Take the headache out of cooking healthy meals by learning how to prep your kitchen for comfort, efficiency and safety.
Eating a healthy, nourishing diet can help your mind and body function better with Parkinson’s disease (PD), according to a 2014 clinical trial published in BMC Neurology. It found people who improved their nutritional status also upped their emotional well-being, mobility and ability to do daily activities.
One of the best ways to eat better is by preparing your own meals with a wide variety of fiber- and antioxidant-rich vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and high-quality lean proteins.
Meal preparation, however, can be challenging with PD. Tremors, bradykinesia and other motor problems can interfere with coordination in the kitchen, and cognitive issues can make it hard to keep up with the multitasking required to put together a meal.
Strategic planning and reorganization will make meal preparation easier, safer and less tiring. Here are nine ways to streamline your time in the kitchen:
1. Make your kitchen more user-friendly.
Remove trip hazards like rugs, and clear a path to the stove, refrigerator, sink and countertops. Reorganize cabinets so most-used items can be reached without stretching or bending. Store your favorite spices in labeled, easy-to-open containers in a drawer and your go-to pots and pans on shoulder-height shelves, for example.
2. Get groceries delivered.
Research has found getting to the grocery store often is a major barrier to cooking for people with PD, but there are now many options for doing your food shopping from home on a computer or other device. Shipt, for example, offers same-day service from a selection of local grocery stores. Consider ordering pre-cut fresh fruits and veggies if dexterity issues or fatigue makes chopping uncomfortable or unsafe. Pre-cut frozen fruits and veggies also simplify meal prep and offer similar nutrition to their fresh counterparts—as long as they don’t include added sugar, salt or fat.
3. Try a meal kit.
Not sure what to cook? The meal delivery kit trend means there are many options for getting ingredients delivered for these curated meals. Plated, for example, focuses on recipes that feature sustainably caught fish and organic produce. Purple Carrot delivers all-vegetarian fare, and Terra’s Kitchen pre-chops all the ingredients—a significant perk for people with Parkinson’s—for its high-fiber, healthy meals.
4. Get a better grip.
Look for kitchen tools with handles that are easier to grasp and safer to use. These include whisks, ladles and spoons with thick, cushioned handles; cushioned can openers that do the job with no sharp edges; can and jar openers that give muscles an assist; and angled measuring cups that eliminate the need to bend your neck by showing amounts from above. OXO offers hundreds of items designed to make cooking easier.
5. Go lightweight.
Replace cast-iron skillets and other heavyweight containers with pots and pans you can lift with ease.
6. Look for one-pot recipes.
If handling multiple pots and pans at once is challenging, try dishes that can be made in a single pan, like stir fries, roasts, pastas and salads. Slow and instant cookers also allow easy preparation of a variety of one-pot meals.
7. Ready your prep space.
Before starting to cook a meal, gather everything you’ll need, including prep tools, pots and pans, and all ingredients, in one place. If standing is tiring, sit in a bar chair so you can work at counter height. A cushioned, non-slip rug can also ease the strain of standing.
8. Plan ahead.
Make and freeze extra servings for fast, healthy meals on days when you don’t feel up to cooking.
9. Stay safe.
Knives, sharp tools and heat sources are potential hazards in the kitchen. Don’t rush through food prep, be wary of spills that create trip hazards, and cover stove burners when they’re not in use.
Learn more about the benefits of diet and exercise for Parkinson’s disease and share your best recipes and fitness tips with others at The Power Through Project. Sign up today!
By Emily Delzell