Planned Intuitive Eating

Posted: January 27, 2011 at 12:16 pm

That title seems like quite the oxymoron, doesn’t it? Many perceive intuitive eating as completely go-with-the-flow in moment to moment eating decisions. Doesn’t planning negate that concept? I don’t really know the answer, but I do know that I would say I practice it.

Most of you know how much I believe in intuitive eating. I wrote an entire series reviewing its principles after all. (You can find all those posts under my Top Posts page). At the same time, however, I have to plan out much of what I eat..and when I eat. As a mom coordinating schedules for two others, I have to make time for myself to eat because otherwise I honestly may forget to eat. That’s no fun and only leaves me ravenous and out of touch with my body. Also, we have a pretty tight budget when it comes to groceries; meal planning has to occur.

For this reason, I typically eat the same things each week for breakfast, lunch, and snacks as they are the items planned for in my meals. Dinner is something new every night, but also planned while making my grocery list. My meals this week, for example, look something like this -

Breakfast = oats topped w/ natural peanut butter & fruit, an egg on the side


Snack 1 = a banana and some Cocoa Roast or Cinnamon Roast almonds


Lunch = a sandwich on bakery fresh 9 grain bread w/ turkey, tomato, spinach, mustard, pickles, onion and veggies w/ hummus on the side…some dark chocolate for my sweet tooth


Sometimes I will have leftovers for lunch instead of the above.


Snack 2 = a container of Chobani and an apple before heading to the gym


Dinners = last night we had roasted chicken & carrots, fresh green beans, and whole wheat macaroni & cheese (thanks, Alisha for the care meal! delicious!!!)


Dessert = If I’m craving something, I will have a small somethin’ somethin’ for dessert. You can imagine this happens in some form most nights. 😉


So, how can I call this intuitive eating if I know ahead of time what I plan to eat? In my opinion, there is one basic difference that allows this style of eating to work for me and still be intuitive on a whole. My plans are simply due to lifestyle and not set with the intention of having control over my food. This way I can still practice true intuitive eating with the following adjustments if necessary:

  • If I still feel hungry over what I planned to eat, I do not hesitate to have more.
  • If I truly don’t feel like eating something, I don’t force it. We do have other options I can make work when I don’t feel like having a planned meal.
  • I still focus on eating mindfully and being aware of cravings caused by emotions, stress, fatigue, etc.
  • I plan foods and meals I truly enjoy and I know I will want to eat. I don’t plan foods because they are “good” versus “bad” or fit a certain caloric allotment.

So, there you have it. My approach as “planned intuitive eating”. It works for me.

Question of the Day – Do you plan out meals or take things one meal at a time? What ways do you practice eating intuitively?

Also, do you like the occasional “my day of eats” posts to see what I have or do you prefer it more sporadic with showing a snack here, breakfast there, dinner every now and then?

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89 Comments to “Planned Intuitive Eating”
  1. Stephanie says:

    I plan to intuitively eat next month. Since I’m currently all raw…it’s a *planned intuitive eating* coming up…but not planned at the same time. I bet eating as a nursing mom leaves you with different intuitions than when not nursing!

  2. Oh my goodness that mac and cheese looks like exactly what I need. We got 19″ of snow overnight so some comfort food is exactly what the doctor ordered!

  3. I really like your planned approach to intuitive eating. I’m sure it helps to have an idea of what you’re going to eat, but then also make sure to listen to your body and what it wants. I don’t know too much about intuitive eating, so I really appreciate this post! Hope you have a great day!

  4. During the week I plan out every meal pretty much for the day since I have breakfast, lunch, and two snacks at work. I have to have that planned.

  5. This is a subject that is so difficult for me to wrap my mind around, because for so many years, I was on “meal plans” in order to be healthy. I am only now starting to comprehend what it means to listen to my body and feed it (or not feed it) based on what it is telling me. I will refer back to this often, Tina

  6. We’re semi-planned. I have a few meals I’ll plan, and buy for in a given week, but the day isn’t set. And then there are the staples (produce, chicken, rice) that I will always have on hand. So…I have some flexibility but I generally know about what we’ll end up with.

  7. I have very similar eating habits as yours!
    I almost always plan my meals out. I prepare my breakfast, lunch and snacks the night before so I can take it all with me to work in the morning.

    As for dinner it’s usually planned but some night I just create something with what I have on hand!

  8. Lauren says:

    I like posts where you show your eats. It’s easier to eat intuitively if you plan out potential meals & snacks. Knowing that I have an afternoon snack with me keeps me from grazing or eating just because. However, if I am actually hungry, I will eat something extra.

  9. i do meal planning too, but i never force myself to finish something if i’m full and if a certain component of my meal (lunch usually) doesn’t appeal at meal time, i don’t eat it and save it for a snack or for the next day.

    i liked seeing your food for the whole day. i wouldn’t want it every day because i love your regular posting style, but every now & then is totally fine! 🙂

    • Tina says:

      If I did every day you all would be bored to tears and so would I. Haha. It would be maybe a once a week thing if people did want to see it all in one post.

  10. Oh such a wonderful post Tina!

    Similar to you, my heart belongs to intuitive eating. Here is what I love most about the practice: take the foundation and ideas that make intuitive eating what it is and find how it fits in YOUR life, in YOUR body and in YOUR own unique way. And that is exactly what you have shown us today.

    No one plan, diet, approach or theory works for us all! We all have such different needs and preferences depending on life and what feels good in our bodies. That has been my biggest shift in mindset…I get to decide what feels best in my life, no matter what the books, articles or commercials say. No matter what family or friends do.

    This is about ME and MY body! 🙂

    Well done my dear! I so admire your approach.

  11. Great plans!

    I rarely eat dessert in the evenings (those are usually afternoon slump foods). All I really do with the rest of the meals is try to get my veggies in. A “good” day for me is when I have vegetables at lunch and dinner, especially when it makes up most of the meal.

  12. Tina says:

    I am very big on intuitive eating, but at the same time being prepared is always important! Planning usually makes things go more smoothly. I always make sure to bring healthy snacks with me so I don’t have to worry about getting stuck somewhere and having to resort to food I don’t really want to eat. I am a creature of habit as well and tend to eat the same foods most of the time, but they are healthy and delicious so I never get tired of them!

  13. Planned Intuitive eater here 🙂 ..for the most part. Not always planned so we go with the flow.

  14. i’m currently working on intuitive eating. it helps me eliminate judgment around foods– ie labeling foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and ‘safe’ or ‘fearful’. it’s a skill though that i feel requires a lot of practice and patience. it’s a gift!

  15. I meal plan too and never thought of myself as eating intuitively however after reading how you do it I’m actually the same! I often eat a bit over what I planned if I’m hungry but now that I have a better handle on my body I tend to plan pretty much spot on what my body tends to want. I also sometimes change up my meal plan as I go so that I have that flexibility.

  16. I’m working on approaching eating more the way that you do. My meals earlier in the day are planned because I need to take food to work with me. I kind of wing it at night, depending on what I have on hand and what I’m in the mood for. What I DO need to work on is not always calculating everything. This seems to be extremely difficult for me to get away from, since I’ve been calculating since high school and on some sort of diet or another since elementary school. I wish I didn’t have to deal with it, but I’m working on it. I always love your perspective on things, Tina. 🙂

  17. I think that the while intuitive eating thing works if you’re eating things your body says it needs…and who’s to say you can’t know that in advance? Your meals sound delicious and balanced and totally crave-able to me!

  18. The way you intuitively eat is exactly how I eat.

    It’d be very hard to just never plan what you are going to eat. I’d imagine that if I did that I’d spend way too much money eating food out bc I wasn’t prepared. Plus, I have to bring food to work so that’s the only way to do it. But, If I realllllly don’t feel like eating my lunch, I’d eat something else no problem.

  19. I’m so hungry right now. So I’m drooling over your dinner! 😛 Almost lunch time!

  20. Jess says:

    You and I eat VERY similarly, both from an intuitive eating perspective (and planned) and from the types of foods you gravitate towards. I actually really like seeing your day of eats now and then, makes me feel good to see that I have similar eating styles to yours,I like it! Though, I sadly still can’t stomach the greek yogurt since I yogurt-ed myself out. How sad.

  21. I usually don’t plan it out *exactly*, but have a general idea of what’s going on for meals for a day or two at a time. Then there’s always room for a little more or less if need be, but I do it this way to keep my intake of veggies up, while also trying to balance carbs and protein as best I can.

  22. I usually take my meals one day at a time…just because I am more of a one day at a time kind of gal…but I typically will have the same sort of breakfast/snacks each day…but they can change from week to week. I do somewhat meal plan when I go to the grocery store, so I have an idea of what we could possibly eat that week. But what I cook definitely depends on how I am feeling that night!

  23. I do plan meals — it helps my budget and my brain in general — I don’t like to come home from work thinking “hmm, what should I make for dinner?” — and then packing my lunch for the next day isn’t a huge headache because I already know!

    But, I have to say I am getting better and better at stopping when I am satisfied — or if the food doesn’t taste great — I stop eating. Years ago I would just eat everything on my plate regardless if it tasted good. Now, if I have a piece of pie it better be a damn good piece of pie or I don’t eat it all. I like these newer habits and food feelings I have been having. It feels very freeing!

  24. I am a planner when it comes to meals. I eat pretty much the same thing for breakfast, lunch and snacks. Dinner is different and I may have leftovers at lunch, but still there is a plan.

  25. I used to be a HUGE planner of meals to the point where I would portion out my yogurt into plastic containers.
    I don’t plan as many of my meals out now, but I do seem to have the same things a lot of the time. Breakfast 9 times out of 10 is yogurt, lunch is a salad or sandwich. Dinner is usually up for grabs.

  26. Katie says:

    I dont typically plan my meals, sometimes I do if Im feeling fancy ; ) I always just listen to my body when it comes to hunger, I typically eat 5-6 small meals a day, Im hungry alot! Some days its 3 meals and one snack, depends on my activity levels, If I worked out more one week or a day

    Have a great day! Mmmm those cookies look good!

  27. I plan out every meal except dinner, which always depends on my mood. I find its just so much easier to have a plan. I have to leave for work pretty early in the morning, and if I didnt have breakfast and lunch ready to go, I’d never make it. My snacks are the same pretty much every day, but I keep a little bit extra in my desk just in case Im still hungry.

  28. I do about 50% planning and 50% winging it. I try to stick to the rules of intuitive eating, which for me, means I need to make sure my blood sugar doesn’t drop too low. If it does, all healthy eating goes to the wayside. My favorite eating tip (it may or may not be intuitive eating) is “Am I hungry enough to eat an apple?” If it is, usually I really do need to eat something, if not, then it’s a fair chance that I’m eating due to boredom or emotional eating. Crazy concept, but it works.

    • Tina says:

      I love that tip with the apple. I do the same thing! Although I do love love love apples so I will still usually say yes to that. LOL

  29. Jenny says:

    I’m the same way! I eat the same things over and over and then..I get SICK of them! ha, oatmeal is sadly on my sick-of list. Greek yogurt has been hitting the spot though:)

  30. Shayla says:

    I’m definitely a planned intuitive eater just like you – I have eggs and toast for breakfast and yogurt with fruit and a salad for lunch everyday, and dinner is always different. But like you, if I’m not feeling said breakfast or lunch, then I’ll definitely switch it up and go with the flow….but I definitely like having it planned out and it’s a breakfast and lunch that I really enjoy eating daily!

    Oh, and I love and prefer posts of “my daily eats” 🙂

  31. I have a really similar approach to eating because I pack my breakfast and lunch each day since I work at an office. I don’t have an exact time that I eat each meal, so I just eat when I’m hungry though I do know ahead of time what I’ll be eating for the most part. Dinner is usually up in the air though I do have a few ideas for the week based on what I have in my kitchen, but if I have something planned and decide I want something else, I don’t hesitate to change it up.

  32. Kelly says:

    This is exactly how intuitive eating works for me too. I have to pack my lunch Mon-Thurs and don’t have a lot of time to make dinner so I need a plan. I always eat my lunch but also keep some sort of healthy snack on hand usually if I’m still hungry and save part of my lunch if I don’t want it all. I keep enough items on hand for breakfast and lunch and I’m pretty creative, so I can usually eat just about whatever I want.

  33. Sarah says:

    Hmmm…I have a pretty good idea of what foods I like (and also satisfy me and leave me feeling good.) I tend to stick to those, leaving some room for flexibility. For example, I usually have a good idea of what I’m going to make, but I don’t prepare my meals to bring to work until the morning when I have a better idea about what sounds good.

  34. I usually plan out meals, especially if I’m out of the house most of the day-I’m always bringing my cooler with me! So I totally know what you mean my planned intuitive eating 🙂

  35. I think it is inevitable that sometimes we have to plan meals. Kind of like when you go pee before you are going to be in the car a long time even if you don’t have to go that bad right then. 🙂 That bugs me sometimes and it’s REALLY liberating to me right now not to do that because I don’t have a set schedule and because I don’t care about the time that I eat anymore. But if you are busier than I am, I agree that it is really important! All your bullets for how you know it is still intuitive are spot on!

  36. I definitely plan out my intuitive eating. I pack lots of snacks and small meals for work, but I don’t assign them times. I love it when I naturally eat a little less than I anticipated, but never fret if I finish all my snacks. I have found that by packing ahead, I eat healthy snacks than if I went to the vending machine. Plus, I save money!

  37. This is why ive been so reluctant to post my eats daily. Like you, I menu plan. That means the same breakfast, snacks and lunches Mon-Fri and dinner being different every night. My thought is why bother posting it if it’s the same thing? Ive been thinking this over for the last few days and I think, in my case, I might just post it weekly but if it’s a “different than what I had planned” I plan to post it. I dunno, just something ive been thinking about… ;o)

    Love those cocoa nuts but they can be such a “gateway” food for me.

    • Tina says:

      I will never post all my eats for that reason…along with the fact it would make me feel like I have to be more creative and then I wouldn’t truly be eating intuitively. I still do like to share though which is why, like you, I consider doing it maybe once a week or something with other random meals thrown in.

  38. I usually plan ahead for most of my meals…and adjust as necessary. It helps make sure that when I’m not at home I’m not making unhealthy choices!

  39. This is a really interesting post, because eating 100% intuitively is difficult when you actually have a life to live! There’s always so much going on, and meal planning/thinking ahead saves so much time an energy in the long run. I think that HABITS have formed a lot of my intuitive eating….for instance, the fact that I crave cereal in the morning is due to the fact that I’ve eaten it every day since I was a toddler! And it’s much easier to eat what you crave when you know what your options in the pantry are. I think that by planning your eating, you limit some of the choices and actually make intuitive eating EASIER!

    • Tina says:

      So true! And I tend to crave oats in the morning out of habit too I think. I really do love starting my day with them! Plus, my body is almost always hungry at the times I eat…because its used to it.

  40. Kacy says:

    I’m pretty fly by the seat of my pants when it comes to eating, so pretty much straight up intuitive 🙂 I think this is because I’m single, live along and on a budget so I just make the best choices for me at the exact moment they need to be made.

  41. I plan our dinners and cook something new pretty much every night. All other meals are fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants. I eat according to what sounds good in the moment. I love BIG salads for lunch most days and I try to vary the ingredients each week when I go grocery shopping.

  42. I’m the same way! My breakfasts and lunches usually look pretty similar, but I love mixing up my dinners.

    And as far as dinner goes, it’s almost always intuitive eating for me. Which makes it pretty difficult to remember to defrost certain things when I decide an hour beforehand what I’m going to eat! 🙂

  43. Angela says:

    I usually plan out my meals at the beginning of each week, and stick to the plan for the most part. It takes a lot of the effort that goes into prepping a meal away, so that when it comes time to eat I can just sit down and enjoy it.

  44. What a great post!!! I think intuitive eating is so important. But like you, my schedule can be HECTIC and sometimes I’m caught skipping mealtimes b.c. of clients at work and then stuck feeling raaavenous later. I don’t hesitate to feed my body when it tells me it’s hungry. Ever. And on the flipside, I also don’t force myself to eat a huge dinner at the dinner time just *because* it’s dinner time. I’ll eat a lighter plate, and then just eat something later.

  45. Therese says:

    I like occasional “daily eats” posts (especially since someday soon I hope to be a breastfeeding mom and not many people have/share experience with that), but I like your blog because it’s not a daily food journal. I agree with planned intuitive eating! It makes the most sense on a budget, and it also helps me not think about food all day long when I have a general idea of what’s coming.

    • Tina says:

      It would never be a super regular thing. That would drive me crazy too…plus it would make me think too much about food and keep me from being fairly intuitive. I like not thinking about food all the time!

  46. I like occasional daily eats posts – I do them every few weeks as well. I eat when Im hungry and stop when I’m full, but I never force eating. I always plan out what I’m going to eat – especially if I’m going to be out of the house. WIth so many intolerances, it’s had not to think about food frequently.

  47. lindsay says:

    I like this concept. I usually just try to plan out dinners, and let the rest go as I feel. But since I make my husbands meals too, I wait to see what he wants, etc. So kinda prepared, kinda not. Like you said. I do like variety so planning can be hard at times. I guess that will change once we have kids, eek!

  48. Sounds like a good day of eats! I kind of plan out my lunches. I have the same thing for breakfast during weekdays. For dinner, I try to think of what I want to make early on in the day so that when I get home I’m not staring at the cabinets, ‘fridge and freezer wondering what to make. Plus sometimes that will discourage me and I’ll be tempted to eat something I wouldn’t otherwise (like ordering a pizza, etc.)

  49. I am semi-planned when it comes to my eating. I had to look at your introduction to intuitive eating post to know exactly what the term means, but I think I definitely listen to my body when it comes to eating, even if that means going against what was planned. I eat when I’m hungry and try not to eat when I know I’m not hungry.

  50. I like this idea of intuitive eating. I’m trying much harder these days to truly listen to my body telling me when it’s hungry, when it’s full and what it’s feeling for.

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