About The Author: After battling Lyme disease for years, Victoria began using food and movement to help manage her symptoms and bring joy to her life. As a movement coach, she helps others incorporate movement into their lives to aid in healing. And as a food blogger, she shares allergy-friendly recipes to show that you can still have delicious food even with dietary restrictions. You can find more of her recipes on her blog and Instagram.
Using Food As A Healing Aid For Chronic Illness
When living with a chronic illness, nutrition can be vital for your healing and overall health. Not only is food important for your survival, getting enough calories and nutrients is important for helping you fight disease, heal damage, and keep your body working (even when it feels like it’s plotting to work against you!). When I got sick, I started to develop random food intolerances and I personally found that adjusting my diet helped my symptoms. Luckily, I love to cook so this was a fun and added challenge in the kitchen. I also know that when you don’t feel well, cooking uses a lot of spoons. I want to share some of my favorite, easy recipes with you today so you can still eat delicious food to nourish yourself without draining all of your energy.
All recipes I create are gluten, dairy, corn, and nut free. I am not a dietitian, but eliminating gluten and dairy from my diet was helpful for reducing inflammation and digestive symptoms. I’m allergic to corn and most nuts, so I leave those out of recipes since they are common allergens. Overall, I try to take an additive approach to food versus focusing on what is eliminated from my diet. I think it’s important to work with a dietitian to figure out what foods are best for your body, but variety is important for gut health. I always try to rotate fruits and veggies to make sure I’m getting a diverse array of nutrients and fibers to feed my gut microbiome. After all, 70% of your immune system is in your gut, so keeping that healthy is important for overall health!
Adding Extra Nutrients To Every Meal
Since we know food affects our gut health and gut health affects our immune system, it’s important to put some focus on what you are eating. Like I said before, focus on what you can add versus take away from your diet so it doesn’t feel restrictive or lead to negative behaviors around food. Sometimes we need to eat a frozen meal or order in. Can you add some steamed veggies to your pasta? Or throw some extra spinach on your pizza? These are easy ways to still enjoy your favorite foods, but boost up the nutrition factor for healing. You’ll notice that no matter what meal or recipe I share, they all include a variety of vegetables or plant-based fibers. Sneaking in some extra nutrients doesn’t have to be challenging or taste bad.
Easy And Healthy Recipes For Chronic Illness
Below are 6 of my favorite recipes that are easy to make, nutritious, and tasty. I've also included ingredients and directions that are easy to follow:
1) Creamy Green Smoothie
I want to let you all in on a little secret- adding sweet potato to your smoothies makes it the creamiest, sweetest, dreamiest thing you can imagine. If you haven’t been adding sweet potato to your smoothies, you are missing out. So, let me help level up your smoothie game! Not only do you get some veggies in, but it seriously makes the smoothie even creamier. I love using white or Japanese sweet potato because I find it is sweeter, but the orange variety is great for a more Fall themed, cinnamon-based, grounding smoothie. This variation utilizes white or Japanese sweet potato for a lighter, Summer smoothie.
- 1 handful of spinach
- ½ cup cooked then frozen white or Japanese sweet potato
- ¼-½ cup frozen raspberries
- ½-1 frozen banana
- ¼ of an avocado
- 1 serving vanilla protein of choice
- 1 cup milk of choice
Combine everything in the order listed in a high-speed blender. Blend until smooth. Drink up or make a smoothie bowl topped with all your favorites (I love using things like gluten-free granola, shredded coconut, hemp seeds, fresh fruit).
2) Pumped-Up Tuna Salad
Look, I’m not a fan of mayo and regular tuna salad is kind of boring to me. If you feel similar, you’ll enjoy this alternative that’s packed with extra veg and utilizes avocado to make it creamy. Tuna salad is just such an easy meal to put together and still get your protein and nutrients in. I love serving this in lettuce boats, but obviously you can put it on a sandwich or serve it however you enjoy!
- 1 can tuna
- ½ cup diced cucumber
- ½ cup diced jicama
- ½ apple diced
- ½ avocado
- 1 tbs. full fat coconut milk (optional, adds a little extra creaminess. You can sub plain yogurt or mayo)
- 1-2 tsp. mustard
- ½ lemon juiced
- salt to taste
Combine everything in a bowl and mix well. Serve in lettuce boats, over greens, or in a sandwich. Eat up!
3) Creamy Chicken and Broccoli Veggie Soup
I love a good crock pot or instant pot soup recipe. It’s so easy — dump everything in, let it cook, and eat! The heartier the soup, the better, in my opinion. This Creamy Chicken and Broccoli Veggie Soup will definitely keep you satisfied.
- 1 lb. chicken breast, chopped into bite size pieces
- 2 crowns of broccoli, chopped
- 4-6 carrots, chopped
- 4-6 stalks of celery, chopped
- 2-4 golden potatoes
- 6 cups of chicken broth (enough to cover everything)
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 2 tbs. arrowroot, tapioca, or cornstarch
- 1 cup of coconut milk
Add everything but the starch and coconut milk to your instant pot or crockpot. If using a crockpot, set on low for 8 hours. If using an instant pot, set for 15 minutes on high pressure. When it’s done, quick release.
While the instant pot is quick releasing, or after the 8 hours is up on the crockpot, whisk the coconut milk and starch together in a small bowl. Add to the soup and mix well to combine. Season with salt, pepper, and/or fresh chopped cilantro.
4) Veggie-Packed Meatloaf
Meatloaf is such an easy and hearty meal that just feeds the soul. This meatloaf packs a punch with a combo of vegetables and protein and of course we top it off with bacon because bacon makes everything better, right?!
This is a classic recipe I’ve made many times over the years. You can really use whichever protein(s) you like and then I add in zucchini and kale to get those micronutrients and fiber. You can find the complete recipe here.
- ½ bunch of kale
- 1 large zucchini, shredded
- 2 lbs. of ground meat (I used a combo of beef and lamb, but pork or turkey goes well with beef too)
- 1 tbs. each of sage and thyme
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 3-4 slices of bacon
Preheat the oven to 425F. Wash, de-stem, and finely chop your kale. Heat a couple tablespoons of water in a frying pan and add the shredded zucchini and kale. Sauté for about 5 minutes, until kale is darker and cooked down.
Mix the veggies with the ground meat and seasonings in a large bowl. Press the meatloaf mixture into a loaf pan. Lay the strips of bacon over the top, lengthwise, tucking the ends in.
Bake for 40-45 minutes until inside is just barely pink. Pour off the excess liquid and then broil the meatloaf for 5-10 minutes until the bacon is crispy. Let cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
5) Salted Chocolate Granola Cookies
Look, I’m obsessed with anything salted. Chips? Yes! Salted caramel? Yes! Salted chocolate?! HECK YES! I love a good dark chocolate granola, but I wanted to make a cookie version. This recipe is super simple and will satisfy your sweet/chocolate cravings. These cookies are gluten-free and can be made vegan by using your favorite egg substitute.
- 1 cup gluten-free oats
- 1 cup 1-to-1 gluten free flour (I use the Bob’s Red Mill variety)
- ¼ cup cocoa powder
- ½ tsp. baking powder
- ⅛ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. cinnamon
- 1 egg or egg substitute
- ½ cup maple syrup
- 2 tbs. melted coconut oil
- 2 tbs. applesauce (you can sub in more oil if you don’t have applesauce on hand)
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1-2 tbs. of milk
- ⅓ cup chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350F. Combine all dry ingredients except for chocolate chips in a bowl and set aside.
Beat the egg, maple syrup, oil, applesauce, and vanilla extract in a large bowl until well combined. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. If the dough seems too dry or crumbly, add milk 1 tbsp at a time until the dough comes together. Fold in chocolate chips.
Scoop dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet and flatten slightly. The cookies won’t spread much so you don’t have to worry about spacing them too far apart. Bake for 12-15 minutes, they should seem just not quite done (but they are!). Let cool for 5 minutes on the tray before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Best with a big scoop of your favorite dairy-free vanilla ice cream!
6) 3-Minute Pumpkin (or Banana) Mug Muffin
Sometimes you just need a quick and light snack or dessert. I’ve been making this pumpkin mug muffin for years! It’s super simple and hits the spot when I just need something light, but sweet. I love to top it off with fresh or frozen berries, coconut milk, ice cream or a drizzle of coconut butter, and some hemp seeds, but make it your own with your favorite toppings. You can find the complete recipe here.
- 1 tbs. coconut flour
- 1 tbs. cassava flour or tapioca/arrowroot starch
- 1 tbs. vanilla protein powder (I use Nuzest)
- ⅛ tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1 heaping tbs. pumpkin puree
- ¼ cup milk of choice or water
Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl or mug. Add the apple cider vinegar and mix gently so it begins to bubble some. Add pumpkin and milk/liquid and stir well to combine. If the mixture seems too dry at all, you can add a little more liquid.
Use the back of a spoon to smooth out the top of the muffin then microwave for 3-4 minutes until cooked through. Top with your favorites and enjoy!
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What are some other easy recipes for those living with a chronic illness? Let us know in the comments. We love hearing from our community members! If you have any further questions, feel free to contact us for more information.