Meal Planning & Hunger Related Migraines

Do you get migraines when you delay or skip a meal? Are you too busy to eat on time and eat healthy? You may be glad to know that with a little planning, you can remain active and still eat a healthy diet in a timely manner to reduce the frequency of migraines triggered by hunger!!

Here are some tips on how to stay healthy and manage your migraines with a busy schedule:

First, set a goal to eat on time at least 3 days a week. If you get hungry for lunch around 12:00pm, wrap up any phone calls or work engagements around 11:45am, and don’t take any work calls as lunchtime approaches. If you’re busy with family, be sure to set a timer on your phone or in the kitchen 15 minutes prior to when you plan on eating. It’s easy to get sidetracked and delay lunch, but a hunger related migraine could negatively impact your productivity. Stay fueled by eating on time; follow some of these time saving tips:

Set realistic goals, both short and long term. If your goal is to reduce your migraines by eating 3 healthy meals each day, but you are eating one meal a day on most days of the week, start small. Give yourself a week to work up to eating two meals a day. Once you have accomplished two meals per day, pat yourself on the back and set another realistic goal for the following week. Think small steps; while these changes may seem irrelevant, they will have a significant impact on the way you feel in the long run.

“I’m just too busy to remember when to eat.” Does this sound familiar? If this is the case, think of the one device you are never without that can help you remember, your cell phone! You can set your phone alarm to remind you to take a lunch break everyday. Put a post-it-note in a visible place with a reminder to snack healthy or eat lunch on time. Develop a system that works for you and commit to it!

Time Saving Tips for Meals.

  • On the weekends, (at least a couple of times a month) plan ahead by outlining your meals from Monday to Friday. Create a shopping list based on your personal tastes.


  • Do you eat on the run? —What can be made quickly or bought at the corner store? A home-made or store bought smoothie, whole grain bagels or waffles without syrup can be eaten on your way to work, or a grab and go yogurt and banana are all great options.
  • Do you find warm foods in the morning are less likely to trigger a migraine? — Check out these cozy breakfast ideas to start your day.
  • How about a whole grain tortilla filled with leftover sautéed peppers and onions? Or leftover stir-fry (as long as leftovers don’t trigger your migraines)? Just heat the vegetables, put them in a wrap and add some shredded American cheese. Microwave for 20 seconds, wrap, and go.


  • For lunch — do you plan to pack lunch a couple days a week and buy the remaining three? What are the best options for ordering out at work? What do you need to add to the grocery list? Come up with a system that works and make it convenient —but remember to plan.
    • For sandwiches - there are plenty of BPA-free plastic containers that allow for a sandwich, side salad and fruit. This helps ensure you are eating according to principles.
    • Soup can be batch-cooked, purchased in cans, or bought out. Add a salad and you have a great lunch.
    • Salads are incredibly versatile. You can wash your greens the night before and cut up a variety of veggies to store in your refrigerator. In the morning, pack a salad; add some veggies and some chickpeas. Make a simple dressing with olive oil, lemon juice, dry mustard, and some herbs; pour it into an airtight reusable container and you will be sure to look forward to your healthy lunch!


  • Make fruit visible at home or at the office. Keeping it visible will help you snack smartly, and making it readily available will remind you to eat it. Pre-wash oranges and apples so they’re ready to snack on-keep bananas on hand too. A frozen banana blended with soymilk or low-fat milk can hold you over until mealtime. Just make sure not to freeze overripe bananas, which have high levels of tyramine, and can be a migraine trigger in some individuals.
  • Keep non-perishable snacks on hand, such as individual canned pears, fruit cocktail in 100% fruit juice, apple sauce, nuts (if they don’t trigger headaches), dried fruit without sulfites (found at specialty grocery stores), fresh fruit, hummus paired with 100% whole wheat pita chips, granola bars, 100% whole grain popcorn, or 100% whole grain pretzels—if meals get delayed, you’ll be prepared!
  • You can portion the nuts into 1 oz servings ahead of time. Keep them in your car, at your desk, or anywhere else when you need to refuel. These simple tips will prevent you from going to the vending machine for a snack that provide little nutrition, and may even trigger a migraine.


  • On a Monday night, you could roast a delicious whole chicken along with broccoli and some quinoa. Tuesday night you could make a spinach salad, topped with the leftover chicken and quinoa from Monday. Simply write all necessary ingredients down, do your shopping, and start cooking!

Remember to make small changes to your diet. If you forget to eat lunch one day, don’t get discouraged. Keep a food and lifestyle journal to ensure that it indeed was delaying meals that was causing the migraines, not the actual foods you eat. Be aware of common migraine food triggers. The greater your repetition, the more likely it will become a habit.

References: 1 National Headache Foundation, 2010 - 2 - 3 Panconesi, A.. (2008). Alcohol and migraine: trigger factor, consumption, mechanisms. A review. The Journal of Headache and Pain, 9(1), 19-27. Retrieved October 3, 2011, from ProQuest Health and Medical Complete. (Document ID: 1441106891). - 4 Headache: The Journal of Head & Face Pain, Mar2008, Vol. 48 Issue 3, p499-500, 2p; DOI: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2007.01050.x - 5 Am. J. Obstet. Gynec. doi:1016/j.ajog.2007.10.803.- 6 Birth Defects Res. A 79: 533, 2007. 3 Epidemiology 17: 324, 2006.- 7 8 9 10 11 Am J Gastroenterol. 2003;98:625-629 12

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