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Eating Healthy With Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Overcoming the Challenges to Eating Healthy

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Updated April 23, 2010

I try really hard to eat right. Actually, let me qualify that -- I try really hard to eat right on days that I have the energy to think about it. On the other days . . . well, let's just say I'm no poster child for nutrition. I have a feeling a lot of other people with fibromyalgia (FMS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS or ME/CFS) are in the same boat.

Challenges of Eating Right With Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Those of us with FMS and ME/CFS can face a lot of challenges when it comes to healthy eating:

  • Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Multi-tasking difficulties
  • Trouble grocery shopping
  • Thinking of things to cook
  • Having to clean up

We also have a lot of reasons to eat right:

  • Easing symptoms
  • Food allergies/sensitivities
  • General health

While there's no universally effective diet for managing symptoms of FMS or ME/CFS, many people do find relief by eating or avoiding certain foods. Here's a good place to start: Your Diet for Managing Symptoms.

Overcoming Challenges

For those of us with children at home, the pressure is even greater. My system is far from perfect, but I'm trying to improve it. Here's what I do to help my family eat healthy food even when I feel lousy:

  • Healthy snacks: my kids have a shelf in the pantry that holds healthy snacks they can get for themselves. I try to keep it stocked with things like granola bars and dried fruit. Fresh fruit and yogurt are also good, when I've been to the grocery store recently.
  • Cooking once for multiple meals: I try to cook enough for at least 2 dinners every time I do cook. Not only do I have to cook less (and think about it less), there's less cleaning to do.
  • Healthy frozen or simple meals: it helps to keep these kinds of things in the house so that I don't have to cook dinner every night.
  • Raw veggies: to keep the cooking simple (so it doesn't really stress me out), I frequently put raw vegetables on the table with dinner. They've got more vitamins than cooked ones, and my kids love them as long as there's Ranch dressing. I like bagged salads, too.
  • One-pot meals: it's easier for me to make something in one pot, like a stew or stir fry, than to have several things on the stove at once. It's also a lot easier for clean up.

Food Allergies & Sensitivities

If you have food allergies or sensitivities, "convenience" foods can become a thing of the past. I'm gluten intolerant, which means the frozen pizza or lasagna that used to be handy meals for my family no longer work for me. The frozen meals I can eat are really expensive, so I've had to become better at planning.

Something that's key is educating your spouse or anyone else who may cook for you about what you can and can't eat. I have a shelf in the pantry for my "safe" snacks, and my refrigerator items are marked with a big "M" (for Mom.) That way, anyone helping out knows what it's OK for me to eat.

To find out whether you have food sensitivities or whether certain foods trigger your symptoms, you can try an elimination diet.

Finding Simple Healthy Recipes

A recent 5 p.m. conversation at my house:
"Mom, what's for dinner?"
(Blank stare.) "Oh, yeah, dinner. I should think about that."

I used to be able to glance through the cupboard and figure out something, but that's usually not effective for me anymore. When I'm stumped as to what to do with the chicken that's thawed, I frequently look online to find quick, simple meals. Here are some About.com food sites I frequent:

If you have special dietary needs or want information about a certain type of food, you can browse other cooking sites at the About.com Food Channel.

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