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Dinner time used to be the most stressful part of my week. The thought of choosing a recipe, grocery shopping, and cooking felt paralyzing. But, after learning how to meal prep with ADHD, I feel more organized and stress-free around mealtimes – you can too!
- How to Meal Prep With ADHD: 9 Tips to Make It Easier
- 6 Benefits of Meal Prepping for ADHD
- 9 Tips on Simplifying Meal Prep for Someone With ADHD
- Meal Prepping Can ADHD-Related Binge Eating
- Related Questions
How to Meal Prep With ADHD: 9 Tips to Make It Easier
Figuring out what to eat after a long stressful day can be overwhelming, frustrating, and exhausting, especially for those with ADHD.
Meal prep requires focus, decision-making, planning, organizing, budgeting, and prioritizing – all of which can be challenging for those with ADHD. These traits fall under the umbrella term “executive functioning skills.” They help organize and regulate time, tasks, and thoughts. Simply put, they help us get things done.
Individuals with ADHD suffer impairments in some of these executive function areas. Their internal management system has a few “glitches,” making it challenging to complete certain tasks.
While meal planning can be overwhelming for those with ADHD, it is a skill that can be learned. Here are the benefits and top 9 tips on meal prepping with ADHD.
6 Benefits of Meal Prepping for ADHD
Cooking can be a real challenge for those with ADHD. Exploring the benefits of meal planning may motivate you to get started finally. Here’s why you should consider joining the meal-prepping community:
- Creates structure and routine: Structure and routine help people with ADHD manage their symptoms and boost their overall productivity and well-being.
- Reduced feelings of being stressed and overwhelmed: You won’t have to think about what to prepare each day, giving you the energy to focus on more important tasks.
- Saves time: Planning your meals saves multiple trips to the grocery store and weekday hours in front of the stove.
- Saves money: Meal prepping lets you set and keep your food budget parameters. It also reduces impulsive purchases and take-outs.
- Promotes healthy eating: Meal prep encourages you to plan healthy meals and cut back on fast foods.
- Reduces food waste: Meal prep helps reduce food waste by buying the right amount of ingredients for your weekly planned meals.
9 Tips on Simplifying Meal Prep for Someone With ADHD
Although meal prepping may be overwhelming initially, various strategies exist to develop a successful and sustainable meal planning habit that suits your unique lifestyle.
Here are 9 ADHD-friendly tips for developing a successful meal-planning habit.
Keep It Simple
Creating a meal plan can be daunting for people with ADHD. Keep it simple by starting small and gradually building on your meal planning as you gain confidence. This will ensure that your new habit is sustainable.
Start with a few simple and easy meal prep and snacks for the week ahead, and add more meals as you see fit.
Pen Down Some Favorite Recipes
This step may take some time, but you’ll thank me later.
Create a list with several – around 10 or more – quick, straightforward recipes and keep them in one location to avoid the unnecessary frustration of trying to remember when you put them. Use the recipes as a reference when filling out your weekly meal planning.
Quick and easy recipes that share common ingredients are the way to go for someone with ADHD – think freezer-friendly meals, sheet pan, and Instant Pot recipes.
I got really distracted with this step. Instead of penning down quick and easy recipes, I created thirteen different Pinterest boards of things I will likely never try or even look at again. Finally, after several episodes of frustration and stress, I purchased the ADHD Cookbook. It seriously changed my life for the better!
Create a Meal Plan
Create a meal plan in your daily planner or use a meal planning app to plan the week’s meals. Use your penned-down recipes as a general guideline and incorporate one or two new recipes weekly.
Incorporating a variety of whole foods and a rainbow of fruit and veggies into your weekly meals is vital. If your recipes miss some essential food groups, make a point to fill in the gaps for a balanced, healthy diet.
I like to let seasonal changes influence my menu. This helps me consume various foods at their optimal nutrient levels while saving money simultaneously – it’s a win-win situation.
Organize your kitchen, pantry, and refrigerator to ensure you have everything for a successful meal-prepping session.
An organized space ensures you know exactly what ingredients you have or need to add to your shopping list.
Keep a well-stocked pantry with essentials to help streamline meal prepping and to simplify menu creation. Only focusing on purchasing fresh goods in your weekly grocery haul can help reduce stress.
Stock up on these essentials:
- Whole grains
- Canned goods
- Baking essentials
Write down all the ingredients you need to meal prep for the week. Then, get into a predictable shopping routine to save time, stress, and money.
I recommend sticking to the same grocery store. You will feel less overwhelmed as you become comfortable with the layout, and it will prevent you from dawdling.
The grocery store is like a minefield; I get too easily distracted. So, I now place a weekly order for ALL my groceries and pick them up curbside. Online grocery shopping also lets me peek into my pantry when I struggle to stay organized.
Batch Meal Prep
Batch meal prepping will help you stay organized and spend less time in the kitchen. Try to use recipes when ingredients overlap or double up a recipe or two for the week.
Make room in your schedule for consistent meal prep sessions. 2 to 3 hours on Sunday and Wednesday evenings do the trick for me.
Consider special occasions, like birthday dinners and business lunches, to avoid food wastage.
Use the Slow Cooker and Pressure Cooker
Take full advantage of your slow cooker and pressure cooker while meal prepping. They are lifesavers and offer more freedom and hands-off cooking, giving you more flexibility.
Don’t Be Afraid of Using the Freezer
Batch meal prepping and freezing them for later helps save time and money and reduce wastage.
Many individuals with ADHD become averse to eating the same leftovers. Popping your prepped meals in the freezer allows you to choose dishes that align with what you feel like eating.
Pre-portion your prepped meals into air-tight individual containers. Store them in the fridge and freezer, and reheat them when ready.
Meal Prepping Can ADHD-Related Binge Eating
Research shows that symptoms of ADHD are frequently associated with eating disorders like binge eating or bulimia.
ADHD symptoms like impulsivity and executive dysfunction can turn eating and meal planning into arduous tasks. The decisions and steps involved in choosing and preparing a meal can cause paralysis.
Diligent and healthy meal-repping can help those with ADHD form healthier eating habits and prevent binge eating. Healthy eating can help reduce ADHD symptoms.
Does ADHD Affect Preparing Food?
Cooking and meal planning requires skills like decision-making, preparation, time management, and following multiple steps. Unfortunately, many people with ADHD struggle with these skills, making it challenging to complete specific tasks.
Can ADHD Be Treated With Diet?
While a healthy, balanced diet won’t treat ADHD, it can work as a complementary approach to alleviate symptoms of ADHD.
What Are the Best Foods for ADHD?
Foods rich in protein, complex carbs, and foods rich in omega fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins are especially beneficial to people with ADHD.
Meal prepping can be daunting for individuals with ADHD. Applying these 9 ADHD-friendly meal-prepping tips made life much easier for me. Hopefully, it will be for you too.
Nathaniel Lee is an avid cook, drawing on his decades of home cooking and fine dining experience. He is a contributing chef at Mashed, and his recipes and contributions have been featured in Tasting Table, Edible Arrangements, Insanely Good Recipes, and The Daily Meal.