Eating well is of the utmost importance for our well-being. High-quality fuel gives our bodies the best chance for optimal functioning. When we live with chronic illness our bodies aren’t functioning at their best, but we need to give them the best chance possible. I’ve always thought I have to eat 10 times as well as a healthy person who eats a typical diet, to feel a quarter as good as they do. However, eating a garbage diet makes me feel even worse so as high of quality as possible, it is.
When we’re sick though, the last thing we feel like doing is planning, prepping and cooking, instead opting to grab something quick. That usually means frozen and processed food that provides zero nutrition.
Garbage in, garbage out. It’s a downward spiralling cycle.
However, with a few pre-thought-out hacks, some organization and a bit of planning, we can capitalize on our good days and alleviate much (or at least some) of this. We can provide ourselves with improved nourishment and nutrition. An extra bonus to all of this is it saves money too!
Being organized while remaining fluid and flexible as well is the key. Give yourself grace.
When you ARE having a good day and preparing a meal, double or even triple the recipe. Have one portion today, then freeze the others for use on another day when you aren’t feeling so well. You don’t have to duplicate the whole meal either — it could be smaller parts of the meal. For example, if you’re making chilli today, cook two or three portions of ground beef, use one for tonight’s chilli and freeze the rest (in meal-sized portions) for another day (which could be chilli or something else).
Also when you are having a good day, jot down a few of your own tips, “go-to” meals etc. This helps keep you organized and takes some pressure off of the not-so-good days. This could also include a loose weekly or monthly meal plan. Remain flexible though, just because you’ve written down “XYZ casserole” on Tuesday, doesn’t mean you have to have it on Tuesday. Swapping days according to your wellness level is perfectly ok.
Grocery shopping and delivery is available in most larger centres and this can save a ton of energy and time. Even smaller centres that don’t offer the more popular types of delivery have their own unique grocery delivery service. These services do come at an extra cost, so be forewarned.
Not everything has to be prepped at the same time you’re cooking your meal. Do as much as possible ahead of time. Many things can be washed, cut and prepped during the day (or even the day before) and then kept in the fridge until meal cooking time. I still use this method when I juice vegetables. They’re all washed and cut the night before ready to use first thing in the morning. This started as an energy-saving necessity, (I simply could not do everything at the same time), but it continues because it saves a ton of time in the morning.
Pre-cut and pre-chopped food. Things like salad kits, bags of pre-cut lettuce, pre-shredded cheese etc. help tremendously when we’re in energy-saving mode.
Pre Made Meal Kits
There is a vast array of meal kit companies out there. They accommodate different diets and have something for most tastes and dietary requirements. The kit comes with all ingredients in pre-measured quantities and easy-to-follow instructions – all delivered to your doorstep.
Meals on Wheels
This particular program is provincial-specific, but other provinces and areas offer similar services. Check out what is available in your area.
The Meals on Wheels Website describes their services as: “Meals on Wheels (MOW) delivers nutritious, delicious and affordable meals to a variety of groups, including: seniors, people with physical disabilities and cognitive impairments, individuals suffering from illnesses. recovering from surgeries, and those who need special dietary planning and assistance”
– and –
“the majority of MOW programs deliver meals hot and ready-to-eat, but some deliver frozen meals in containers ready to microwave. Some hot meal programs provide an additional frozen meal during the days prior to a weekend or holiday when there would be no delivery.”
General Tips & Tricks
You don’t need to stand in the kitchen for hours on end, preparing lavish meals in order for them to be nourishing.
Pull a stool over by the stove and/or counters and sit on it while prepping for and cooking meals. This saves a ton of energy and makes many tasks much easier.
Utilize appliances like your crockpot. Many delicious meals can be made in these simply by dumping in all the ingredients in the morning, turning it on and then leaving it for the day to cook. It does all the work and by dinner time, all that’s left to do is eat.
Clean-Up Time – If you need a rest between eating and finishing the clean-up, scrape the dishes and pots and then leave them to soak while you rest. That makes washing them later, much easier and the clean-up go quicker.
If there is a dishwasher available, even better.
When it comes time to do the dishes, using that stool is another energy saver win. Seriously, that stool will become your best friend!
Choices to be Made
Finally, while these may not have been our way of doing things prior to chronic illness or disability, we need to do what we need to do in order to get through our day the best we can.
Discern which is better for you. Choices and compromises have to be made. While we might prefer to make tomato sauce from scratch, the energy to do so might not be available. Make comparisons, weigh the pros and cons of everything then choose what you can let go and what you cannot. This is a personal choice of course — we are all different and we each have different requirements. What one person can compromise on, doing so for another would be a deal breaker.
Pacing. This is difficult to do, especially at first. We are a results-driven, push-on-through and get-it-all-done-first world where resting is only for after it’s all done.
Enter Chronic Illness and that all changes.
Resting is not laziness, it is a necessity. Resting and pacing allow you to accomplish more by spreading out the day. Healthy folk don’t think of things in small steps or parts, they see the larger picture. Cooking dinner, for example, is one thing on their to-do list. When we are chronically ill, we view cooking dinner as a hundred small steps. Breaking it down into smaller chunks helps ensure it all gets done. Doing some prep work, then sitting or lying down for a bit, returning to do some cooking, followed by more resting, then eating dinner, followed by more rest, then cleanup is not only acceptable, it s a must. It allows you to prepare and eat a nutritious meal. This is a concept most healthy people won’t understand, but choose to do whatever you need to, in order to get through. This is a must.
Above all — listen to your body and what it is telling you.