If you’re tired of restrictive meal plans or meal plans that leave you feeling hungry or unsatisfied with your meals, then an Intuitive Eating meal plan is what you need. This dietitian meal plan will guide you to DIY your own meals. To plan your meals in an intuitive way, you’ll focus on a few different factors than you may have in the past, but you’ll feel more satisfied, less stressed, and enjoy your food more than if you took another approach. Here's how you can start Start Intuitive Eating and also Create a Meal Plan for One.
**While I’m not a certified Intuitive Eating counselor, I am a non-diet registered dietitian who uses Intuitive Eating concepts in my nutrition counseling.**
Intuitive Eating can help people cooking for one, and really everyone else, learn to tune into their own preferences and needs instead of outsourcing that info. This will empower you to eat and think about food in a way that benefits you, help your body feel good, and protect you from all the damaging things diet culture lies about.
Before I share my tips to create your own Intuitive Eating meal plan, I’d like to set a few ground rules to help you get the most out of this article.
Can you really lose weight with Intuitive Eating?
To quickly answer this question-the desired outcome or purpose of Intuitive Eating IS NOT WEIGHT LOSS. This is one of the biggest misconceptions with Intuitive Eating, that it promises the ability to change your weight. Expecting to change your weight by eating intuitively goes against the basic principles of Intuitive Eating. I’ll also say to be aware of anyone promising weight loss with Intuitive Eating. Whether they’re a dietitian or anyone else, Intuitive Eating is not about, and has never been about changing your weight. I’d say look somewhere else, if you’re being told that you can change your weight with Intuitive Eating, they're coopting Intuitive Eating and confusing everyone along the way.
Sure your weight may change after enacting principles of Intuitive Eating into your life, but one main purpose of Intuitive Eating is about ‘mak[ing] peace with food, free yourself from chronic dieting forever, and rediscovering the pleasures of eating’ via the cover of the 4th edition of Intuitive Eating. Principle #1 of Intuitive Eating is to ‘Reject the Diet Mentality’. People diet to lose weight, so rejecting the diet mentality also means rejecting intentional weight loss.
What are the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating?
These principles are taken directly from the Intuitive Eating website. Purchase the book or work with a dietitian who helps people incorporate the principles of Intuitive Eating into their counseling, like me.
- Reject the Diet Mentality
- Honor Your Hunger
- Make Peace with Food
- Challenge the Food Police
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor
- Feel your Fullness
- Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness
- Respect your Body
- Movement-Feel the Difference
- Honor Your Health-Gentle Nutrition
How do you incorporate Intuitive Eating into your Meal Plan?
I’m not here to tell you what to eat, and won’t give you a specific meal plan. But, you'll find a few tips to incorporate Intuitive Eating into your meal plans for the week. This takes a lot of introspection and will take time, but taking the time to go through this will set you up to feel less stress around eating and you’ll be able to make food choices that are pleasurable for you and aren’t based out of fear.
- Be realistic. One of the biggest stumbling blocks I see people hit as they’re trying to plan meals, and do so in a non-diet way is setting too high expectations. To combat that, start small. Plan one meal or a couple each week, include convenience foods if you’re short on time. Also, don’t expect to cook everything homemade if you haven’t done that in a long time, or, again, if you’re short on time or energy.
- Plan Your Meals around Your Schedule. The biggest mistake I see people make when they’re planning their meals, is that they choose meals the sound good, then add them to their schedule. That’s without looking at their schedule. Skipping this step means that you’ll probably plan on meals that you won’t have time or energy to make. That leads to spending extra money on plan B, wasting food, and feeling bad about yourself. Let’s set yourself up better than that.
- Take time to evaluate your choices. Intuitive Eating principle #3 teaches us to 'Make Peace with Food'. After doing so, you can non-judgmentally evaluate what worked and what didn’t (ie: what you have time to make/eat, your hunger/fullness, and preference, etc.), then make small changes to your planning or other steps to make cooking/eating even easier and more enjoyable.
- Address feelings of guilt, shame. Diet culture teaches us to feel a certain way about certain foods. I bet you know exactly what I mean. That’s why Intuitive Eating principle #4 teaches us to 'Challenge the Food Police'. This is so important because these feelings cloud our ability to make food choices and often lead us to feel bad about decisions, that are not bad. People often feel bad about food choices, and then start to believe that they're bad for making those choices. Oh my gosh, please don't do this to yourself, the list of 'bad things' is LONG before you get to food choices. AKA making certain food choices doesn't make you bad. you deserve better than to feel this way.
- Strip outside expectations. Diet culture teaches us to not trust our intuition or internal cues. It leads lots of people to not know what foods taste like, to not be able to recognize our own hunger and fullness cues, and many times, leads us to eat fewer calories than our bodies need. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but becoming aware of how we internalize what others say, and other outside forces tell us is key to eating intuitively and joyfully.
- Give yourself options. Lots of meal plans are rigid. You’ve got one option, and if you can’t do it, you’re a failure. That’s not a helpful approach or a positive one (ps: you're not a failure!). The thing is that we live in a complex, ever changing world. That means that our lives are changing all the time. Rigidity in an ever changing day isn’t helpful or productive. Lower your stress levels, increase your enjoyment, and eat tasty food by having back-up options. That doesn’t have to be a whole different meal plan, but can be a few extra frozen meals in the freezer, a stash of mac & cheese, or your go-to takeout spot for convenience.
- Rethink convenience. On that note, convenience is often treated as a 4 letter word in diet culture. There is NOTHING WRONG with going with the convenient choice. There definitely will be times when the convenient choice is better for our health and wellbeing, and that could be just getting something that’s reliant and quick so you don’t have to stress about one more thing. I talked to Nina, an Australian dietitian about fast food, you can listen to it here.
- Be Flexible. Give yourself the option to not follow your meal plan if you want. You may need to switch it because you’re short on time, because your meal didn’t turn out well, you just got asked to join friends for dinner or go on a date, or you may be craving something else. You don’t need a good reason to change your plans, flexibility is a simple practice to make meal planning a sustainable decision.
At the end of the day, any meal plan that you make needs to simplify your life & take some stress out of feeding yourself. If it doesn’t do that, it’s time to try something new.
I’ve created these resources to get you started with meal planning, they all incorporate principles of Intuitive Eating:
- 10 single serving recipes cookbook (sign up for my mailing list here & get weekly emails to help you cook for one & change how you think about cooking)
- Custom Dinner Kit
- Solo Cook’s Program
- Work with me one on one.
Now, tell me, what have you learned about an Intuitive Eating meal plan? Or do you have any more questions about it?