Psoriatic arthritis can make ordinary tasks like cooking a real challenge, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop whipping up your favorite meals. Just ask chef Melinda Winner.
Winner, the author of A Complete Illustrated Guide to Cooking With Arthritis, was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis more than 20 years ago. Despite her physical limitations, she typically cooks dinner five nights a week.
When it comes to being in the kitchen, cooking meals, Winner finds one of the biggest difficulties is battling fatigue. “When you prepare food, it takes a lot out of you. It really does,” she says.
Tasks that most people consider simple — such as slicing vegetables, lifting a pot, or opening a container — can be hard if you have joint pain and swelling.
Kitchen Hacks for Cooking With Arthritis
Preparation and Planning Come First
“When you have a disease like this, you have to plan,” Winner says.
She recommends shopping early in the morning when grocery stores aren’t crowded and employees are available to help you lift or reach certain items.
Winner likes to prep ahead, sometimes getting all the ingredients together for several meals at a time. Then she spreads out the actual cooking. “You can’t overdo it, or you’ll be too tired,” Winner says.
Customize Your Kitchen
A few simple modifications in the kitchen can make a big difference if you have arthritis.
Here are some of Winner’s favorite kitchen hacks, along with the most useful tips I’ve found:
Get a Lazy Susan
Turntables are great for storing spices and canned items so you don’t have to reach for them.
Put Everything on Wheels
Winner uses carts to transport items from one end of the kitchen to the other. “If I’m going to move a pot, I put it on a stand with wheels because I can’t lift it,” she says.
Use an Apple Corer
An apple corer can be handy for more than just coring apples. You can slice vegetables by placing the corer over the food you’re cutting and using your forearms and body weight (instead of your hands) to push through.
Corncob Holders are Versatile Helpers
Corn cob holders are handy gadgets that can keep food stationary, so it doesn’t slide while you’re cutting. For instance, Winner uses them to hold carrots in place during slicing.
Put a Ribbon on your Fridge
Many people with swollen joints have trouble opening their refrigerator door. “What I recommend is tying a large ribbon or scarf around the door handle,” says Winner. “Then I slide my arm in and use the weight of my body to open the refrigerator.”
Keep a Stool Nearby
If you’re spending a long time standing in the kitchen, chances are you’re going to tire out. Winner recommends a stool for breaks. Another option is to try an anti-fatigue cushioned floor mat.
Use Cookbooks as Props
Winner keeps a stack of cookbooks on her kitchen counter and uses them to prop up her arms if they get tired.
Hang Your Pots
Placing your pots and pans on a hanging rack will lessen the number of times you’ll need to stoop down to grab something. “Without a pot rack, I’m not sure I would cook as much,” Winner says.
Use a Handheld Mixer
A lightweight handheld mixer can be used for mixing a variety of items, such as whisking eggs. You can find appliances with detachable components that can do the work of both a food processor and a mixer.
Use Padded Handles on Grocery Bags
You can attach padded handles to plastic grocery bags for easier carrying of your groceries.
Stand on a Comfortable Foam Mat
Put down a foam comfort mat in front of the sink and counter so you can stand with greater comfort.
Hooks are Handy
Use hooks to store pots and pans within reach, so you don’t have to stoop or reach into low cupboards.
Use a Grabber Tool
Keep a grabber tool handy to help you reach out-of-the-way items with ease.
Choose Magnetized Measuring Cups and Spoons
Magnetized measuring cups and spoons that connect to each other means you you won’t have to rummage and dig around for them individually.
Use a Rubber or Automated Jar Opener
Make Sure You Have a Food Processor and a Mandolin
Choose Knives With Large Soft Grips
When cutting or chopping by hand, look for cutting knives with large, soft grips or knives with the handle in an upright or overhead position to give you better leverage.
And don’t forget to keep your knives sharpened, so they require less effort to use. Also use spoons and spatulas with soft-grip handles. In fact, you can find options like this for just about any cooking or eating utensil.
Use Easy-Grip Pot and Pan Grip Handles
Cooking Should Be Fun!
Melinda Winner credits getting back into the kitchen as part of her healing. Things were different but she slowly started to learn new ways of doing things that allowed her to adapt, whether it was using other parts of her body to lift pots and pans, or using special tools designed for people with RA.
In addition to specific tips above, she also recommends:
Try to incorporate other parts of your body in the lifting process. For example, use your shoulder to help get platters on the top shelf of the refrigerator. Choose to sit instead of stand when doing prep work such as peeling potatoes or shelling peas.
Respecting Your Limits
Cook at the time of day that works best for your energy levels. On good days, try to prepare extra food and freeze it so you can still eat healthy even on days when you cannot cook. And on bad days when you’re not feeling well, give your body time to rest!
So much in life is beyond our control, but we have more control over chronic inflammation and pain than many of us realize.
I recommend The Anti Inflammatory Diet and Action Plans as the most complete meal plan and cookbook for fighting inflammation through the power of food and nutrition.
This book will show you how to reduce inflammation naturally and heal the conditions that frequently occur as a result, such as arthritis, autoimmune conditions, food allergies, gastrointestinal distress, and more.
- Over 130 delicious, easy-prep recipes that feature affordable ingredients, minimal prep time, and hundreds of useful tips
- 4 flexible anti inflammatory diet plans to fit your needs and tastes, including choices for Vegan, Paleo, Mediterranean, and Time-Saving diets
- Knowledgeable guidance from food writer and healthy eating expert, Dorothy Calimeris, as well as holistic nutritionist and food blogger, Sondi Bruner
- Helpful food lists and nutritional information will help you make smart food choices and stick to your anti inflammatory diet
I highly recommend it.
A diagnosis arthritis or other inflammatory condition doesn’t mean you can’t do the things you love. Follow the treatment plan prescribed by your specialist, and continue to pursue your passions.
You’re going to have both good and bad days, says Winner, so don’t be too hard on yourself.
“You have to have a positive attitude,” she says. “If you don’t, your disease wins.”
If you’re not feeling well, don’t overexert yourself in the kitchen. Cooking should be an enjoyable experience. For Winner, it’s downright therapeutic.
“I find a lot of relief in cooking. There’s some kind of deep, inner accomplishment when you can make something that puts smiles on people’s faces and you know you did it despite what you’ve been through,” she says.
Luckily, there are lots of adaptive kitchen tools available, which can ease your pain and get you back to enjoying preparing and eating homemade meals.
Please share your own thoughts and tips!
- For arthritis pain relief, read: Red Light Therapy Can Help You Heal (Complete Guide)