Let’s chat about meal planning. Especially meal planning as an intuitive eater. I received some questions about how to plan out meals for a week while still practicing intuitive eating. With our current situation and not being able to go to grocery stores or eat out as often, many of us are having to put a little more thought into how to plan our meals for the week.
But, as someone practicing intuitive eating, we are taught to tap into what we crave on a meal by meal basis. How are we supposed to know what we are going to crave for an entire week? What if we make all these plans but then we aren’t in the mood for what we plan for?
Okay, let’s discuss!! I have so many thoughts on this…
First of all, I DO think that we can find a way to meal plan AND feel in alignment with what we’re craving and what sounds good. So let’s just set that stage!
The picture above is an example of what we have been doing in my family. Keep in mind this is for 4 of us: my parents, Ryan and I.
Key #1: You’ll see that we just plan DINNERS. This feels more manageable to me than planning out every single meal. No thanks! So, we plan out our dinners because those are more intensive meals and require more planning, and then we have an assortment of things on hand for breakfasts and lunches.
For breakfasts, I tap into what I am craving each day. If I want something more carb-y, I’ll make oatmeal or avocado toast or something along those lines. If I want something more protein / fat heavy, I’ll make eggs with some veggies (or my egg bake). My parents like having yogurt with fruit / nuts, so we’ll keep that around. But most of those things are easy to keep around and then just pull on whatever we’re craving. So, we will always buy fruit, some yogurt, eggs, oats, nut butters, veggies. All basics!
Same goes for lunches. I have been making a big salad to have on hand in the fridge all week for whoever wants it, and I’ll either have that topped with some protein (see next paragraph for ideas), or leftovers from dinner, or a big smoothie bowl.
When thinking about lunches, I know that if we have veggies, some protein sources and some fats available, then I’ll be good to go. Easy protein sources to have on hand that don’t go bad are canned sardines, tuna, canned salmon (love salmon salad), or beans. You can also make some burger patties (turkey, lamb, beef, etc.) or meatballs ahead of time and individually freeze them so you can pull them out for protein if you’re craving it. Your freezer is your best friend!
For fats, I like having nuts, avocados and plenty of oils around. Again, those are very easy to keep on hand.
KEY #2: When planning dinners, think about what you typically crave in a given week. If you had red meat every night, would that feel like too much in your body? If you ate pasta every night, would that interest you? If you ate vegetarian every night, would your body like that or would it feel unsatisfying? What do you think is your ideal balance?
It’s completely okay if you don’t know the answers to these questions right now. We are ALWAYS learning about our bodies as they continuously change. And now is a great time to experiment.
For us, we typically like animal protein most nights, yet we have liked playing around with one vegetarian night each week. We like a mix of red meat, chicken and fish. Since we’re in Florida, I think Ryan and I have been craving seafood more, so we’re trying to lean into that a bit.
KEY #3 Feel into your plan, and refine. Sometimes it takes a few tries to get the meal plan to a point where you think it feels right. You might come up with a plan and then when you FEEL into it, it just feels too boring, and in that case you want to incorporate a few nights that feel more “fun”. Or as you feel into it, you may feel like your dinners overall feel too heavy or too light. Play with some options until you have something that intuitively feels interesting, exciting, and like it may really satisfy you.
KEY #4 If you know what your dinner is, intuitively back into your breakfasts and lunches. If you know you’re having chicken for dinner, maybe don’t choose chicken for lunch (unless you’re really craving it, of course). Chances are, if you eat one thing for lunch you may not crave it for dinner, so you can back into your days so your chances of actually craving what you have planned for dinner are higher! Another example is if you have pasta planned for dinner, you may be more likely to be in the mood for pasta if you have less carb-forward options for breakfast and/or lunch, electing for more protein or veggies. OR, maybe you’re really craving lots of carb-forward meals and that’s okay too!
KEY #5 Be flexible with your “plan”. Let’s say you shop on Monday and you buy burger meat for Thursday. You get home from the store and you put the meat in the freezer since you’re not using it until Thursday. If Thursday rolls around and you really don’t feel like burgers anymore, keep the meat in your freezer and see if you have anything else you can rummage up for dinner. Don’t hold yourself to your plan; life happens and we should always practice planning yet being flexible with how things turn out.
KEY #6 Keep an eye on anything that’s going bad, and then use your creativity. If you see something going bad, just try to get creative around how to use it. Freeze veggies, throw them into a pesto or a smoothie, or chop them up and put them into eggs (or my egg muffins). If meat is going bad, stick it in the freezer. And just know that if you do have to throw something away because it went bad, it’s OKAY. You are doing your best, and we are trying to get through this very odd time that is new for all of us.
Remember, the more you do this, the more you LEARN about yourself. You don’t have to do it perfectly the first time (or ever), but if you give it your best shot and then see how it goes, you’re learning valuable information about yourself that you can use the next time.
So those are my tips for now! I would love to hear from you:
How has meal planning been going for you? Is it something you’re doing right now or not really?
Do you have any questions I didn’t answer here? Anything you’re struggling with?
Hang in there, my friend. Sending love your way and hoping that you stay safe.
P.S. Another post that relates to this that I wrote a while ago and figured I’d share is called “Intuitive Eating with a Partner Who Eats Differently“. This may help you, too!