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  • Brad Wolfe, B.A., Registered Kinesiologist

Cooking with Chronic Pain – Some Tips

For individuals living with chronic pain, the task of just going about a daily routine can be downright exhausting. Many of the activities we could once complete with ease are now a huge burden. It’s quite natural that the way in which we did these activities may not be feasible now, due to physical limitations and emotional stressors. However, a little bit of preparation and some smart decision making can take the hassle out of cooking with pain. Here are a few short cuts that will make cooking and cleaning of meals much easier. Future installments will discuss ways in which we can modify our environment and active behaviours to make kitchen work less of a chore.

Keep it Simple

Try to avoid meals that involve a long list of ingredients. Many times, a perfectly healthy meal can be prepared in less than 30 minutes with minimal prep work. It is important to try and include lean proteins, whole grains, and a good serving of vegetables when able, but not every meal will consist of the same format. Get creative and remember that a proper meal doesn’t mean more work. A grilled or baked protein with a good portion of vegetables can do the trick…don’t overdo it by trying to include variety; that can involve a lot of extra work in the end.

Do a Little Planning

Try to plan your meals at the beginning of the week. This will allow you to gather your supplies and ingredients over time and will avoid the last-minute rush to the grocery store (or drive thru!). You can take it a step further and actually prepare meals ahead of time that can be heated in the oven or microwave with ease. Many individuals find that preparing and freezing meals for future use is a great way to maintain a healthy diet without all the work. Thaw and store protein sources in the fridge or pre-cook items such as chicken breast or ground beef for meals later in the week. Make a pot of soup or chili that can be used for multiple meals or bag your favourite frozen fruits for a quick and easy smoothie. Some vegetables can be prepared or cooked ahead of time for easy side dishes through the week. A little bit of planning can go a long way.

Visit the Freezer Section

A cheap and easy way to prepare vegetables and/or side dishes is to buy frozen. Frozen fruits and vegetables can be just as healthy as fresh; they are typically picked and then instantly flash frozen to maintain freshness and nutritional value. Keep a bag or two in your freezer to save the time and effort of peeling and chopping.

Use a slow cooker

Using slow cookers or trying to prepare “one pot meals” saves time not only in preparation, but in cleanup too. Why not let someone (or something) else do the work for you? Have your items ready to add ahead of time, toss them together, and let the slow cooker do the rest. Great idea for quick meals throughout the week or for days in which flare-ups are keeping you from activity.

Eat Leftovers

Eating leftovers is another great way to avoid the chore of cooking when in pain. Think about doubling your recipes when cooking so you have a meal now and one for later. Some leftovers can also be frozen for future use and heated in a pinch.

Stop the Scrubbing

Save yourself some effort in cleanup by lining your cooking vessels. Use parchment paper or aluminum foil on baking sheets to avoid those caked on messes after the fact. Non-stick pans are a good option too. Just remember to use some cooking spray and most items should wipe off easily. If using a slow cooker, think about purchasing some liner bags from the grocery store. They do a great job of keeping sticky messes from attacking your slow cooker and once again save you work in the end.

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