Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Planning Meals for Bad Bellies

One of the things that I find most difficult about having two digestive disorders is planning my meals within the constraints of both, while also keeping to my budget. Some days, the question “What am I going to eat?” can therefore be very difficult to answer.

This week, I would therefore like to share my progress in this, and what I have learned so far.


For several years, through school, university and now work, I have typically kept to the following daily meal structure: a small breakfast (usually some yoghurt), medium-sized lunch (like a sandwich or some fruit), and then my largest meal in the evening. This has been largely influenced by my general lifestyle – something quick as I leave in the morning, a slightly bigger meal in the middle of the day to keep me going at work, and then a good dinner when I get home and can relax. In particular, having yoghurt for breakfast seems to settle my stomach in the morning, which I believe is due to the probiotics in the yoghurt. Occasionally, I will also have some small snacks during the day, such as some biscuits or nut clusters, and try to keep hydrated as much as possible. This is the general pattern on weekdays, as I work full time during the week.

On the weekends, things are generally a bit more relaxed – I might have a larger brunch after sleeping in, rather than two separate meals for breakfast and lunch. Additionally, it is more common for me to eat out on the weekends, either with friends or my partner, whereas during the week I tend to prepare my own meals at home.

As discussed in this previous post, there are several different diets that could be useful for managing IBD or IBS, and I generally follow a combination of two or three different diets, depending on the situation. Similarly, you can find several suggested meal plans for IBD and IBS, such as this one, this one, or this one. However, I have found that neither of these are completely suitable for my situation, and thus I continue to rely on my own process of trial and error.


I do try to be strict with my meal schedule during the week at least, as it is recommended to have regular meal times to help with digestion, both with IBD and IBS. There are a few factors that can make this difficult for me however, as summarised below:

  • I am not the best cook. – Because I don’t seem to have much of either a talent or instinct for cooking, I find that cooking can take a lot of effort, and as a result, I often end up cooking very basic meals. Sometimes this can be good for avoiding trigger foods, but at the same time it means that I often lack variety in my meals.

  • Specialty foods or ingredients are often expensive, or difficult to find. – While I try to be strict about avoiding my trigger foods, this can sometimes be quite costly, as specialty foods, often found in the health food aisle of the supermarket or in specialty supermarkets, are often more expensive than other “regular” foods. Additionally, although this it is becoming more common in Australia due to products by GlutenFree4U and Dr. Sue Shepherd’s Low-FODMAP range (see image below), it is often quite rare to find foods that are suitable for people with FM.

  • It is easy to be lazy after a long day at work. – As discussed above, I am not the best cook, and when you add feeling tired after a long day, cooking can be the last thing I want to do!
  • Sometimes I lose my appetite during a flare. – On days where I am feeling bloated or have a stomach ache, eating and cooking are often the last things on my mind.
  • It is more difficult to avoid trigger foods when eating out. - As previously discussed, eating out can add an additional layer of complexity for avoiding trigger foods, as you often have less control over what you eat, and restaurants are not often able to cater for food intolerances – but this is becoming more common.

I am slowly working on my cooking skills and learning new recipes, but this has been a slow process. To help with this, I make sure to have leftovers to put in the freezer at much as possible when cooking, and when eating out, I look for restaurants or cafes that can cater to dietary requirements.

Do you have other suggestions for planning meals for IBS and/or IBD? Please share below. 

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