One of the things I struggled with while on my intuitive eating journey is if meal prepping still fits with this non-dieting approach to health. Years ago my thoughts on meal prep are that it was an absolute must if you cared at all about your health. But back then I was rigid and inflexible with food. Food was my way of dealing with stress. But then I found mindful eating + Intuitive Eating and everything changed, including the way I meal prep. Here’s how to meal prep with Intuitive Eating + FREE guide to support YOU!
How to Intuitive Meal Prep + FREE Download Guide!
One of my favorite things about Intuitive Eating is that it asks you to make decisions about what to eat based on what sounds and feels good in the moment. So knowing that I for a long time thought that if I wanted to eat intuitively then there was no room for meal prepping. It seemed counter-intuitive to meal prep while using the principles of intuitive eating but I think they go hand in hand. Here’s how.
When meal planning is done in a way that allows for flexibility, considers pleasure, and allows for more gentle nutrition then meal planning can be a powerful ally in your struggle with making peace with food.
What does Intuitive Eating Mean?
In case you missed it…
Intuitive Eating is getting a lot more attention these days and I’m here for all of it!
People are just tired of this rollercoaster of conflicting information in the health and diet industry. And I get that, being in the wellness space I’ve seen my fair share of diet trends and this one isn’t one of them.
The whole point of Intuitive Eating is that it’s not a diet. It is a way to make food choices based on the ebb and flow of life. Some days we need more food than others, our cravings may change, and emotional stressors, and energy levels. This allows for more bodily autonomy and connection. While I certainly identify as an “intuitive eater”, I don’t follow an intuitive eating diet because it is not a diet.
For me, intuitive eating means enjoying food and making choices that feel good for me. Absolutely nothing is off-limits (except animal products because I am vegan ✌️) but I also don’t eat a plate of cookies and junk for dinner. I could if I wanted to but I think in some ways this permission has empowered me to make food choices from a rational mind because all foods are accessible to me.
Learn more about Intuitive Eating here!
Meal Prepping With Intuitive Eating
How meal planning goes wrong is when it’s too rigid. When you spend your entire Sunday on Pinterest picking out recipes, creating a calendar of weekly meals, shopping, then prepping everything is…a lot.
I like to think of meal prepping now as my way of having structure and availability. A fridge full of food makes it easy to honor your hunger because food is always available. It allows you to prioritize pleasure in your meals because you choose foods that will satisfy you, not what you think you should eat.
It’s also helpful for ensuring variety. And if you’re working to make peace with food then using the Intuitive Eating process allows you to plan and prepare for possible food challenges in your week.
Like when you get called into a late meeting and you get home hangry, will you still want to prepare that veggie lasagna? Nope, we will probably just eat cereal or sandwiches, which is ok but I prefer my veggie lasagna any day. So that’s why I meal prep!
Meal Planning with Intuitive Eating
People often share that they’ve tried meal planning in the past but got overwhelmed and gave up because it takes so long. That’s because when you have a dozen different diet rules to accommodate for you to take more time to plan and prepare.
When meal planning with intuitive eating, nutrition is a small part of your decisions, it’s more about following the feel-good ingredients. Knowing the foods that sustain you during the week, gives you the energy you need to be productive in your current lifestyle.
For example, I almost always include roasted vegetables each week when meal planning because I like them. If looking at my week, I notice it doesn’t have anything sweet then I make some chocolate chip cookies or banana bread because it feels good to enjoy those things.
If I’m particularly busy and I won’t be able to eat at home then I make something I can take to go, like this Mediterranean Chickpea Quinoa Salad which is something that doesn’t have to cook or warmed up.
My 3-Step Guide To Meal Prepping with Intuitive Eating
For the past year as I’ve been exploring my relationship with food and the intuitive eating model I’ve also experimented with flexible meal planning/ prepping and have found that I’ve been able to make intuitive meal prep work for me. Here’s how…
01. Understand Your Intention
I truly feel that meal prepping is not something that should happen if you don’t trust yourself at mealtimes. I trust myself around food now but back then when things were so rigid. If you don’t trust yourself around food or are struggling with your relationship with food, please take some time away from meal prepping to reestablish clear boundaries and deeper intention.
Having a deep understanding of your intention as to why you want to meal prep is important. And there are many reasons to do it outside of diet culture. Here are some of mine!
- Meal prepping to save time and ease stress throughout the week.
- If you’re on a budget or want to be mindful of single-use plastic and packaged foods, planning and preparing for the week helps with this.
- Getting creative in the kitchen typically isn’t something that happens for me if I’m crunched on time. But food is an art and getting to try new foods and flavors is easier when I take the time to create.
02. Make It Fun
I hear from so many that the struggle to maintain a meal planning/ prepping schedule is hard and if you are struggling with this it’s ok. Maybe this isn’t the time for you to start. This tool doesn’t work for everyone. If you’re feeling it’s too hard or overwhelming then don’t do it. You can always come back to it later.
I don’t recommend forcing new habits, I think if we start doing that then we are staying with the rigid rule of diet culture and that’s never the goal with intuitive eating. This really should be fun and something you look forward to doing. Which for me it is!
I like listening to music or podcast, getting messy, and creating yummy food for my week. Plus the structure of this allows me to thrive not just in my relationship with food but in my week as well. But there are days when I’m just not feeling it and I don’t force it. So if it’s not fun for you then don’t do it!
03. Allow For Flexibility
This is what I LOVE about this methodology on food and wellness, it’s flexible for you.
This means that when I sit down to meal plan and create my shopping list I take into account my full and busy schedule. I’m realistic with how much time I have to prep. I’m aware of the night I won’t be home for dinner or the night my partner is out training with friends. I list out what cravings I’m having and then plan accordingly. Oh and I also ask everyone else in the house as well. Our weekly meal menu goes off of all the combined information.
Here’s a breakdown of what my week typically looks like for a family of four.
- 3-4 dinner recipes (usually doubled some of them for lunch leftovers)
- 2 breakfast recipes
- 1 salad/ meal in a jar (for the to-go moments)
- 1-2 snacks
- 1-2 desserts (this is a must for me!)
This will change week to week depending on my schedule. If I have more social engagements, classes with the kids or celebrating something with family…it may look different. Flexibility is KEY.
3 MORE TIPS FOR HOW TO MEAL PLAN WITH INTUITIVE EATING
COOK ONCE, EAT TWICE
Leftovers are a must in our house! For a long time, I didn’t “do” leftovers. I was fixated on being that perfect mom that cooked everything from scratch. Haha, that’s long gone now and I couldn’t be happier. I love leftovers and use mine for lunch. For example, I made this Yellow Split Pea Spinach Dahlfor dinner and prepped extra for lunches for the kids and I. It’s better as a leftover meal as the flavors got to sit longer and marinate.
This makes sense if you’re making something like soup or chili to prepare extra, but you probably don’t know that you can do all kinds of things like Lentil Loaf or Jalapeño Cornbread Muffins. When I make something so yummy like that I make a lot. Just so I can freeze the extras, which are great to use a couple of weeks later when you don’t feel like cooking! Because we all have those days :)
CANNED FOOD AND FROZEN VEGGIES ARE OK
I use to avoid these altogether. My obsession with “clean” organic-only food was a serious problem. If the food wasn’t made fresh I wouldn’t eat it. If it was GMO, I wouldn’t eat it either. Let this go made me feel more at peace with myself and my plate. Although I still try to buy non-GMO produce. I don’t obsess over this being the goal at every meal. Using canned and frozen food allows for more flexibility. Don’t feel like you have to make everything fresh and from scratch. Use canned food when necessary. Buy frozen broccoli or spinach. No shame or blame is happening here. Plus often it’s much cheaper and I can often find the organic version for the same price. Check out this post Buying Produce On A Budget for more info.
At the end of the day, whatever you decide to do for meal planning, there needs to be some flexibility built in.
Download A FREE Guide To Intuitive Meal Prepping
What are your thoughts on Intuitive Eating? Is this a tool that has helped you? Comment below — or tag @livesimplynatural and share how Intuitive Meal Prepping works for YOU! I’d love to get inspired by you as well <3