Today let’s unpack a common question I get when we think about balancing the intuitive eating journey with the realities of daily life.
A common question I get is this: is it possible to use meal planning or do meal prep and eat intuitively?
Short answer: yes, absolutely!
Meal planning and intuitive eating can co-exist and I believe that we can hold space for both of these things. But let’s unpack that a little more…
First, we need to acknowledge that while it would be amazing to be able to honour our hunger in the moment by eating exactly what we want in the quantity that we want (as we learn through intuitive eating), in our day to day life we also have busy schedules, external commitments, and time limits when it comes to preparing and enjoying food! This is real life, and that’s why I believe some gentle meal planning/meal prep can definitely serve you through your intuitive eating journey and help reduce some stress and anxiety that can come up.
There are lots of different definitions of meal prep, and often I think our minds drift to those “fitspo” images of rows on rows of containers filled with weighed out pre-portioned foods for each meal and snack for an entire week. Now, I don’t mean to guilt or shame ANYONE for their preferred method of preparing food, but I do want to gently ask this: does this method of food preparation come at the expense of your relationship with food? Are you able to build in variety and honour your bodys’ hunger cues and eat to you fullness cues in this way? Just something to consider.
When I discuss meal planning with clients, I tend to take a more loose approach that will help you save some time throughout the week, while still giving you flexibility to make choices in the moment about what foods, and how much of a food will be satisfying to you!
How this might look…
Meal planning before heading to the grocery store
- Plan your grocery list to include staple foods that you find satisfying and enjoyable. Include meal components and snack foods that you enjoy right now!
- Take a look at this list and ask yourself – what other foods can I add to this list to help me round out some meals throughout the week? Consider your schedule for the week. How much time will you have to cook? Will there be some nights you are eating out? Will you have space for leftovers? This can help guide how much food you need to buy
Loose meal preparation when you get home
- I am a big fan of prepping single ingredient foods in a neutral way so that you have the flexibility to repurpose these foods throughout the week
- Some ideas here:
- Chop up vegetables to have them ready for snacks, stir-frys, or bowls
- Think about foods that take longer to cook and consider preparing these ahead of time – grains and proteins often take longer to prepare. You could cook some brown rice for the week and store in the fridge to repurpose throughout the week, or even put some in the freezer for future! Perhaps you bake some tofu or roast chicken to add to salads, wraps, and sandwiches during the week!
- I typically will not “portion” my food as this allows me to choose how much food I want to eat in the moment – because I don’t know how hungry I’m going to be on Tuesday at lunchtime! I’ll store these prepared foods in sealed containers in the fridge and pull from them as I need!
As with all things intuitive eating, the work is in the process, and each new grocery trip and every meal is an opportunity to learn more about what works best for YOU when it comes to honouring your body and respecting your needs.
Looking for more discussion on grocery shopping while on your intuitive eating journey? Check out this great podcast episode from fellow non-diet dietitian Claire Chewning.