Carrying on from my post on healthy eating and some useful tips about food shopping, today's post is about ways to manage cooking and preparing food for people with a chronic illness or even an injury and sometimes pregnancy. Unfortunately for many people with a chronic illness this can be elusive or very limited and many sufferers require help, whether that be to assist them or to prepare and cook meals for them. Personally, I do not have to prepare or cook any meals as I live with my parents. That of course is not an excuse not too, it's because I find it very tiring and also have difficulty standing for periods of time. It is one of the reasons why I had to move back to my parents and I am forever grateful for their help, even if at times I dislike asking for it. On good days I can pour myself a cold drink and get things out of the cupboards but on bad days I need help with that and may also need help to cut up my food and use a straw in my drink, because I cannot lift up the cup. On some occasions I have also had to be fed. Non of which is very nice.
What can cause problems is the fact that my meal times can vary and be different from that of my parents. This is because my days have no set pattern and when I eat very much depends on when I am awake. Neither of which is particularly good or healthy. When I end up eating at different meal times I can sometimes feel like a burden and will often ask for something very easy and quick to make. There is only so many times that you can eat toast though! If my Mum is making a stew or some sort of sauce etc then she tends to make a big pans worth and then freeze several portions and give them to my Nanna, who is 87. Lately she has been setting some by for me too, sorry Nanna. Therefore they only need to be heated up in the microwave then. Microwaves are a great invention.
Many people find cooking or baking to be very therapeutic and find that they enjoy the creativeness and relaxation of cooking and baking. In which case they may want to use some of their spoons (see spoon theory post) on cooking and baking. It all depends on the person. Some people like to be more hands on and creative with their recipies if they also suffer from a lot of food intolerances, which can also affect many people with M.E. There are a lot of great blogs about M.E that have some nice recipies for gluten free diets etc. A year ago I used to do quite a lot of baking and used to enjoy the relaxation and creativity of it, as well as the eating of course! I used to enjoy the arm work out of not using a mixer but after some post exertional malaise I started to use a blender and also to try and sit down as much as I could rather than stand up. Unfortunately I haven't been able to do any baking lately.
The following links have some great tips to help people with a chronic illness or injury cook and prepare food. It has been compiled by chefs, occupational therapists, authors on disabled living and accessible kitchenand bathroom designers and give a range of tips for sufferers and carers.
I thought it would be better for me to give the links rather than me re-hashing, especially when there's some really good tips. So be sure to take a look. I have included a few others below, some of which I learnt at clinic. Remember all the tips don't apply to everyone and may be suited to each sufferer at different times during their illness. Knowing that there are ways though that you can help yourself and help others is great and allows us to pick and choose what we need in order to keep us as healthy as possible.
* Is there someone that is available to cook meals for you. Perhaps if they are cooking in bulk they can give you some portions to freeze.
* Can someone help you to prepare meals? Or to cook them?
* See my post on shopping for food for links on companies that deliver frozen foods that just require you to defrost and heat up.
* See your GP about what is available in your area to help you. Or to refer you to an occupational therapist.
* Seek advice from an occupational therapist who can advise you on different techniques that put less strain on the muscles as well as any equipment that would be of use to you to help make preparing and cooking food easier
* Visit a specialised disabilty equipment shop to see what is available and to also get advise.
* Do not be ashamed or put off by microwave meals. They are easy to prepare, thus saving energy. Have a look out for good quality ones that have less saturated fats and not processed to make it a more healthy option and you can always add extra vegtables or a salad too it. The dietitian from the clinic gave us this tip.
* Use pre cut vegtables, either fresh or frozen. Always annoys me how they are more expensive though
* Do the dishes another time if you do them manually. If you do have a microwave meal then save on dishes by not putting it onto a plate aswell.
* Sit down as much as possible to put less stress on your legs.
* If there is a gadget to help you do things easier, use it. For example with the mixer. You may also benefit from an electric can opener.
* Store the things that you use most in easy to reach cupboards. Cereals and bowls for example.
* If you find it difficult to sit in a chair to eat your dinner because you need to keep your feet up try a tray that has a cushion on the bottom of it for more comfort and stability.
* Try to find lighter weight knives and forks if you suffer from pain in your hands or wrists. If you eat out or at a family members or friends then take them with you too.
* Others may benefit from wider knives and forks, because your hands are less clenched and therefore put less strain on the muscles and joints. Again if you eat out take them with you for comfort.
* If you struggle to hold a cup or fear that you may spill a hot drink then use a straw instead.
* Keep snacks in easy to reach places so that if possible you can get them yourself.
* If you can handle the weight of a jug try keeping one close by so that you can easily top yourself up with water when you need it without going back and too to a tap. Best to try one with a lid.
* If you can cook for yourself, consider making bigger portions and freezing them for future dates when you aren't feeling up to it.
* Break the process into sections. For example prepare the food, then have a short break before cooking it.
Again my best advice is to seek help where you need it and to know your limits so that you don't make yourself more unwell. Whilst at clinic we were told of a sufferer that was making herself suffer even more because her family expected her to prepare, cook and then clean the dishes and put them away afterwards as she had done for many years before she became ill. However because she was suffering from a lot of post exertional malaise doing this, she decided to take drastic action. She decided to get a lock on one f her kitchen cupboards where she kept enough crockery, cutlery and pans to make her own dinner. Then each meal time she would simply cook or prepare a meal for herself and wash up her own dishes. After the dirty dishes started mounting and her family weren't being fed by her they soon realised that they needed to help out and the extent of the illness. This may seem drastic but they found a way to help themselves and however much we may hate it sometimes we need to be selfish in order to not exasberate our symptoms.
I hope that you have found these tips and those on the links useful. If you have any further tips then please leave a comment. It would be great to hear them.