If you suffer from arthritis in your hands, knees, or back, you may dread cooking meals at home and find yourself relying heavily on pre-packaged, ready-to-eat meals.
That can be a big mistake because, as I regularly report, research links those kinds of ultra-processed, pre-packaged foods with higher risks of diseases and death.
And, on the flip side, enjoying home-cooked meals, made with fresh, simple, wholesome ingredients, is a major key to warding off chronic diseases—and therefore, improving longevity.
Not to mention, I find cooking immensely relaxing and enjoyable. (Especially with a glass of wine, beer, or spirits on the counter.) And—it’s an activity that can bring the whole household together after a long day.
So, today, let’s talk about ways to put the “joy” back in cooking, even if you suffer from arthritis…
Four simple tips for cooking with arthritis
1.) Take a seat. When you’re working in the kitchen, try not to stand up for long stretches of time. Instead, sit to perform the cutting, chopping, and other prep work. (I also recommend doing these steps ahead of time, using the French technique of mis en place.)
It helps to have a tall, sturdy stool that you can pull right up to your counter or range top.
In addition, place soft, anti-slip kitchen mats at spots in the kitchen where you frequently stand—like in front of the sink. Standing on the mat will help take some stress off your legs, ankles, and feet, and help to combat fatigue.
2.) Avoid heavy lifting. Design your kitchen spaces so there’s ready access to frequently used appliances and tools. Put less frequently used items onto lower shelves (or in the pantry, if you have one), and place frequently used items within arm’s reach.
To avoid back and shoulder strain, just leave heavy items—such as your big standing mixer or slow cooker—sitting on your countertop. If you cook with a cast-iron pan, just keep it clean (not with soap and water, but wipe it down with oil), and let it stay on your back burner when not in use. (Remember, your kitchen doesn’t have to look like a photoshoot for Better Homes and Gardens. It just needs to be functional.)
I also have a few suggestions for limiting heavy lifting during your work…
For example, when you need to fill a big, heavy pot with water, put it on the range first. Then, fill a measuring cup with water at the sink and pour it into the pot, refilling it as needed until the water reaches the desired level. This way, you won’t struggle with lifting a large, heavy pot from the sink to the range.
Likewise, when preparing vegetables or pasta on the stove, don’t try to lug the heavy, steaming pot to a big colander in the sink. Instead, take a slotted spoon, spaghetti server, or hand-held colander to skim the food out of the pot and directly into your serving bowl. (You can safely discard the hot water in the pot, later, after it cools down.)
3.) Hang it up. You’ll notice that some pots and pans come with slots and/or hooks at the ends of their handles. You can use them to hang the pots onto a rack or a heavy hook in the wall. (Just make sure to insert the hook into a stud in the wall.) Then, you can take the pan down and get right to work—without a lot of extra bending, contortions, and strain.
4.) Get a grip. Invest in some quality, hand-held kitchen utensils, such as peelers and spatulas, with large, soft handles for gripping. For example, the OXO Good Grips brand has well-designed products available in kitchen supply stores.
There are also some specialized tools that can help. For example, a rocking knife, with two handles, one on either end, can help ease the strain on your dominant hand. A small, hand-held mixer or immersion blender can cut down on stirring. And you can use a kitchen mandolin to help grate, julienne, or cut vegetables. (Its name derives from the wrist-motion of a player of the musical instrument called a mandolin, which my father played, once upon a time.)
Make better use of what you’ve got
Remember, you don’t have to completely start from scratch when cooking at home. So, don’t go out and buy all new kitchen utensils. You can probably modify, adjust, and adapt some things you already have on-hand.
For example, try a DIY approach by putting spongy plumber’s pipe insulation onto the handles of your favorite, old, stand-by utensils. Or use big, wide rubber bands to open jars (likes the ones the ever-efficient U.S. Postal Service discards by the dozens).
Some appliances in your kitchen can probably also serve double-duty. For example, you can use hard-boiled egg slicers to cut small, firm foods like mushrooms. Apple corers and slicers work great for cutting small veggies. Likewise, you can use those nice sharp kitchen scissors that often come with knife sets to cut through meats and certain veggies.
Of course, while these tips and modifications may help make cooking with arthritis more enjoyable, it doesn’t take away the fact that arthritis can be painful…and debilitating. And sadly, it remains one of the most common, chronic conditions older Americans face.
Before you give up and resort to heavy-duty drugs, check out my Arthritis Relief and Reversal Protocol. In this innovative, online learning tool, I present more than 40 years of my own personal research into the many science-backed and natural ways to ease and eliminate arthritis pain—for good. To learn more, or to enroll today, click here now!
P.S. Tune back in on Thursday for my report about some common myths and misconceptions about the dietary causes of rheumatoid arthritis.
“The 12 kitchen hacks everyone with arthritis needs to know about.” Creaky Joints, 9/26/18. (creakyjoints.org/living-with-arthritis/cooking-with-arthritis/)