This is a post about healthy eating, which can be a lot, I know! Between my ‘90s childhood, my disordered eating history, and my ADHD diagnosis, feeding myself in ways that make my body feel good and nourished can be a real struggle. It’s taken years to learn what works for me! Here are some of the ways I’ve learned to nourish my body in adulthood, even when my kitchen is messy, or I haven’t had the executive function to go to the grocery store.
There’s a saying they mention when feeding babies: “fed is best.” That principle’s not just for babies, my friends!
Nourishing your body is about addition, not restriction.
Do you remember the ‘90s? Food messaging isn’t always great now either, but things were absolutely wild back then. There was the Special K diet, the Yoplait yogurts that pretended to replace dessert, the cardboard-tasting Snackwells cookies in the bright green boxes…and every single bit of it was fat-free. It’s no wonder that by the time I became an adult, I fully associated the idea of eating healthy with the principles of substitution and restriction! But when you’re trying to nourish your body, those principles don’t work. Addition does.
In practice, this looks a lot like what I used to do when I was making dinner for my baby-sitting charges. Is the main dish mac and cheese? Great! Let’s throw some frozen vegetables in the pot with the noodles, and mix in a can of white beans or chicken at the end. Making quesadillas? Put in some beans for fiber and protein. The more you can round out your meal, the better it will serve your body in terms of sustained energy to make it through your day!
Don’t be afraid to snack.
When I get deeply fixated on my work, or super into a project, I often forget to eat. My ADHD meds don’t help with that, either! But there’s no rule that says we have to eat three strict meals a day, and snacking is a great way to make sure you get some food in you before you get hangry. Grocery store veggie trays with hummus, cheese and crackers, drinkable yogurts and kefirs, or even a big glass of chocolate milk (or hot cocoa) will help to ensure you have the calories you need to keep going!
Perishable fruits and veggies belong where you can see them.
I have ADHD, and anything that’s out of sight goes right out of my mind. Nowhere is that so true as in my fridge, which for some reason has discrete drawers for my dairy, fruit and vegetables. Those drawers are where perishable food goes to die.
A few months ago, probably after seeing something on TikTok, I made big changes to how I organized my fridge. After all, there’s no rule that says you have to use your drawers for produce! Now, I store dairy, fruits and vegetables in the door, where I see them every time I open the fridge, and notice when they’re about to go bad. My condiments go on one of my shelves in a couple of $3 caddies from Target, and canned beverages (I have so many!) go in my crisper drawers. I am eating so much more of my produce since I made the change! So much less food is going to waste!
Non-perishables are your secret weapon.
As a person who has thrown out far too much produce in my life, frozen vegetables are my very favorite secret weapon. They come pre-chopped, the flavor hasn’t been compromised like it is with canning, and they’re every single bit as nutritious as fresh (sometimes more)! They’re also a little bit cheaper than fresh vegetables, normally. A handful of frozen veggies can be tossed into almost any one-pot meal, and you can also just put some in a bowl with a tiny bit of water and steam them in the microwave to eat alongside that slice of cold pizza.
Then there are the shelf-stable foods I love to use. Canned beans, canned seafood, applesauce and other canned fruits…sometimes these get a bad rap, but there’s nothing wrong with using a shelf-stable option! I truly learned this at the beginning of the pandemic, when I was getting to the grocery store less, and my pantry cupboards started to look a lot more like my grandma’s did back in the day. Sometimes, a tuna sandwich or a bowl of canned peaches turns out to be exactly what my body needed.
Buy pre-prepared foods, when your budget allows.
Have you ever heard of the ADHD tax? The term was coined to talk about, among other things, the money we pay for food we buy that we just end up having to throw out because we don’t prepare it before it goes bad.
One way to avoid this is to “pay the ADHD tax up front,” and buy pre-prepared foods at the grocery store. I mentioned veggie trays above; other amazing foods that get me through are pre-cut fruit and pre-washed berries, rotisserie chickens, and frozen burritos (which I usually dip in plain full-fat yogurt for an extra protein boost)! Your own pre-prepared go-tos may change, but the idea remains the same. Remember: fed is best!
Do you have other tips for nourishing your body when your executive dysfunction is rearing its head? Let us know in the comments!
Practical Magic is a new column that curates how-to articles for living your best queer life, edited by Meg Jones Wall.