Meal Planning with IBS

Last updated: November 2022

IBS can be unpredictable. One minute you feel great and the next minute you are curled up in the fetal position with an IBS flare. If you have not planned your meals, this can often lead to skipping meals or eating foods that worsen your symptoms. Today I’ll share some of the benefits of meal planning and tips for getting started with meal planning.

Does skipping meals make IBS worse?

Unfortunately, few studies have investigated the relationship between meal patterns and IBS symptoms. One recent study found that people with a regular meal pattern had a 40 percent lower chance of having IBS than people with irregular meal patterns.1

However, the study does not necessarily show whether an irregular meal pattern causes IBS. After all, how often have you skipped meals because of an IBS flare?

Despite the inconclusive research, having a regular meal pattern is still important, especially because it allows you to meal plan more effectively. Having a regular meal pattern also helps ensure you do not go so long between meals that you end up eating an extremely large meal. This is important because large meals can worsen IBS symptoms.

Benefits of meal planning

There are many benefits to meal planning, including:2

  • Saving time
  • Preventing meal skipping
  • Reducing the amount of food waste
  • Reducing the stress of cooking last minute
  • Saving money
  • Improving overall diet quality

Getting started with meal planning

I find the best way to start meal planning is to choose 1 meal a week (for example, dinner) and plan those meals for the entire week. Once you’ve mastered planning dinners, you can move on to planning breakfasts and lunches.

There are 4 main steps to meal planning:

  1. Deciding what you’d like to make and finding a recipe for it
  2. Making a grocery list
  3. Shopping for ingredients
  4. Preparing the meal

Let's break it down!

Choose your meals

When choosing your meals, you don't need to reinvent the wheel. Make a master list of all the recipes you enjoy cooking so you can easily pick out which ones you want to eat. Want to switch it up? Try making one new recipe each week.

Make a list

Now that you have your recipes, it's time to make a grocery list. Start by writing a master ingredient list that includes every ingredient from each recipe. Next, go through your kitchen and cross off anything you already have. The items left on your list become your grocery list! Some people find it helpful to group ingredients by which section of the grocery store you’ll find them in (for example, group all the produce together).

Grocery shopping

Once you head to the grocery store, stick to what’s on your list! This can help save time and money.

Prepare the meals

Now that you have your ingredients, you are ready to start cooking. Save yourself some time by prepping vegetables immediately after you grocery shop. This saves prep time during the week, making it quicker to whip up a meal after a long day at work. You could also try pre-cooking your protein (like chicken) to remove an additional step from the weekday process.

Final Thoughts

If you struggle with an IBS flare, you may be tempted to skip meals. However, this is not guaranteed to relieve symptoms and could worsen them if you eat a large meal following the skipped meal. Meal planning ensures that your body gets adequate nutrients throughout the day. Plus, it can save you time and money. It’s a win-win!

Do you have any meal-planning hacks? Share them in the comments below!

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