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Nutrition in Eating Disorder Recovery: Building a Recovery Meal Plan
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Dietitian recommendations for what an eating disorder meal plan looks like 

the importance of nutrition and meal planning in eating disorder recovery

Eating disorder recovery is a journey that requires a team approach, and one essential component of this journey is nutrition. Nutrition rehabilitation is vital for healing the body and mind, as it helps restore physical health, provides essential nutrients for mental well-being, and empowers individuals to challenge eating disorder thoughts.

In this blog post, we will look at the critical role of nutrition in eating disorder recovery, explore the role of nutrition in restoring physical and mental health, and provide tangible steps to build an eating disorder meal plan that supports recovery goals.  

The Role of Nutrition in Recovery 

Restrictive or chaotic eating patterns are a nutritional trauma to the body, depleting vital nutrients and affecting overall health. A focus on nutrition during recovery serves several crucial functions: 

  • Restoring Physical Health: Malnutrition is a common consequence of eating disorders, which can lead to a host of physical issues, such as muscle weakness, bone loss, and hormonal imbalances. Adequate nutrition helps reverse these effects and promotes physical healing. 
  • Cognitive Flexibility: Proper nutrition supports cognitive function, including cognitive flexibility. This means that as your body receives the nourishment it needs, your mind becomes more adaptable in challenging and ultimately changing eating disorder thoughts. You’ll gain the mental strength to question and reframe harmful beliefs about food, body image, and self-worth. 
  • Supporting Mental Health: Nutrient-rich foods play a significant role in maintaining stable mood and managing anxiety and depression, which are often associated with eating disorders. Proper nutrition can positively impact brain chemistry, helping you manage emotions more effectively during recovery. 
  • Enhancing Energy Levels: Recovery is physically and mentally demanding. An eating disorder meal plan that provides balanced nutrition ensures that you have the energy needed to engage in therapy, build a healthier relationship with food, and regain your strength. 

Steps to Build a Balanced Meal Plan in Eating Disorder Recovery

If you’re wanting to get started on your recovery journey, or you’re supporting a loved one with an eating disorder, below are some tips to get started:   

  • Prioritize Regular Meals and Snacks: Consistency is key in recovery. Start with building in regular eating opportunities throughout the day. Aim for three balanced meals and two to three snacks daily. This helps stabilize blood sugar levels, regulates digestion, and reduces the chances of engaging in compensatory behaviors. 
  • Increase the Volume of Meals Gradually: Once you’ve built in regular eating opportunities daily, begin to build up the volume of those meals to provide your body with the energy it needs to restore metabolic functioning. This is where the support of an Eating Disorder Dietitian can be vital to ensure you are getting enough nutrition! 
  • Include a Variety of Food Categories: Focus on including the key components of a balanced meal at each eating opportunity. Each meal should include a mix of proteins, grains/starches, fruits/veggies, and healthy fats. Here are some examples: 
    • Breakfast: Whole-grain oatmeal cooked with milk with berries and a handful of nuts. 
    • Lunch: Grilled chicken or tofu salad with mixed greens, quinoa, and olive oil vinaigrette. 
    • Dinner: Baked fish with steamed broccoli and quinoa. 
    • Snacks: Greek yogurt with honey and almonds, or carrot sticks with hummus. 
  • Challenge Food Fears Gradually: Many individuals with eating disorders have specific foods or eating environments that feel particularly challenging. Work with your dietitian and support system to gradually incorporate these foods back into your eating patterns in a safe and supported manner. 
  • Be Patient and Kind to Yourself: Remember that recovery is a process, and setbacks may happen. Treat yourself with compassion and seek support when needed. 

What Does a Balanced Plate Look Like?

Are you still wondering what a recovery plate should look like? Here are a few tips and resources to get you started:  

  • Think About the Rule of 3s: With this concept (developed by Dr. Marcia Herrin), all you must remember is the number 3! Aim for 3 meals and three snacks, spaced 3 hours apart throughout the day, and work towards each meal containing 3 food groups. This ensures a well-rounded intake of nutrients and encourages dietary variety. 
  • Use the Plate-by-Plate Approach: This approach was created by dietitians Casey Crosbie and Wendy Sterling and provides great visual guidance on how to nourish yourself or a loved one through eating disorder recovery. Check it out HERE.
  • Build a Peace Plate: I find this works best for “component meals” that contain a separate protein, grain, and veggie. Think about dividing your plate into thirds and allocate each third of the plate to your protein, grain, and veggie. With this strategy, we are working under the assumption that your healthy fat is included as part of these categories, for example, an olive oil bruschetta sauce on the chicken and/or dressing on the veggies. 
fried eggs, bread, and green beans

Nutrition plays a vital role in eating disorder recovery, helping to heal both the body and mind. Building a balanced meal plan is a key step towards this goal, but it’s essential to do so under the guidance of a qualified treatment team. By prioritizing regular meals, including a variety of food groups, and leaning on your team, you can make significant progress on your journey to recovery. Remember, you don’t have to go through it alone – seek the support you need from an eating disorder Dietitian! 

If you are a parent or caregiver trying to support a loved one with an eating disorder, we’d love to support you too! Join us for the next round of Caregivers United, an online group support program where we walk you through everything you need to know to support your loved one on their recovery journey. 

Are you looking for a caring and compassionate eating disorder Dietitian that “gets it?” You’ve come to the right place.

We specialize in nutrition counseling for orthorexia, anorexia, bulimia, ARFID and binge eating disorder.

While I know you likely can’t see the vision of food freedom, peace of mind, and eating disorder recovery right now, we can.

Let us be your confidential co-pilot where we help guide the way.

Learn more about nutrition counselling for eating disorder recovery in-person/virtually or simply contact us below to see how we can help.

Don’t forget to check your health insurance. Many insurance plans cover Dietitian services.

Get more eating disorder resources on our blog:

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"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. They really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
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Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

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I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Excellent teaching and motivation. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
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