If you’ve struggled with finding an ADHD meal plan that actually works with you (not against you), you’re not alone! Many of my clients have tried meal planning in the past, but never found it helpful or realistic. In some cases, meal planning actually made eating HARDER for them.

 

Having an ADHD meal plan can make nourishing your body feel less overwhelming and more efficient. And while there are special considerations I like to make when working with clients with ADHD, that doesn’t mean meal planning is unattainable.

 

Ways your ADHD makes meal planning hard

  • Trouble focusing and feeling overwhelmed with shopping and cooking
  • Wanting to give up if something feels hard or you can’t do it “perfectly”
  • Feeling disconnected from hunger and fullness cues
  • Making impulsive food decisions , or getting bored with food-related tasks
  • Procrastinating and having a warped sense of time

 

The benefits of an ADHD meal plan

  • Reduces decision paralysis
  • Decreases planning and eating overwhelm
  • Creates realistic routine and structure
  • Saves time and making cooking more efficient
  • Saves money and decreases impulse food purchases
  • Reduces stress and increases confidence in the kitchen

 

 

3 Ways to Simplify Your ADHD Meal Plan

 

Putting together an ADHD meal plan doesn’t have to be overly-complicated. But it does need to address the unique challenges you face with your condition. I consider the following key components of your ADHD meal plan: Grocery shopping, prepping in advance, and preparing food in the moment.

 

1) Grocery shopping

 

Why it’s great:

  • Always have food in the house so you have options when you’re hungry
  • Save money by ordering less takeout

 

What makes it hard:

  • Grocery stores can be seriously overwhelming
  • Easily distracted by novelty foods, forget to buy what you need
  • Lose track of time inside the store
  • Get frustrated when you can’t find something and leave without what you need

 

Ways to make it easier:

  • Make a master list and keep it visible in your kitchen
  • Add items to the list in real time as the week goes on
  • Take your list with you to the store and check it off as you shop
  • Shop more than once a week if one trip feels like too much pressure
  • Use grocery delivery or pick up services
  • Don’t go to the store hungry, it’s too distracting

 

2) Meal prepping in advance

 

Why it’s great:

  • Zero decision making at meal time, just heat and eat
  • Can plan to eat your favorite meal more than once
  • Ideal if you have a larger block of time you can dedicate to cooking

 

What makes it hard:

  • Requires time and energy investment up front
  • Eating the same thing multiple days in a row can lead to burnout
  • Not ideal if eating leftovers give you the ick

 

Ways to make it easier:

  • If you’ve never meal prepped before, start with just one recipe
  • Print the recipe out instead of looking at it on your phone or computer
  • Read the recipe all the way through before starting so you know what to anticipate
  • Use time blocking to break up cooking tasks and take breaks when you need them
  • Capitalize on times when your energy and focus are highest—doesn’t have to be only on weekends or only at night

 

3) Making meals without meal prepping

 

Why it’s great:

  • Decide in the moment what you’re in the mood for
  • Ideal if you’d rather invest several smaller chunks of time to cooking instead of one large one
  • No leftovers, no ick (if leftovers aren’t your thing)

 

What makes it hard:

  • Deciding what to eat in the moment can get overwhelming
  • If you wait too long to cook, you may get overly hungry
  • If something doesn’t go according to plan it can be tempting to give up

 

Ways to make it easier:

  • Set a timer and give yourself uninterrupted, undistracted time to make a decision about what to make, or if you’ll use your back up plan
  • Have a back up plan—whether it’s an easy meal, frozen meal, or takeout
  • Similar to meal prepping, you can still decide on what you’ll make early in the week, but plan to cook it the night of
  • Keep a list of meals to make that cater to different tastes and amount of energy involved to make them
  • Utilize meal kits that come with all the ingredients and directions ready to go

 

 

More helpful ADHD meal plan strategies:

 

Work with time, not against it

  • Set aside dedicated time to plan/prepare/eat meals
  • Use visible clocks or timers to stay on track with tasks once started

 

Lists, lists, LISTS

  • Create visual reminders of tasks and time blocks with lists and sticky notes
  • Keep grocery lists, easy meal lists etc displayed in the kitchen in plain sight

 

Break tasks down into smaller steps

  • Complete steps one at a time, doesn’t have to be all at once
  • Take breaks if you need them, set timers to remind you to return to tasks you already started

 

Create systems that are realistic, not perfectionistic

  • Not every meal has to be prepared from home, but it’s good to have a plan in advance when cooking can’t happen
  • Capitalize on times when focus and energy are high, even if it’s not conventionally when you think you “should” cook or meal prep
  • Use disposable dishes, cutlery, or cooking trays to cut down on dish-washing time

 

Problem solve before the problem arises

  • Create alternative plans in advance, like what to do if you’re too tired to cook, what to do if you miss grocery shopping day, or what to do if you can’t decide on a meal to eat

 

Make time to eat regularly

  • Eating throughout the day can reduce the amount of time you spend ravenously hungry and making impulsive eating decisions

 

Name an accountabili-buddy

  • Whether that’s a parent, roommate, partner, spouse, therapist, or dietitian, enlist someone who knows your plan and your goals that can help you stay on track
  • Take your accountabili-buddy to the grocery store with you or have them check in mid-week to see if you need help executing or troubleshooting your eating plan

 

 

Easy meals that fit your ADHD meal plan

 

One pan spaghetti and meatballs

Why it’s great: You only dirty one dish, so there’s less to clean up

 

5 Ingredient curry chicken

Why it’s great: Uses just 5 simple ingredients that are easy to find at the store (and you might already have on hand)

 

Baked chocolate oatmeal

Why it’s great: Having breakfast with protein prepped in advance can help you stay on track with the rest of your day (plus chocolate, duh)

 

Black bean and corn quesadillas

Why it’s great: These ingredients can live in your pantry for a long time, so you always have a quick and simple meal option on hand

 

Chocolate peanut energy balls

Why it’s great: Best as a snack, energy balls are simple to make and pack a powerful energy punch between meals

 

Edamame salad

Why it’s great: Keep these ingredients in the freezer or the pantry and assemble this protein-rich salad as a meal or a side whenever you need to

 

Sheet pan chicken and potatoes

Why it’s great: This can be super customizable depending on how you season your chicken and what vegetables you decide to roast with it

 

Greek mason jar salad

Why it’s great: Salads don’t typically meal prep well, but these mason jars can be made in advance and kept overnight

 

Rotisserie chicken salad

Why it’s great: If second-day rotisserie chicken gives you the ick, this is a great way to repurpose your leftovers to make a totally new meal

 

Slow cooker chili

Why it’s great: Crock pot meals are dump and go so you can stay hands off (this recipe can go straight in the crock pot or you can freeze it and slow cook it later)

 

Blueberry cacao smoothie

Why it’s great: Smoothies are fast and portable, and can work as a meal in a pinch if they contain enough protein and healthy fat (like this one does!)

 

 

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Kristin Jenkins, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. Kristin specializes in eating disorders and intuitive eating, and is an advocate for weight-inclusive care for all her clients.