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How to Eat When You’re Exhausted: Part 1

Everyone is exhausted at some point or another but for people with chronic conditions, such as ulcerative colitis (UC) and primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), it’s common for malaise to set in more frequently. When you’re exhausted, it’s challenging to opt for nutritious foods that often require more prep work and cooking even though these are the times when you likely require good nutrition the most. Preparing for the days when you’re too tired to grocery shop and cook elaborate meals will allow you to eat nutritious foods, even on the most challenging of days. Below are some tips to make grocery shopping, prepping and cooking nutritious foods easier for the days when your exhausted. 

6 Tips for Boosting Your Energy:

  • Register for online food delivery. Most grocery stores deliver but if yours doesn’t, use a national online option, such as Amazon, Peapod, or Instacart. This way, you will save the energy you would’ve used walking around grocery shopping and carrying the groceries back home.
  • Eat small, frequent, snack-sized meals instead of large, spaced out meals. It takes less effort to prep, cook and eat smaller meals.
  • Drink plenty of water. Fatigue is one of the first signs of dehydration and people with UC are at an increased risk of dehydration due to fluid loss from loose stools. How much water should you drink? Aim for at least half of your weight in ounces (eg. for a 140 pound person, try drinking at least 70 ounces of water, which is approximately 9 x 8-ounce cups of water).
  • Avoid snacking on sugary drinks and snacks. These foods might give you an initial burst of energy but they will leave you feeling even more sluggish later on. Instead, choose foods high in complex carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils and whole grains.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables that are vibrant in color to provide vital nutrients your body requires.
  • Take a multivitamin. Those at risk for nutritional deficiencies, like people with UC and PSC, are recommended to take a daily multivitamin which becomes increasingly important if you are not already consuming a well-balanced diet.

8 Meal Planning Tips for When You’re Exhausted:

  • Sit in a chair while your chopping/prepping food to reduce effort from standing.
  • On days you’re feeling better, freeze your leftovers and place them into freezer-friendly bags in single portions so whenever you’re feeling tired and not up for cooking, you can simply grab a meal that sounds tasty and reheat it. Just remember to date and label them so you know what you’re eating and when it’s time to throw it out.
  • To minimize time spent cooking, purchase fresh or frozen pre-cut veggies. When you’re too tired to grocery shop for fresh veggies, frozen vegetables are great to have on hand to throw a quick meal together.
  • Use parchment paper or aluminum foil on a cookie sheet and bake your entire meal on it. Instead of cleaning multiple pots and pans, you’ll only need to throw out the paper/foil, saving you time and energy on your post dinner clean up.
  • Invest in a slow cooker. Slow cookers safely cook your meal over a 4-8 hour period, so you don’t need to constantly be stirring or checking on your food while it’s cooking.
  • Cook in bulk for the week so that you only have to cook once or twice. Minimizing the amount of times you need to stand prepping and cooking your meals will decrease your overall effect required.
  • Use a pressure cooker to cook your meal in just a few minutes. Pressure cookers speed up the cooking process so you don’t need to stand up waiting for your meal to cook.
  • Make a grocery list of your favorite quick nutritious snacks and meals to always have stocked for the days you’re feeling extra tired.

Another option to consider is to ask a loved one for help. While it can sometimes be challenging to lean on others in times of struggle, it’s important to realize that you have a support system around you for these exact moments. Put yourself in their shoes -if one of your family members or friends was exhausted and couldn’t muster up the energy to make dinner, you would probably be happy to bring them over some food and to boot, it would probably make you feel great about being able to help them out. Your friends and family see the struggles that you are going through and would likely be more than willing to help you out with a meal or two. 

How To Eat When You’re Exhausted: Part 2 is coming soon and will include some quick and nutritious meal and snack ideas so stay tuned!

Eat well, be well,


Brittany Roman-Green is a licensed dietitian nutritionist and certified personal trainer.  She is the owner of her private practice in Boston, Massachusetts and specializes in gut and liver conditions.

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