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Five Meal Ideas When You Don’t Have The Capacity To Cook

Updated: Aug 1, 2023

I often work with mother’s who are really struggling to feed themselves.

Sometimes it’s hard to prepare food or eat because of a perinatal mood disorder and sometimes because of being so overwhelmed a person has no capacity to cook or even think about planning meals.

Has this ever happened to you? If so, you aren’t alone!

I’ve personally experienced this for many months of my first born’s life. My go to “survival food” (quick, ready to eat food) was peanut butter off of a spoon as I walked laps around my kitchen with my fussy baby, trying to help him to sleep.

I barely had the brain space to figure out when I could shower, never mind planning the many steps in cooking a meal.

I’ve heard different variations of the same experience - sometimes it’s the same frozen food on repeat, or take out. Sometimes it’s a pot of rice, sometimes it’s pizza pockets and sometimes it’s nothing.

As a dietitian and a postpartum doula - I take a gentle and compassionate approach to supporting mothers who are struggling with food.

Struggling to cook or eat does not mean you are failing as a mother or a human - it just means that your need for support exceeds your capacity at this time.

Most people have experienced this at some point in their lives.

When this struggle with food exceeds about a week or starts to impact how your body is feeling or functioning - then we really need to address this issue and come up with a better plan.

A struggle nutrition plan looks different for everyone - but let’s talk about a few ideas to get started. How can you make nutrition as simple and easy as possible so you’re getting some sort of fuel into your body?

Here are five simple food ideas when you have low capacity:

  1. Breakfast - cereal and milk. Bonus: Can you get a lower sugar (less than 10 g/serving) or higher fibre (4g/serving or more) cereal like Shreddies, Cheerios or Vector? Fancier brands work too. Next step: Can you add in a spoon of protein powder, nuts or seeds like hemp seeds?

  2. Lunch - peanut butter sandwich and fruit. Bonus: Can you use whole grain bread? Next step: Can you swap out for some deli meat and veggies like lettuce and tomato?

  3. Dinner - boil pasta and add jarred tomato sauce. Bonus: Can you add some shredded rotisserie chicken on top? Next step: Can you brown some ground beef to add to the sauce and steam some frozen vegetables to serve alongside?

  4. Dinner - scrambled eggs and toast with butter. Bonus: Can you add some tomato slices or fruit to your plate? Next step: Can you cook bacon on sausage on a pan in the oven to serve alongside?

  5. Dinner - frozen prepared meal. For example - a stir-fry product from Costco or the grocery store with rice, chicken and veggies and sauce. Bonus: When it’s still hot, stir in 1-2 whisked eggs and a handful of frozen peas. Next step: Place chicken strips on a pan lined with parchment paper and add pepper strips or frozen stir-fry veg and bake in the oven until tender. You could also do this in a pan on the stove. Cook a pot of rice. Once cooked, mix with store bought sauce.

How are you doing with food right now? What is or has been your struggle food? I’d love to hear.



Your dietitian doula

There is no shame in the struggle game - we’ve all been there - especially when parenting small children!

If you know you need more support around food - hit reply to this email and we can set up a time to talk. Or book a time HERE.


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