Food and MS: Tips for Cooking

Vicki Health Guide
  • This article is part of a series; for the rest of the series, visit Food and MS.


    Your kitchen is ready, you have the kitchen gadgets you need and it's time to cook. People with MS may have limitations that interfere with the ability to cook. Problems with balance, weakness and especially fatigue account for a reduction in activities like cooking. Even with limitations, if you think you can do it, maybe you can.

    Here are some tips for getting ready when the MS cook is hesitant:

    MS in our lives often leads to a need to simplify, especially because we no longer have time or energy for complications. When we are talking about food, simplify begins with what we eat. Diets may change to cater more to symptom management. Portions may shrink to offset reduced activity. Problems handling utensils, chewing and swallowing make simpler eating a necessity.

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    Plan and Prepare
    Plan what to cook and eat and how much time it will probably take. If you are comfortable working within your limitations, you can cook every day.
    If not, schedule cooking on days that are not too busy and cook a few meals at a time.

    Determine if you need help and what kind. It is better to err on the side of asking for help rather than deciding to do it yourself and then finding help is necessary. One of the hardest things for us to do is accept help, and it is even harder to ask for it. Remember, people who love you want to help.

    If you are planning a special meal, make some of it in advance. Your refrigerator or freezer is a great tool for fancy meals in a simple way by storing prepared ingredients and side dishes. Take your time and plan ahead, including time to take a break and rest.

    Relax and Smile
    When you relax, making dinner is easier and you will enjoy both the cooking and the eating. It may even be fun! If dinner is late, it's okay. The family will understand and may offer help.

    Conserve energy
    Start off fresh and energetic, perhaps after an afternoon nap. Sit down if you need to. There are times you can take a break during preparation without messing up the final meal.

    Cook leftover amounts
    Feel good enough to cook? Cook extra for times when you don't. Make and save enough for a "homemade frozen meal," or begin building a smörgåsbord
    buffet of various leftovers. Take advantage of leftovers by serving a second meal or reworking them into another dish. This is planning for those days when the fatigue takes over or a symptom is developing and preparing dinner is just too much.

    Get help cutting
    Enlist a friend or helper, use handy cutting tools, or purchase "pre-cut" food. If you do a lot with cubed or diced meat or vegetables, keep some in small containers or storage bags. It will be easy to take out ingredients ready to use and save the time and effort needed to prepare them.

    Pay attention to nutrition
    You can still keep yourself as healthy as possible by paying attention to proper nutrition. Eat well and feel well.

    Set up cooking flow
    Set up ingredients, cooking utensils, and even cleaning areas to reduce extra movement. An efficient set up leads to an efficient process. Cooking is easier, the cook uses minimal energy, and the meal is quickly prepared.

  • Get ingredients ready

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    Before starting to prepare the meal, prepare the ingredients. All ingredients can be cut and stored until needed. Jars, cans, boxes and bags can be opened and all measurements can be made before the cooking begins. Again, this makes the job easier and saves energy for the cook.

    Measure once!
    How many times have you heard "measure twice, cut once?" This is not construction so that rule does not apply. Measure everything that needs it at one time.
    Start early enough with all of your measured ingredients. If everything is ready, your meal is practically done. The preparation method is simplified, saving time and energy.

    Try something new

    New dishes, ingredients, cooking methods and recipes are all worth consideration. Trying new tastes and new methods can be fun and adventurous. Give it a try and you may come up with a fantastic new recipe.

    Consider pre-packaged or frozen items

    Use frozen meals packed as they are or add ingredients for your own flair. F
    rozen dinners have greatly improved since Swanson's 1953 effort. Frozen ingredients can be easily steamed in the microwave. There is surprising variety in product quality and price.

    My goal is preparation in 30 minutes or less, and that is without rushing. Of course, there are exceptions for special occasions. You and your health are more important than any particular meal, so do not hesitate if you have to take a break and try again tomorrow. I may have said it more than I have to, but it is important to take care of yourself and rest.

    Next I will talk about shopping and then about what is good for MSers to eat.

    Notes and Links:

    Cooking with Arthritis - many of us can benefit from these tips

Published On: January 27, 2010