Figuring out what to eat when you have multiple sclerosis (MS) can feel like solving a riddle. Since there’s no one-size-fits-all MS diet, what works well for one person can cause flare-ups in another. Many people with MS carefully read ingredient lists and are wary of trying new foods. But what about when you just want a quick bite to eat?
Members of MyMSTeam have said snacking is essential to keeping them going throughout the day. As one member said, “I definitely cannot skip eating! I get weak and don’t feel too good if I do. I always have snacks with me.” Another shared, “I noticed that as soon as I eat, my weakness gets better. I will definitely have a snack on me from now on.”
Taking the time to figure out your trigger foods and find safe, go-to snacks can take the guesswork out of snacking with MS. Here are some suggestions to help you build a list of snacks to promote your overall health, wellness, and quality of life with MS.
Nutritious snacks can help combat the unhealthy weight gain sometimes caused by MS treatments such as steroid medications. Because gaining weight with MS can put added stress on your joints and raise the risk of heart and lung problems, it’s crucial to snack wisely. Focus on protein and fiber in snack foods to boost satiety and promote a healthy weight. Getting enough fiber every day may also help reduce constipation, something many people with MS deal with.
Many processed foods are low in fiber, so choosing a diet based around whole foods (even for snacks) is a sound recommendation for healthy eating. And as new research emerges on gut bacteria and the immune system, fiber may play an increasingly important role in the diets of people with MS.
Fiber is found in plant foods, so opt for fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. Fortunately, plant foods are also good sources of anti-inflammatory antioxidants. Healthy snack ideas include:
While protein shakes and bars are OK once in a while, getting your protein from unprocessed whole foods is generally better for maximum nutrition. You could try these options:
Research points to inflammation as a possible underlying cause of MS symptoms and disease progression. Foods associated with high inflammation include the following, which may be best to avoid:
Members of MyMSTeam echo the benefits of avoiding these foods:
Avoiding processed snack foods can help you cut back on salt, sugar, and trans fats. Keeping a food diary and logging your symptoms is a great way to help you identify any potential trigger foods that keep you from feeling your best. As you learn more about your body, you’ll be able to expand your options gradually and enjoy the health benefits of a balanced diet that isn’t needlessly restrictive.
If you have a sweet tooth, cutting back on added sugar can be a big challenge. One member of MyMSTeam knows the struggle too well: “I don’t drink or smoke, but I have an addiction to sugar,” they said. “My neurologist told me that sugar is one of the worst things you can put in your body because it is a powerful inflammatory substance. How do I kick this addiction?”
It may help to cut back your sugar intake day by day and replace it with a healthier option that you like. “It’s important that you don’t feel like you are depriving yourself,” a member noted.
Healthier sweet treats may include:
Experiment by making baked goods using almond flour instead of white flour and cutting back on the sugar. By creating treats from scratch, you’ll have more control over the ingredients.
For those who prefer salty, fried foods that are high in fat (think French fries and potato chips), other options can satisfy your cravings without exacerbating your MS symptoms. Consider crispy dehydrated vegetable snacks, like beet or kale chips. With an air fryer, you can make your own sweet potato fries with a fraction of the salt and oil.
Changing snacking habits can be hard on anyone, so it may also help to have a bit of extra help. Consider asking your health care provider for a referral to a registered dietitian who can support you in making positive dietary changes.
MyMSTeam is the social network for people with multiple sclerosis and their loved ones. On MyMSTeam, more than 175,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with multiple sclerosis.
If you have MS, what are your favorite go-to snacks? Share your suggestions in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on MyMSTeam.