Health and Disability · Invisible illnesses

Meal hacks for living with chronic illness

I’m not going to talk about how to eat for your health, to heal yourself through food or supplements. I want to talk about the day to day realities of trying to feed yourself when you have a chronic illness and are limited due to fatigue and pain.

Really good days:

On really good days I’ll make a big pot of something I can freeze. I tend to do quorn chilli, quorn chicken curry, soup or a bolognese. I use quorn to add lots of protein, plus it means you don’t have to worry about food poisoning from chicken if you can’t eat it in time, or chop it up! Its fine in the freezer for ages and is pretty cheap. I  put in extra tins of beans for fibre and bulk out with loads of veg and tinned tomatos. I use frozen veg so no chopping. Onions, mushrooms, peppers, broccoli and spinach are my favourites and means that each portion is actually healthy. I use jars of herbs and spices for flavour, no fresh ones so no chopping, steering clear of readymade sauces as they’re full of sugar and nastiness and I generally just don’t like them. Each pot usually gets me 6 portions so I can just boil up some rice or pasta every couple of days, add in some salad from a bag, (if it hasn’t gone off) and you’ve got a healthy meal for worse days.

Good days:

These days I cook up the rice or pasta to go with my pre cooked meals from my really good days, I can also manage to chop up some cucumber, tomatoes and beetroot to add into a salad. I can manage an omelette (pre chopped veg and sliced cheese), stir fry (bag of frozen stir fry veg with either rice or noodles) I can also use these days to prepare a big bowl of fruit salad that gives me loads of vitamins and I feel like I’m eating something fresh and tasty. I use pre chopped and packed fruit, pineapples, pomegranate seeds, raspberries, blueberries and then add in some grapes and chop up some kiwi if I have the energy. This is expensive as the pre chopped fruit costs a lot, but it lasts me about a week and can I pop on some yogurt and have it for breakfast if I want.

Medium days:

This is when the pre planning comes in. I’ll eat my 1 pot meals on these days, make toasties and scrambled eggs. Nothing too energetic but I’m still getting good food from my pre-cooked meals and I love a cheese and tuna toastie with some crisps, twiglets or mini cheddars, Billy also likes the left over tuna! I can manage to open a tin on these days, get to the takeaway next door or whisk up some eggs, but not much more so have to eat what I’ve got ready. I’m also loving a feta and avocado pitta bread sarnie on these days. Both are soft enough to chop up easily and a frozen pitta bread just pops in the toaster…stick in any left over salad, add in a yogurt and you’ve got a tasty tea!

Bad days:

These are the days where a tin isn’t going to be opened, eggs are not going to be whisked, kettles full of water are not going to be boiled and pans are not getting lifted. So I’ll have a toastie if there’s already tuna or beans opened, I can manage to get down the stairs in my flat to collect a delivery or shake up a protein shake to get some vitamins and minerals in me, or I’ll just eat whatever’s in the fridge. It’s days like these that I’ll have random things mixed together like left over stir fry with some cheese and crackers (if it’s pre portioned cheese) with bags of popcorn and a kit Kat to cheer me up and satisfy my sugar cravings.

Really bad days:

These are scavenger days when I’m struggling to get from the sofa to the bathroom, in loads of pain with a wall of fatigue. I’ll spend most of my time on the sofa and in bed, and I’ll make a nest for myself with snacks so I don’t have to get up for food and drinks. I’ll do a pot of tea, bottle of water and cans of pop for drinks, all moved on my trolley and kept on my array of tables I surround myself with. Food will be cereal, packets of crisps, twiglets and mini cheddars with any left overs and toast. I can’t manage chopping or lifting so light cutlery and no food that needs cutting so anything like sausages, bacon or cheese is out. I’d not manage to get up and down the stairs in my flat so couldn’t do a food delivery so only people with keys can bring me anything, but then I can’t do people on bad days so they’d have to leave straight away 😉

I’ve changed my attitude to food over the past couple of years. I still try to eat as healthy as possible, but I’ve given in to not being able to cook for myself regularly and have cut down my range of meals for ease and cost. My 1 pot meals are full of good things and a huge bowl of fruit salad will last me a week but I’m always eating the same things. When I eat out I like to try new and different things to add some variety into my diet, and I’ll eat out about 3/4 times a week. I’ve had to get my shopping delivered as I can’t manage the supermarket anymore and I’m actually looking forward to moving and having an oven so that I can eat more easy meals! (The flat I’m in now has a hob and microwave so I haven’t had oven chips or a frozen pizza in 7 years!) I have to plan my meals to make sure I’m not wasting food and I get really annoyed when I have to throw things out because I haven’t had a day that that food fits into before it goes off! 

Lots of this is planning and preparation, as well as managing my own expectations of what I’m going to eat and what I can manage. I’m restricted by the stairs in my flat, as well as not having an oven, but I’ve ordered some healthyish noodle pots to try out to see if I can add a bit more variety into my diet. I just need to conquer my emotional eating and I’ll be all sorted!

I only have to look after myself, how do you guys cope with families to feed as well?

How do you all manage? Any great tips or recipes?  

Vic xx

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