I outlined some of the reasons it is important to eating healthy with MS in Part 1, which you can check out here.
Home Cookin’ Can Fix Anything! Well Almost Anything…
It turns out that grandmothers really do know best! The best way to ensure that you are eating healthy with MS — specifically, eating nutrient dense high quality food that promotes your health—is to prepare more of the meals and snacks that you consume. But as you probably know, MS symptoms like fatigue and cognitive challenges can sometimes make our best intentions really hard to implement. In this article, I hope to provide some tips and strategies to make meal planning work for you not just add another item to your to do list.
Ready. Set. Plan?
Sometimes a blank calendar can be intimidating. Especially when it comes to deciding what to cook for the week! A feeling kind of like writers block comes over you and you feel paralyzed. Sound familiar? Have you considered assigning a theme to every night of the week? For (just a few) examples…
- Monday = Meatless Monday
- Tuesday = Fish
- Wednesday = Mexican
- Thursday = Chicken
- Friday = Salad Night
- Saturday = Leftovers
- Sunday = Crockpot
Once you decide on the “themes” that you will use, gather some recipes that meet your needs. What does this mean? Before you start searching for recipes, make a list of what you want the recipe do do for you:
- Recipes that can be made on a budget
- Single pan recipes
- Crock-Pot recipes
- Recipes that require only a few ingredients
- Recipes that can be made in 30 minutes or less
- Reduced sodium recipes
- You get the idea…
Create a System for Eating Healthy with MS
Then create a system to store and organize them. Either in a notebook or an app like the AnyList app. The AnyList app allows you to group your recipes into collections that you can name (your themes!) And, in the AnyList app, each recipe can appear in multiple collections In other words, Meatless Monday and side dishes for example.). I have no affiliation to the AnyList app, but I do use it personally and have found that it helps keep me on track. It is a free app with many useful features. The very reasonable $11.99 per year upgrade opens up even more helpful features such as the ability to import recipes directly from the web, include photos with the shopping lists, add prices to list items to help you stick to a budget… and more. Check it out!
If you like, you can have several themes and rotate them every so often to keep it interesting or to account for seasonal specialties or holidays. Find a few family favorites within each category and add them to the notebook or app recipe collection. Once you have done this, what you end up with is a cookbook that will support your family’s unique meal plan.
So, when it is time to plan the meals for the week ahead, simply select one recipe per theme—skipping over leftovers night obviously. Maybe your family schedule will be hectic and you only need to prepare 3 family meals one week. You could plan to cook extra and have built in leftovers. Or perhaps on Mexican night you make a big pot of Chili – eat it once and freeze the rest to be pulled out of the freezer for a thaw and eat quick meal.
Meal Planning Can Help With MS Obstacles
True, planning menus takes a bit of time. But once you’ve practiced for a few weeks/months in a row, establish a routine and fine tune what works for you and what doesn’t… it will take less time. And the time you invest will pay dividends all throughout the week and beyond.
First, Share The Responsibility
Encourage others in the home to contribute to the meal planning process. Consider asking a support partner to do the shopping, help with the cooking, or help with kitchen clean up. Decide what would be most helpful for your unique needs and ask others to help you. The AnyList app allows the shopping list to be shared with others in the home, so one partner could make the list and someone else could do the shopping.
Cognitive Challenges to Eating Healthy with MS
Many with MS struggle with cognitive issues and all of the steps of planning a meal and getting it to the table can seem insurmountable sometimes. Those are the times that we are vulnerable to the quick but not so nourishing fix, right?
This is where the AnyList app (or another like it) really comes in handy! If you have uploaded all of your favorite recipes into the app then preparing a shopping list is a breeze. You simply click on the recipe and add all of the ingredients to your grocery list. Do this for each of the recipes you are planning to cook. Then, head to the pantry and mark off any ingredients you already have. Do the same at the freezer and refrigerator. This will prevent you from buying endless jars of peanut butter because you cannot remember if you have an ingredient or not… Yes I have been there! This would be a great time to add any staples you may be low on as well.
You can also include notes with each of the recipes to help you or your support partner with prep and cooking. Something like “roast chicken in advance” can be helpful if you are trying to break down the recipes into smaller tasks and get ahead on the weekend. This information can be shared with support partners who might be helping with shopping and prep.
The benefit of planning and prepping ahead is to spread the work out over the week so that you don’t have to start from scratch every night. Each recipe you are preparing will likely have one or more part(s) that can be prepared in advance. Making notes about this in your recipe notebook or app can be helpful during the week. Do a little each day when your energy is higher, which for many is in the morning but your mileage may vary so adjust to your own needs. You can cook up a pot of rice to be used with meals later in the week, or chop vegetables for salads, or roast a chicken for meals throughout the week.
For grocery shopping, arrange your list to match the layout of your store to conserve steps. When getting ready to cook, make sure you have all of the ingredients and supplies before you sit down to do your prep.
And finally, stocking your kitchen with some healthy staples as well as the basic ingredients that you use over and over again will make it easier on you when it comes to planning and prepping for healthy meals. I have a guide you may find helpful, sign up below to get yours!
I’ve still got a few more tips to share so check out the third and final part of the Overcoming Obstacles To Eating Healthy With MS series!