If you have ADHD and struggle with making meals, then stock your pantry with these essentials! You’ll always have SOMETHING ready to eat!
One of the biggest struggles when you have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is food and cooking weekly meals.
- Time management: We forget to eat
- Executive function: We get overwhelmed making a grocery list and doing all things meal planning- even with easy meals
- Energy levels: We do so much up front that we have no energy left at dinner time to think of what we should eat
There are so many more symptoms of ADHD, but these ones are super common when it comes to food.
You can still have a healthy diet while managing your mental health; it just takes a bit of pre-planning on your high-energy days. And I do this by keeping a full pantry. When my brain function is low, I know I still have easy and healthy options available to me!
Below is a list of foods I always keep in my house. So when I have a hard time coming up with new recipes or even just a quick snack to stuff my face, I know I have some options.
Keep in mind that I’m not talking about an “ADHD diet” here. This is not a list of foods that supposedly cure ADHD symptoms; that’s a whole other can of worms. This is just a list of easy and healthy foods for daily life or when you have no energy to think!
Whole grains are complex carbohydrates, which are full of fiber and other nutrients and are an important role in keeping you full and healthy. I always keep a few different types of these in my house for variety:
- Brown rice and white rice (Both dried and pre-cooked)
- Quinoa (Dried and pre-cooked)
- Oats (Rolled oats or instant oatmeal packets)
Rice and quinoa can easily be made in a rice cooker, which I do all the time. But if even that seems overwhelming sometimes, you can buy packages of microwave rice that cooks in just a couple minutes.
PB&J sandwiches are a classic lunch idea! They’re easy to put together when you can’t cook. Peanut butter is a good source of protein and healthy fats.
I also buy the individual cups of peanut butter for snacking- either with apple slices or a banana.
Most of the time, I can at least boil some water for pasta. I keep multiple kinds for fun, especially because my daughter, who is a picky eater, basically lives on pasta.
You can also easily heat up a jar of sauce and make a simple dinner that way. Microwave a bag of frozen broccoli and you’ve got a well-rounded meal!
I’ve also seen packets of microwave pasta at the grocery store. If you just want one or two servings or don’t have much time, this would be a good idea.
Jarred and canned sauces make for quick meals. Here’s what you’ll usually find in my pantry:
- Marinara sauce
- Pizza sauce
- Alfredo sauce
From there, you can usually throw together a few items and have dinner ready quickly.
Canned vegetables are still healthy for you! People complain about sodium levels and how fresh is better. But honestly, canned vegetables are still nutritious. They’re cheap and shelf stable and you can make healthy meals from them- don’t feel guilty about using them!
Here are canned items I always keep around:
- Green beans
- Diced tomatoes
I can’t tell you how many times lunch has been saved by a can of soup. They’re relatively cheap, especially if you can find them on sale. And there are a ton of flavors to choose from.
I keep a few cans in my pantry, and will usually eat one with a deli sandwich for a quick lunch.
If you look in my cabinets, you’ll probably find about 5 different types of snack bars. They’re portable and quick, and easy to keep in your bag for those moments when you find yourself starving.
I like bars that have a bit of protein in them. Nature Valley, Larabar, and Luna are a few of my favorite brands. They’re relatively low in sugar and have some protein, so they keep me full until my next meal.
This is another great shelf-stable snack! They’re usually wrapped individually so they travel well. They’re also low in carbs, so it’s a good option for those who have to monitor their blood sugar levels.
Who else here has a snacking problem? People with ADHD sometimes snack as a means of stimulation, not because they’re hungry. And if we’re not careful, we can easily down a whole bag of chips in one sitting.
Portion control can be hard, especially if you’re not being mindful. I like having the individual bags of chips or veggie straws, because those portions are easily controlled.
Hard-boiled eggs are a go-to snack for me! They’re easy to make in the Instant Pot and a protein-rich food that gives you steady energy.
Here’s a video that shows how I make eggs in my Instant Pot!
Those little cups of yogurt are great for a snack. I like Greek yogurt because it has more protein. Oikos and Chobani are two of my favorite brands, and they have a ton of great flavors.
You can also add fruit and/or granola to the yogurt to make a more substantial snack.
I LOVE string cheese. They’re a good source of protein and fat, and I’ll usually pair one with some veggie straws or an apple.
Because I eat so many of them, I usually buy the big packages from Sam’s Club because it’s cheaper per ounce!
Individual hummus/guacamole cups
I have a huge problem with buying a big container of dips like these and letting them go bad because I can’t finish the whole thing in time.
That’s why I like the individual cups. I can easily grab one with some carrot sticks or pita chips and it makes for an amazing snack.
They’re more expensive than buying the big tub. But I’d rather pay more and actually eat all of them than buy the big tub and creating food waste!
I eat cottage cheese just about every day. It’s a great source of protein and is one food that actually keeps me full for a long time.
And I typically buy the big containers, but you can also buy individual cups if that’s easier. Some of the cups also have fruit on the bottom if you’re into that sort of thing. Or you can just add your own fresh fruit.
Applesauce is a super simple snack. I usually get the unsweetened because it’s already pretty sweet. And I’ll add cinnamon for extra flavor.
You can buy them in the individual cups, or even the pouches. I have no shame in eating little applesauce pouches.
Meal planning helps with ADHD
The benefits of meal planning are tremendous, even if you’re not neurodivergent. It’s a little bit harder with ADHD, but it can still be done if you find a method that works for you.
- It keeps you from getting fast food a few times a week because you know what you’re making
- It helps you maintain a well-balanced diet
- It takes away the overwhelm of everyday cooking
- It helps you cook LESS (AKA making lots of servings and then having leftover nights)
It takes a little while to get used to. But soon you’ll find easy meal ideas and this whole process will be much more manageable!
This is not an all-inclusive list, but these are foods you’ll usually find in my house. Use these items as a guideline and find your own method and favorite list of foods next time you go grocery shopping!
Need some extra how-to help? Check out my ADHD Meal Planning Guide, created to help you meal plan in a way that works for YOUR brain!
What else do you always keep in your house? Leave a comment and give us more ideas!
Jaime is a Nutrition Coach and professional writer. She enjoys cooking easy meals, running, and learning more about food.
Jaime specializes in helping women with ADHD learn to meal plan and cook healthier meals without getting overwhelmed.