Food is an essential part of daily life—a life that now looks very different from a few months ago. In stressful and uncertain times, it’s important to establish some structure, especially with food. With the following strategies, you can create a flexible plan for meal, snack, and takeout options that honor your cravings and meet your nutritional needs.

Try the Countdown Method to Meal Planning

While we may be a bit more sedentary during this time, regular nutrition is still of utmost importance. A flexible meal plan adds structure and normalcy to the day and helps to ensure variety and adequacy. It also prevents the under-eating then over-eating cycle. If you feel stuck in this cycle, don’t panic! Consider all meals, snacks, and takeout for the week using the following Countdown Method:

ExamplesNow, your turn…
1 time per week, plan…Sunday night, we planned on….
2 Breakfast Ideas1. eggs + avocado toast + arugula  
2. cereal with 2% milk + banana & peanut butter

3 Lunch Ideas1. turkey & cheese sandwich + fruit + yogurt
2. bean & cheese quesadillas with salsa & guacamole + orange
3. chicken cobb salad + crackers

4 Snack Options (Be sure to include some fun foods too!)
1. carrots & hummus + cheese stick
2. peanut butter-filled pretzels
3. Greek yogurt + fruit
4. brownie + milk

5 Dinners at Home (2 nights for takeout!)
Quick Tip: Remember to employ tried-and-true
meals or recipes for after long or busy workdays,
saving new dishes for nights you’re a little longer on time.
1. chicken sausage + roasted veggies and potatoes
2. baked salmon + couscous + broccoli
3. taco salads
4. spaghetti + bolognese sauce + salad
5. chicken enchiladas + sautéed zucchini

Make a List

Creating a grocery list is much more manageable with a meal plan in place. Going into the grocery store with a list respects your budget, your time, and your health, especially during stay-at-home orders.

Some nights, plan NOT to plan!

One thing we all love about Memphis is delicious food from local restaurants. A couple nights per week, don’t worry about a plan. Choose your favorite takeout spot!

Not quite sure what you’re in the mood for? Try asking yourself: “Am I craving something warm, spicy, crunchy, smooth, cold, filling, rich, light…?” Food is both comforting and nourishing, so don’t be afraid to listen to your cravings and honor them, especially during this challenging time. 

From there, round out your takeout order by asking “What do I need?” Remember the “Rule of Three.” Eat three meals a day, roughly every 3–5 hours, with three components at each meal. A balanced and satisfying meal contains all or most of these components: carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and produce.

Finally, consider these tips and tricks for a takeout win:

  • Order out-and-in! Mix-and-match takeout food with items from your very own fridge to save some money, support local businesses, and create a balanced meal. For an out-and-in example, try takeout pizza paired with a homemade salad. 
  • Toppings, dressings, and sauces add flavor and fun to food, but they can also alter texture when ordering takeout. No more soggy or boring salads! Keep the dressing, just ask for it on the side. To keep hot foods crispy and crunchy, pop them in the oven at 425F for 5–10 minutes. 
  • To continue the practice of mindful eating, go ahead and plate and enjoy your food at the dinner table. These simple acts automatically bring both intention and attention to the meal, ultimately increasing food enjoyment and attunement to hunger and fullness.

These times are complicated, but food doesn’t have to be. In just 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…you’ll have a nutrition plan that provides balance, variety, and flavor. What are you waiting for? The countdown is on!

Memphis Nutrition Group knows that even with the best planning in place, food can become challenging in difficult times. Our Registered Dietitians are currently offering virtual sessions that can be scheduled via phone, email, or through our website.

Caroline Pruente, MS, RDN, LDN is a nutrition therapist and Registered Dietitian at Memphis Nutrition Group. Memphis Nutrition Group believes in a non-diet approach that promotes overall health and optimal performance without compromising the enjoyment of food. For more information call Memphis Nutrition Group at 901.343.6146 or visit