Meal Planning

When ADHD Burnout Strikes, Try These Easy Meal Ideas

You’re staring down a full sink of dishes and a near-empty fridge, and it’s dinner time again. If ADHD impairs your ability to consistently plan and prepare meals, try adding these low-effort recipes to your repertoire.

Baked salmon with garnish on wooden background
Baked salmon with garnish on wooden background

Let’s face it: planning and preparing meals is a full-time job. That’s the way it feels, at least, and some people do make a career out of it! Nutritious, balanced meals require thoughtful planning and focus. At the end of a long day, finding time for the grocery store or maintaining motivation in the kitchen can be mentally draining. That’s true whether you’re cooking for yourself, your family, or an army.

For people with ADHD, a well-orchestrated meal plan can test already-weak executive function skills. On the other hand, an improper diet can lead to emotional dysregulation. So, when you need something quick, we present to you: easy meals.

We asked ADDitude readers: On those days when your energy is depleted well before dinnertime, what are your favorite “low-effort” meals? What appliance or tool do you feel is indispensable in an ADHD kitchen?

Ideas for Easy Meals

“I’m a 63-year-old semi-retired nanny fighting menopause weight gain and dealing with ADHD. I find that taking the time early in the week to make several days’ worth of salads is very helpful. My go-to easy dinner is grilled salmon. All I have to do is remember to take it out of the freezer in the morning. Salmon cooks very quickly and is very healthy.” — Carol, Pennsylvania

“When I’m busy or burnt out from the day, I like to make an omelet for dinner. Omelets are super easy and fast to make, especially when you only add cheese. But I like to add vegetables: onion, squash, jalapenos, or whatever I have [on hand]. Most sautéed veggies are great for throwing into your omelet. If you aren’t a pro at flipping omelets, just scramble the eggs.” — An ADDitude reader

[Free Guide to ADHD Brain Food: What to Eat, What to Avoid]

“I’m a very healthy eater as I find this assists me with my ADHD. I made quick paprika pork steaks tonight. All you need is two pork steaks, paprika, salt and pepper, and a potato. I cook the potato in the microwave for two minutes while I season the pork. While the pork is sizzling, add the potato after cutting it into eighths. Cook the pork and potato until crispy and serve with a tomato slice and balsamic side salad. So good!” — Carol, Australia

“A can of soup is the easiest meal for me. I add some freshly cut veggies and an ounce of precooked chicken and I am set.” — An ADDitude reader

“This is my favorite: frozen banana, oat milk, and vanilla protein powder in the blender. It tastes just like a milkshake! I usually throw in a hand of fresh or frozen spinach, too.” — Charlotte

“Any variation of Chili-Mac. We always keep boxes of macaroni and cheese, and there is always some kind of ground meat in the freezer. I just boil the noodles while I fry up and season the meat with whatever we’re feeling that day. By the time that’s done, so is the pasta. Throw it all together with the cheese that comes in the box — and usually a couple slices of whatever is on hand — and voila! Dinner is served in the time it takes to boil the pasta.” — Kelly, Indiana

[Read: Why Sugar Is Kryptonite for ADHD Brains]

Rao’s lasagna and garlic bread! Although it takes 50 minutes to bake, my husband and I enjoy the time to reconnect. It tastes delicious and the leftovers are for lunch the next day.” — An ADDitude reader

“I make a baked sweet potato with butter, cheese, taco seasoning, chopped or sliced avocado, salsa, black beans on top, or your choice of toppings.” — An ADDitude reader

“I like to stock up on frozen meals from Trader Joe’s. Their variety is greater than most grocery stores. When I am cooking something like a casserole, I will make two and save one in the freezer for low-energy days. I also like to get a rotisserie chicken about once a week from the grocery store and use it for a quick meal with a bagged salad.”— Ivy, Florida

“I cook frozen nuggets in the convection oven. Then, I put them in low carb wraps with salad bag mix, ranch dressing, and cheese. It’s super easy with very little to clean up! I also think a pressure cooker is the easiest way to cook vegetables fast!” — Lindsey, Rhode Island

Tools for the Kitchen

“I live by my air fryer. The easiest, low-effort meals for my family are hamburgers, hot dogs, pre-cut chicken with pre-cut veggies, beans in a pot for quick burrito bowls, mini corn dogs. These are all things that can be done in the air fryer. I also keep frozen pancakes (microwave), sausage (air fryer), and scramble some eggs for a fast breakfast-for-dinner. For medium effort, we subscribe to a meal kit and there’s no shopping. Most meals take less than 30 minutes. HungryRoot is our favorite because you can customize your preferences.” — T. Taylor, Texas

“One of our staples is the Instant Pot (#CommissionsEarned). Throw in two to three frozen chicken breasts, a bag of frozen peppers, a packet of taco seasoning, and a can of diced tomatoes. Pressure cook on high for 12 minutes with a 10-minute slow release. Shred the chicken, serve over cooked rice, and add shredded cheese.” — An ADDitude reader

“Alexa is the most indispensable tool in my kitchen. Being able to set a timer just by saying it — and to ask if I set one when I can’t remember — has made cooking so much easier.” — An ADDitude reader

“My electric sandwich press is indispensable. I use it to cook most things you would use a frying pan for. It cooks both sides at once, so it halves the time I spend waiting in front of the stove. In turn, it significantly reduces the time I have to get distracted and walk away (leaving food to turn black!). Tool number two would have to be the smoke alarm!” — Jehanne, New Zealand

“I have had a Thermomix for 10 years. I use it multiple times a day. It’s changed my life… I can save my energy for other things while still eating healthier meals and having great food for my family with very little effort. A main benefit is to prevent me from burning things. In the past, I burnt pots often and regularly ruined whole meals. I have about five favorite recipes that are very flexible (e.g., bolognese sauce that can become nachos, tacos, shepherd’s pie, lasagna) so I don’t get bored. I put in the ingredients and the meal is ready in 30 minutes with little to no input from me.” — An ADDitude reader

“My favorite tool is my garlic press. I love fresh garlic and this gadget eliminates the chopping. I also love my refrigerated, freeze-dried herbs from Litehouse. I love growing a fresh herb garden, but often forget to go pick and chop the herbs until my dish is already done. Grabbing the freeze-dried jars from the fridge, last-minute, means I can get nearly the same fresh taste with zero effort!” — An ADDitude reader

“Mainly it isn’t the cooking that’s the problem, but the cleaning up after. Therefore, I find the dishwasher the most indispensable tool in the kitchen.” — Ivy, Florida

Easy Meals for ADHD Burnout: Next Steps

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