This post contains affiliate links. Affiliate links means that sometimes if you click through to a website and register or purchase something, I may get a commission from that sale at no extra cost to you. For more information click here.
Do you ever find yourself in a situation where you don’t know what to eat? This can be a real challenge, especially if you’re starting out in your intuitive eating journey. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially if you’re used to following diets in the past. In this blog post, we will explore some different options to discover what to eat when you don’t know what to eat. I will also provide some food ideas for when you’re in an “I don’t know what to eat” rut, by connecting to what YOU really want!
Why do I not know what I want to eat?
When you finally stop dieting and start nourishing yourself from a place of self care, it can feel strange and even scary. When we’re used to following a specific diet, meal plan, or “need to” include a certain amount of macros, it can feel safe–like there are clear-cut directions to guide us. Intuitive eating can feel like we’re free falling, and that can feel unsafe. This makes it hard to know what to eat when we’re trying to let go of external eating rules.
Not knowing what to eat can also happen when we aren’t connected to our wants and needs. It’s possible that you may have not taken into consideration what you really like to eat. If you’ve been focusing on external cues for eating (such as eating at specific times, sticking to certain portions, eating only “good foods”), you probably haven’t asked yourself what you really want to eat in awhile. You probably haven’t allowed yourself to eat for pleasure, which is something that diet culture actively discourages. It’s been more about what you “should” eat rather what you want to eat.
If this is you, don’t worry. This is a very common situation many find themselves in when they’re starting to eat according to internal cues. It takes time and practice to tune into these signals, especially if you’ve never done it before. It’s important to be gentle with yourself as you re-connect with what you really want.
Tips for figuring out what to eat when you don’t know what to eat
A good place to start out is by leaning inwards. Ask yourself the following questions:
- How am I feeling right now? Relaxed, stressed, bored? Is there a food that can match my mood?
- If I could eat anything at all in the whole world, what would it be?
- Can I allow myself to eat the foods I want? What’s getting in the way?
- What flavors call out to me right now? Sweet, savory, salty, spicy?
- Are there any textures that would feel good? Crunchy, chewy, creamy, smooth?
- How about temperatures? Would a piping hot dish hot the spot, or would a cool, refreshing one be a better choice?
- Do I need something filling, light or substantial?
- How much time do I have available to eat? Would I be able to fix myself something, or would it be more practical to buy something to eat instead?
This should help give you some clarity around what would hit the spot in terms of food. If not, continue on to the next tips.
Hungry but can’t decide what to eat? Here’s help
- Make sure you always have foods available that you like. These go-to (or “good enough) foods can be prepped in advanced and stored, or bought and available in your pantry. This can help you at least nourish your physiological hunger.
- Like to cook? Do one easy meal prep task a week. Then you can build on this. This way, you’ll be making sure you have the meals you usually enjoy available when you’re scratching your head over what to eat when you don’t know what to eat for dinner, for example. BTW, I love Rachel Hartley’s Gentle Nutrition book for amazing recipe ideas. She gives a lot of examples and realistic ideas on how to have fun in the kitchen, meal prepping tips, as well as teaching how to better honor your body’s hunger signals.
- If it’s a possibility, go out and get the meal you really want to eat. Whether it’s from the deli across the street, or ordering takeout from UberEats, know that you deserve to eat what you really want.
- Forget food rules. Do you feel like eating a bowl of breakfast cereal for dinner but think it’s not the “right” time to eat it? Ignore that diet mentality reasoning! A big part of learning to trust yourself around food is allowing yourself to eat whatever, whenever. Remember, your body will not want too much of anything, but it needs enough.
- Practice self compassion. Remember, this may feel new and or scary. Give yourself time and grace. Do your best to choose your foods with courage, compassion, curiosity and non-judgement.
What do you do when you’re hungry but nothing sounds good?
If you followed the steps above and still nothing sounds good, then make sure that you’re at least satisfying your physical hunger. Not all meals will check all the satisfaction boxes all the time, and that’s OK! However, your body does need food consistently in order to work properly.
Here are some tips for creating a meal that can provide physical satisfaction.
A balanced, filling meal, usually includes a mix of:
You can choose the foods you like from each group and combine them to your heart’s content! Really. You don’t have to actually make a meal out of…..making a…meal…(sorry!)
However, it’s important to keep in mind that this is not make this a hard and fast rule! We can nourish with different foods according to what feels good and still be satisfied. And yes, you can totally have leftover spaghetti for breakfast! Here are some ideas for quick go-to foods for when you don’t know what to eat.
Quick go-to food ideas
This is not a comprehensive list of course, and you can feel free to use any ideas that you like. These are just some examples to get the ball rolling when choosing something to eat when you don’t know what to eat:
- Crackers | Almond butter
- Applesauce with chia seeds
- Yogurt | Granola topping
- Hummus | Baby Carrots
- Ham and Cheese Sandwich
- Peanut butter sandwich
- Cottage cheese | Halved peaches
- Apple slices | Nut butter
- Tuna salad | Whole wheat crackers
- Avocado toast
- Carrot sticks | Ranch dressing
- Pear slices | Cheese cubes
- Homemade Trail mix: nuts, dried fruit, dry cereal
- Guacamole | Tortilla chips
- Ritz crackers | Mozzarella cheese sticks
- Fruit salad | Yogurt topping
- Cheese and Spinach Mini Quesadilla
- English Muffin Pizza with diced Choice Veggies
- Graham Crackers | Milk (or plant based alternative)
- Bagel | Cream cheese
- Canned soup
It may be complicated at first to figure out what to eat when you don’t know what to eat. I hope the tips here were helpful to you in gaining more clarity around your food.
Honoring your eating needs will eventually come a place of self-care. And it doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. What matters is that you take the time to tune in and figure out what will work best for you on any given day. How will you honor your food needs today?
Hi! I’m Melissa, Registered Dietitian and mother of two dragons. When I’m not talking nutrition you can find me rolling around the floor with my kids, sewing, crafting, cooking or missing the 90s (seriously, music just isn’t the same). Read More…