How to make cooking less of a chore

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oMRKkMc4RSq7N91OZl0O_IMG_8309Good nutrition is paramount to maintaining health and muscle strength, but we all know how tempting it is to order fast food and take-out rather than buying the ingredients and taking the time too cook nutritious foods. And if you have a disability where you experience muscle weakness, or are easily fatigued, cooking for yourself can be even more daunting.  Sharon Chatenay, an occupational health therapist with Alberta Health Services, spoke at one of the Muscular Dystrophy Youth in Action conferences, and had some simple, practical ideas to share.

Here are her top 15 tips to help make cooking easier:

  1. Assemble all ingredients before you start
  2. Group them into the order to put into the recipe – dry ingredients, wet ingredients
  3. Don’t lift heavy pans off stove INSTEAD…ladle food out at the stove or slide across the countertop with a hand towel under the pot to move it.
  4. Use cookware you can serve from
  5. Use lightweight utensils
  6. Buy ergonomically designed utensils, such as ones available at Oxo.com
  7. Use a one-touch  electric jar opener
  8. Use a rubber mat or wet towel under mixing bowls to help steady while mixing.
  9. Use smaller appliances or easy to access appliance lift/trolley
  10. Sit down to prepare food on a stool, or in your wheelchair if you use one
  11. Prepare double portions and freeze half for later
  12. Trade meal preparation nights with a neighbor, friend or relative
  13. Transport items on a rolling cart
  14. Store frequently used items at chest level or same cupboard/drawer to avoid bending
  15. Let dishes soak rather than scrubbing and air dry dishes in sink/rack – or use a dishwasher!

What and how you cook is only part of the equation. The “where” is very important too! If you are in the market for a new living space or are thinking of renovating, there are many key things to consider when it comes to kitchens and accessibility, such as maneuvering space, adaptability, ease of cleaning and, of course, safety.  The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CHMC) offers the following things to keep in mind:

Design Considerations

  • location of appliances and workspaces – U shaped or L shaped kitchens are better for wheelchair and scooter users
  • floor, wall and counter surfaces and heights
  • types of lighting

Ask Yourself

  • Are you a gourmet cook or do you just microwave prepared food?
  • Do you have a disability that affects the way you prepare food?
  • Does a caregiver do most of the cooking?
  • Do you have a child you need to keep an eye on while preparing meals?

Design Components that Increase Usability:

  • Continuous countertops that allow pots, dishes and so on to slide along
  • Hands-free faucets
  • Wall-mounted oven at countertop height
  • Countertop convection/microwave oven
  • Open shelving rather than cupboards with doors or 180 degree hinges if there are doors
  • Space for using a wheeled trolley with resilient flooring

Considerations When Purchasing an Appliance

  • Is it easy to operate?
  • Are the controls easy to read?
  • Is it easy to install?
  • Is it too heavy to handle?
  • Is it equipped with a fail-safe feature, such as an automatic shut-off?
  • Does it pose a burning hazard? Look for Cool touch option.
  •  Are the controls easy to see and easy to use, not needing a lot of strength?
  • Can I set it up myself, or do I need to hire a professional?

Once you have your kitchen set up in a way that makes things easier and you have all the ingredients and ergonomic utensils ready to go, you may find that cooking healthy meals isn’t so daunting anymore, and maybe it’s even fun!

Helpful links

 

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