Arthritis and kitchen hacks: healthy eating made easy

23 April 2020
Slow cooker with a healthy bean stew.
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With the country in lockdown, cooking at home may feel a different type of experience as routines have changed for many of us. Planning meals, pacing yourself and eating a healthy diet will help you keep your arthritis in check.

Check out our top kitchen hacks and advice from people living with arthritis to get you started.

Food shopping

Find out what support is on your doorstep, as many local shops are offering food deliveries, as well as the supermarkets. Take a look at the COVID-19 Mutual Aid website for a list of local groups that might be able to help. 

If you’re in the ‘extremely vulnerable’ group and are shielding, you can register on the GOV.UK website for support with essential supplies. 

Ian has psoriatic arthritis and has recently received his shielding letter.

“Shopping has suddenly become very difficult. As an “extremely vulnerable person” I’m not supposed to visit any shops, so what do I do? Well my wife does a lot – she is the best and has looked after me so much, I’m very lucky.”

Read his advice on staying at home and how to keep positive.

Making the most of your store cupboard

A well-stocked store cupboard is the first step towards being able to cook tasty and healthy meals. Here’s some easy ideas for you to try.

Use tinned sardines and mackerel for a boost of omega 3 fish oils, these work well in salads, with a baked potato or simply served on toast.

Tinned tomatoes are a versatile ingredient. You can make a big batch of tomato sauce and freeze portions to use when you are ready. It can work well as a base for pasta sauces, chilli or curry.

Donna Roberts has psoriatic arthritis, here she shares her storecupboard cooking tips.

“I store dry foods that are quick and easy to cook such as noodles and rice - along with things like Bovril and stock cubes. With some chicken or tuna, they make a quick, filling and nutritious meal.

“Get in some canned fruit with no added sugar which is great for keeping up your Vitamin C levels."

Read Donna and Ken’s advice on living with arthritis on lockdown.

Why not experiment with spices such as turmeric, garlic and ginger to add more flavour? Some studies have shown that these can reduce inflammation and pain. Learn more about the different types of complementary treatments.

Love your freezer

Fruit and vegetables are the mainstay of a healthy diet and make dishes tasty. Many are also packed with nutrients but cutting and chopping can be painful.

You can use frozen fruit and veg which are already chopped and ready to be cooked and are much cheaper. They’re also great nutritionally.

“Avoid emptying heavy vegetable pans of water, put the veg in a colander and then put into the water to cook. Then use the veg water for soup stock.“

Sharon

Frozen vegetables can sometimes have more nutrients in them than fresh and will count towards your five a day. Having a bag of peas in the freezer means you’ll never be short of a vegetable to serve with your main meals. Check out Love Food, Hate Waste’s storage a-z for a guide on how to keep your food fresh for longer.

Use gadgets to help you

AskSARA gives helpful advice on gadgets and equipment to make everyday activities easier. The website will ask you to select the topic you’re interested in and answer a few questions before giving a personalised report full of useful advice and products that may help you. 

“You can buy adapted cutlery that you can grip more easily, and a chopping board with spikes at the bottom – called a Swedish board – that’s supported so it doesn’t move around. The Living Made Easy websiteset up by the Disabled Living Foundationhas a range of equipment that can help you, says Paul Cooper, occupational therapist and professional adviser for the Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCoT). 

Look out for easy and healthy recipes

Quick and easy recipes are always good to have in your repertoire, but even more so when you’re self-isolating, shielding or following the current advice to stay at home.

Take a look at the recipes from our Inspire magazine, these include a range of feelgood dishes to delicious meat-free meals. 

Check out our online community and read the store cupboard thread for more foodie inspiration. 

Take a seat

Set up prepping and cooking stations in your kitchen, so everything is on hand and at the right level. “Look at the task and see how you can break it down to individual components, so that you can conserve your energy,” says Cooper.

“There are simple things you could do. For instance, if your bowls, knives and chopping boards are all in different areas of the kitchen, pull them into one useful area. That way, you don’t have to move around very much, making cooking that bit easier.

Have an area where you can sit down and work on the kitchen counter, or have a low table and chair, so you don’t have to stand for long periods.

Every little helps

Slow cookers can do all the work for you; you can throw in meat and/or veg and let the cooker do the rest.

“If you struggle to cook, but still want to eat homemade meals, one way is to cook a big meal, or several if you have the energy on that day, then divide them up and freeze them,” says Cooper.

“That way, on the other days in the week, you can use your energy to do another activity. Your meals will already be prepared, just get them out of the freezer when you need them.”

Share your experiences to help others

Suzette was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in 2013. It affected mainly her spine and hips and made going about her normal life very painful.

When she started to research more about the Mediterranean diet and which foods might help decrease her arthritis symptoms. This helped her to feel better informed and how diet could play a positive role in her journey back to wellness.

She says: “My GP prescribed various painkillers, but I didn’t take well to them.

“The physiotherapist also gave me a booklet on eating well which mentioned the link between food and arthritis symptoms. The main recommendation was to adopt a more Mediterranean-style diet.

“This really struck a chord with me. Firstly, as I was born in Gibraltar, I already had a good understanding of what was meant by eating in a Mediterranean way. Secondly, the notion that symptoms could be improved by eating certain foods was very edifying.

“I already had quite a healthy diet and cooked mainly from scratch. The main changes I made were to considerably increase my intake of extra virgin olive oil, garlic, oily fish, walnuts, almonds, ginger and raw salads. I also cut down on those foods I knew worsened my symptoms.”

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