client of mine, I bet you know what I mean by this. We all are time-strapped, and having quick go-to meals is essential. Think meals using canned beans, microwavable rice, frozen veggie pizzas, etc. We all need some back-up meals!
And remember this isn’t set in stone, but rather to give you some ideas based on what you have on hand. I often use this template which we keep on our fridge, and it’s very helpful for our family! Fridge meal planner.
I know as a working Mom that I am ALWAYS short on time. So for me, cooking ahead my lunches to eat during the work week is an act of self-care. I try to switch it up every week and always make time to do this on Sunday afternoon. I also make sure I bring something enjoyable with my meals as well as extra snacks, such as some cookies for dessert, protein bars, fresh fruit and yogurt. Plus, it’s also helpful to add some flair to pre-cooked meals by adding some fresh herbs, avocado slides, or sprinkle some cheese for fresh flavor.
Try this example of cooking a few staples, and using them in a variety of ways throughout the week. This is always a go-to of mine!
Don’t get hard on yourself if you don’t eat according to the plan you had it place, it’s meant to be flexible and aimed to reduce stress, not be a source of stress.
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