by Alicia Wolf
Medically Reviewed by:
Jillian Kubala, MS, RD
by Alicia Wolf
Medically Reviewed by:
Jillian Kubala, MS, RD
A migraine-friendly eating plan doesn’t have to be boring or feel limiting.
As a cookbook author and a migraine-friendly recipe developer, there’s never a dull moment in my kitchen. Well, unless I’m exhausted, managing vestibular migraine symptoms, and also taking care of my 11-month-old son.
Although my Instagram feed might make it look easy, cooking can be time consuming and tiring, especially when you’re also managing chronic illness symptoms. That’s why I like to keep my meals as easy as possible but also delicious enough to still find joy in food.
I’ve always loved to cook and have taken culinary classes around the world, but it wasn’t until I was diagnosed with chronic vestibular migraine 6 years ago that I had to stop and reevaluate my diet. I thought eating paleo or Whole30 would be the answer, but found my dizziness and vertigo getting worse the more I followed these diets.
That’s when I found a migraine elimination diet, which had me eliminating the foods I reached for almost every day, like almond milk, yogurt, onions, and cheddar cheese.
After several months, my severe symptoms, like disassociation, began to fade. My dizziness also significantly decreased until one day, I wasn’t dizzy at all.
After having really good days consistently, I decided to add foods back in to see if I could detect noticeable food triggers. My big ones ended up being nuts, yogurt, and caffeine — foods I would have never expected to be a migraine trigger.
Along with my preventive medication, a good sleep schedule, watching my stress levels, massage therapy, and supplements, the diet helped me go from 24/7 dizziness and debilitating vertigo to feeling like my old self again.
Although I’ve added a lot of foods back into my diet, I tend to cook migraine-friendly often, especially when trying out new recipe combinations for my website or cookbooks. It’s my goal to make this process as easy as possible for people who are interested and help eliminate the stress that can come from either not knowing what to cook or how to cook it.
Although this diet works best for me, it may not be the best choice for everyone with migraine. People who experience migraine attacks have different dietary triggers, so it’s important to develop an eating plan that works for your specific needs.
Caffeine has been a big trigger for me in the past, so I start my day with Swiss Water Process decaf coffee, which is 99.9 percent caffeine-free. Typical decaf, on the other hand, is 97 percent caffeine free. This may make coffee more tolerable for people who are extra sensitive. I also like to use a frother to mix in a little warm oat milk.
I’m not usually very hungry after coffee, so I tend to snack on the hard-boiled eggs and Cheerios that my son likes to flail around and, eventually, toss off his plate. If I manage to plan ahead, I’ll make a batch of overnight oats or chia seed pudding. Mixed with sunflower seed butter and fruit, it’s an easy way to start the day.
Lunch and dinner are my favorite meals of the day. On Sundays, I like to prep a big batch of meatballs to enjoy throughout the week. I’ll keep enough in the fridge for 3 days, then freeze the rest. This also allows me a little flexibility if I want to switch it up with a chicken sandwich or soup.
Meatballs can be surprisingly versatile! For one recipe, you can place them on lettuce and top with a quick garlic aioli sauce, which is just mayonnaise, a minced garlic clove, fresh black pepper, and a splash of vinegar (or lemon, if tolerated) to thin it out.
To create a different meal with the same meatballs, pair them with hummus and pita bread and top with fresh cucumbers and parsley.
Another Sunday tradition is to either buy or make a “naked” rotisserie chicken, which is a whole chicken roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper. It’s simple, delicious, and easy to use throughout the week for extra protein in sandwiches, as a snack, added to soup, or stuffed in enchiladas.
Generally, I like to have a high protein lunch that lasts me all the way to dinner. If I get hungry earlier, I’ll snack on sliced apples and sunflower or pumpkin seed butter or the pepita protein bars from my cookbook.
Dinner is a meal I try to make special. I avoid eating in front of the TV, put on some music by Frank Sinatra or Sam Cooke, light a few unscented candles, and make myself a nice cocktail to start. Turning this meal into a special time for the family makes the cooking part a lot more fun.
If I’m running low on time or feel really tired, I like to air-fry salmon fillets, which adds some omega-3 fatty acids to my diet. I pair this with microwavable brown rice packets and broccoli and use my quick aioli recipe as a sauce to elevate the meal.
Another quick go-to meal for me is stir-fry because it helps me use any leftover vegetables or meat in the refrigerator that didn’t get eaten throughout the week.
As you may be able to tell, I am a big fan of using sauces to add pizzaz to a regular dinner, and my soy-free stir fry sauce does not disappoint. This is a great way to sneak extra vegetables into your diet in a super delicious and enjoyable meal.
I try to not eat too much sugar or pair it with a filling dinner to avoid major blood sugar fluctuations.
I usually like to make recipes that are easy to freeze, like cookies, so I’m not tempted to eat a bunch in one sitting. Recently I’ve been working on a simple, low sugar homemade pudding for the new cookbook, which is easy to adjust to a small serving.
A migraine-friendly eating plan doesn’t have to be boring or feel limiting. I hope this gives you a few ideas on the variety of foods you can enjoy, even on a migraine elimination diet.
Medically reviewed on March 01, 2022
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About the author
Alicia Wolf is the owner of The Dizzy Cook, a diet and lifestyle website for anyone with migraine, and an ambassador for the Vestibular Disorder Association. After struggling with chronic vestibular migraine, she realized there weren’t many upbeat resources for people following a migraine diet, so she created thedizzycook.com. Her new cookbook “The Dizzy Cook: Managing Migraine with More Than 90 Comforting Recipes and Lifestyle Tips” is available almost everywhere books are sold. You can find her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.