Author Topic: Help! How to meal plan many small meals?  (Read 1179 times)

Botany Bae

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Help! How to meal plan many small meals?
« on: April 17, 2021, 08:08:39 AM »
My wife just found out she has a birth defect of the pancreas that mimics pancreatitis. The treatment is a few minor dietary changes and a switch to multiple small meals a day.

The problem? We have always been a three meals kinda family. I'm the cook (and that won't change, I usually enjoy the role) and I have meal planned for 20 years. I don't know how to change that habit. We are vegetarian, which really means that the only animal foods we eat are eggs and honey because I'm lactose intolerant and she can no longer have a lot of dairy.

The main challenge is that we don't do pre-prepared meals or foods at all really. I don't mind trying to shift my diet to a 5 to 6 small meal pattern, I just can't wrap my head around how to plan and cook for it when nearly everything is made from scratch, including the bread. There's really no grab and go snacks around here. I also feel like we need to have more (home) prepared food on us when we are out for the day, otherwise we'll have to stop for take-out "snacks" when running errands.

Am I over thinking this?

PoutineLover

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Re: Help! How to meal plan many small meals?
« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2021, 08:22:48 AM »
It's a change, but it shouldn't be too complicated once you get used to it. Maybe the easiest switch would be to eat a meal in two halves - you would still be making three meals and eating them twice each (over consecutive days if you prefer). Or, separate the sides and main, eat those at different times. Sandwiches are easy to take on the go. Salads are decent, since they don't need to warmed up, but they're not as easy to eat on the go. Homemade granola bars are easy and portable, as are trail mixes and fruits and veggies with dip. Maybe make a list of meals and sort them by what you can eat out vs at home, and figure out how the 5-6 meals fit into the day and where you would be for each of them.

terran

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Re: Help! How to meal plan many small meals?
« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2021, 08:28:46 AM »
Would she be bothered by just breaking up the meals you usually eat into multiple smaller components?

Sibley

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Re: Help! How to meal plan many small meals?
« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2021, 09:33:56 AM »
I do this when I'm heat stressed and can't eat. Assuming I actually cook a meal (lot of snacking happens), I just eat a small amount, then go back later and eat more. Over time, your stomach will actually shrink so eating the larger amount becomes difficult. Sometimes I'll break up the components. So if I'm eating a veggie + a main dish + another side, I might eat the veggie first, then come back later and eat the main dish, then later eat the 2nd side. Or whatever I can manage.

Edit: You may also find that appetizers or bite sized things lend themselves well to this.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2021, 09:36:03 AM by Sibley »

ixtap

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Re: Help! How to meal plan many small meals?
« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2021, 09:41:09 AM »
Others have spoken to the idea of breaking up the existing meals, but some grab and go things I use:

-cut up veggies, with or without a dip, like hummus
-nuts: I have small tupperwares that I fill with nuts when heading out
-sandwiches - OK, not exactly grab and go, but you can prep the ingredients, so that you just put a few things together quickly. For example, we often have falafel sandwiches with avocado, tomato and lettuce or sprouts
-bean salad - ours is just a can each of green beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, some olive oil, balsamic vinegar and herbs
-fruit and nuts or nut butter

tygertygertyger

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Re: Help! How to meal plan many small meals?
« Reply #5 on: April 17, 2021, 09:55:22 AM »
I start my day with an apple + peanut butter. Maybe an hour later I'll have some more typical breakfasty thing - eggs w/ veggies, for example. Often I'll eat a small bowl of popcorn at lunchtime, and a couple hours later eat a more standard lunch - a bowl of veg chili w/ avocado and cheese. Dinner comes later. So I'm also suggesting the meal breakdown, like many above commenters did.

I don't know how you prep food, but I also use my freezer like crazy. I make a batch of soup or chili, and freeze it in small 1-cup or 2-cup containers, so I can pull out a few things to defrost and have ready-made portions of tasty homecooked food. I used to take those to work, but now I just eat them at home since I'm remote.


Dollar Slice

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Re: Help! How to meal plan many small meals?
« Reply #6 on: April 17, 2021, 10:29:28 AM »
Kind of depends on what sort of foods you eat - some things are easier to split than others. I have been dealing with a medical problem that has a similar result (have to eat smaller amounts more frequently). I'll usually just split the food into segments and eat it over multiple meals. Half a plate of pasta now, half a plate later. Half a sandwich now, half later. Other people may have higher standards than me ;-) but I just don't have the desire to cook that much food. I already batch cook a lot of meals so it's just reducing the portion size and making more, smaller portions of it.

Small grabbable things you can prep might include: muffins, banana bread with peanut butter, veggie egg bites, hummus/dips and pita/crackers/veggies, peanut/nut butter on crackers/apples/etc., roasted spiced nuts or chickpeas, smoothies, trail mix, veggie chips, snack mix (like Chex mix, but there are a million different recipes), black bean/veggie empanadas...

mozar

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Re: Help! How to meal plan many small meals?
« Reply #7 on: April 17, 2021, 06:11:21 PM »
I make an oatmeal "bake" with three bananas, 1/4 peanut butter, honey to taste, and 2 cups of oats. Bake for 20-30 minutes. I cut it into squares that I can munch on through out the week.

I make pico de gallo with about 7 tomatoes, an onion, an orange pepper, and garlic. This lasts me about a week and I mix it into guac which I make for lunch every day and serve with corn chips.
For dinner I put some tomato sauce in a pot and add frozen vegetables. I like artichoke hearts, peas, and brocolli. I don't need to meal prep it since I can throw it together in about 5 minutes.

Someday I would like to learn to make pasteles because they are freezable.

Botany Bae

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Re: Help! How to meal plan many small meals?
« Reply #8 on: April 17, 2021, 08:19:33 PM »
Thank you for all of these wonderful ideas! I knew I was overthinking it, as I am wont to do! She's one of those people that eats three times her body weight but she never gains weight, but we have to work to overcome that habit as her stomach/pancreas just can't take it. Today we were out for lunch so took a picnic, so I split her sandwich into two (wrapped) segments, and included several small sides in order to encourage nibbling instead of inhaling of all the food. She said that helped. I'll do similar with dinners, and that will likely work for 90% of our meal styles!

Linea_Norway

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Re: Help! How to meal plan many small meals?
« Reply #9 on: April 18, 2021, 03:04:47 AM »
Maybe she should include high calory foods in those small meals. Like adding extra (olive) oil and nuts to dishes. Oil is the most calory dense food available and nuts are pretty dense as well.

ender

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Re: Help! How to meal plan many small meals?
« Reply #10 on: April 18, 2021, 07:07:29 AM »
You might get inspiration from looking at really fancy multicourse meals online - a lot of those stages could become small meals in your context.

Botany Bae

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Re: Help! How to meal plan many small meals?
« Reply #11 on: April 18, 2021, 07:25:34 AM »
Maybe she should include high calory foods in those small meals. Like adding extra (olive) oil and nuts to dishes. Oil is the most calory dense food available and nuts are pretty dense as well.

Unfortunately, this isn't an option. We have to go as close to zero fat as possible because she is on a pancreatic protocol diet. I can use a little oil and some healthy fats like avocado in extremely small amounts.

Catbert

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Re: Help! How to meal plan many small meals?
« Reply #12 on: April 18, 2021, 09:59:17 AM »
You might get inspiration from looking at really fancy multicourse meals online - a lot of those stages could become small meals in your context.

Yes!  Think tasting menu or tapas.

cupcakery

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Re: Help! How to meal plan many small meals?
« Reply #13 on: April 19, 2021, 06:06:34 AM »
I freeze leftover soup in those small glass mason jars.  Muffin tins make nice single serve portions of whatever you are cooking.  I'm a big fan of cooking once and being able to eat many times.  I'm BFFs with my freezer.  It seems like that would be necessary in your situation so that you aren't cooking all of the time.  Salads, veggies & dip, fruit salads, sandwiches, etc. can be prepped quickly.

kite

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Re: Help! How to meal plan many small meals?
« Reply #14 on: April 19, 2021, 07:57:03 AM »
You might be overthinking it.
Meal planning is the same as it was.  Meal Prep can stay the same, too. 
You can still prepare meals 3x per day, she just needs to eat 6x per day (or whatever interval her healthcare team is aiming for).  There is zero reason that Breakfast 1.0 and Breakfast 2.0 need to be two different things, for example.

That said, I'm a giant fan of less frequent meal prep.  Tamar Adler's Everlasting Meal was a game changer.

mozar

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Re: Help! How to meal plan many small meals?
« Reply #15 on: April 19, 2021, 11:27:36 AM »
If the problem is over eating (same) I suggest cutting out bread, rice, and white potatoes. They fill you up without a lot of nutrients. You can really pound down vegetables without going over board. You can eat a lot more food if you're not filling up on bread.
For me it took a long time to change my mindset from eating rice (brown or white) as "filler" and to just eat more of the other things. It takes longer to get full but it also lasts longer.

Botany Bae

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Re: Help! How to meal plan many small meals?
« Reply #16 on: April 19, 2021, 11:37:12 AM »
If the problem is over eating (same) I suggest cutting out bread, rice, and white potatoes. They fill you up without a lot of nutrients. You can really pound down vegetables without going over board. You can eat a lot more food if you're not filling up on bread.
For me it took a long time to change my mindset from eating rice (brown or white) as "filler" and to just eat more of the other things. It takes longer to get full but it also lasts longer.

It's not a weight related issue, it's pancreatic divisum - a birth defect of the pancreas that leads to reflux-type symptoms in some people (most are never aware that they have it, but those that are have reflux/pancreatic attacks). In fact, she has to cut out most fats which may be an issue because she tends to lose rapidly. She needs some of the filler because she can't eat more to feel full, that can trigger an attack. It's kind of funny, because the doctor recommended rice as a good option because it tends to be gentle and not cause attacks or reflux. It's going to be a balance. We're reading up on pancreatitis protocol diets as those are the closest to what she needs.




GreenToTheCore

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Re: Help! How to meal plan many small meals?
« Reply #17 on: April 19, 2021, 04:13:35 PM »
...the doctor recommended rice as a good option because it tends to be gentle and not cause attacks or reflux.

That might be a starting place, too.
Rice is great with so many dishes and spans many cuisine types. Some thoughts:
- Asian: scrambled eggs and rice, with soy sauce, cut up carrots, and some furikake or shredded nori as a topper
- Indian: https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/indian_style_rice/
- Latin American: gallo pinto/casado, sans the pork chop  https://www.travelexcellence.com/costa-rica-travel-blog/casado-the-typical-costa-rican-dish 


You got this!

mozar

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Re: Help! How to meal plan many small meals?
« Reply #18 on: April 19, 2021, 04:20:19 PM »
I wasn't talking about weight. I can also eat a ton without gaining any weight.

Don't get me started on "doctors" I went to doctors for decades looking for help with my chronic pain/ chronic fatigue/ hypoglycemia...

Something to look out for in the future as she changes her diet is that rice can raise your glycemic index. I put a lot of effort into maintaining my blood sugar levels so that's another reason I don't eat rice anymore. Based on the admittedly very small amount of research I have done blood sugar might be an issue too.

Quote
She needs some of the filler because she can't eat more to feel full, that can trigger an attack.
I can't wrap my head around this. I'm not asking you to explain it. I'm just very interested in diets and will try to learn more about this.

Another suggestion I have is juicing to make sure she is getting all her nutrients.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2021, 04:40:45 PM by mozar »

DaMa

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Re: Help! How to meal plan many small meals?
« Reply #19 on: April 19, 2021, 07:36:24 PM »
Dried fruit is calorie dense, fiber rich, and portable.  It can also add a lot of zest to cooked dishes.

Serendip

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Re: Help! How to meal plan many small meals?
« Reply #20 on: April 19, 2021, 09:23:35 PM »
 Lots of good suggestions here!

here is a red lentil pate that I make weekly (I also add in lemon juice/oregano/thyme and you can omit most of the oil). It's surprisingly tasty/satisfying and is from Amy Chaplins book Whole Food Cooking Everyday (maybe your library has it?). I make quite a few lentily dishes and love having simple/vegan/vegetarian snacking options so I have enjoyed her books although she does use some rather elaborate ingredients.. I eat this with crackers or on toast with sprouts.

https://www.behealthynow.co.uk/healthy-meals/red-lentil-pate-vegan-and-gluten-free/

Her chia bircher bowl is another good one.
(I always modify her recipes to use what I already have in the pantry but I like her books for inspiration)

https://nationalpost.com/life/food/cook-this-apple-citrus-chia-bircher-bowl-from-whole-food-cooking-every-day

Vegan richa is another website I like and Budget Bytes (falafel salad!).. I batch cook things and then can grab things to go or pack things in containers/jars when on the road or heading to work.

that's lovely that you are putting this effort in to support your wife..

Catbert

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Re: Help! How to meal plan many small meals?
« Reply #21 on: April 20, 2021, 10:47:51 AM »
If eggs are ok for her, hardboiled eggs can be cooked ahead and kept in the refrigerator for a quick "meal" either alone or along with veggies/fruit/starch.

Laura33

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Re: Help! How to meal plan many small meals?
« Reply #22 on: April 21, 2021, 10:34:36 AM »
I immediately thought back to how I cooked when I had two small kids at home, which rendered us a family of 4 with 4 very very different eating preferences.  I thought less about a "meal" and more about a variety of individual components that people could put together however they liked.  So for ex, one meal might be chicken, rice, broccoli, and berries, but almost no one would actually eat all four of those things. 

The benefit to this approach is that you can cook/prep in fairly large quantities on the weekend and then just mix and match what you feel like for an individual meal.  It also helps when you have dietary restrictions, because you can make sure you include enough individual components to provide the nutrition you both need. 

I am also a big fan of making a big batch of something and then using it multiple ways or portioning it out.  I'm sure you've been doing stuff like that for years, and you don't need to change that at all -- just portion it out into smaller portions.  I would also encourage some weekend prep to have acceptable snacks ready to go in appropriate portions -- veggies, fruits, nuts, boiled eggs if she can eat those, etc. 

Finally, you may also want to consider something like a protein shake to have available.  With her dietary limitations, she may struggle to get enough protein to maintain her muscle tone.  That's also a good way to have a little something without being tempted to over-indulge.