Cooking with chronic illness: Four trends to try

When you have a chronic illness, cooking or thinking about cooking often requires more energy than you can muster. Yet making sure you eat balanced and healthy meals is all the more important. Luckily, many of today’s popular food trends are especially useful for people with chronic illness because they eliminate some of the stress, preparation or clean up time. We’ve compiled four trends likely to be most useful to you.


Long-term meal planning

Save leftovers in tupperwareCooking bloggers have become experts at “prep for a day, eat for a month” meal planning so that you don’t have to. A quick search yields “meal prep 101” tutorials, PDF guides, grocery lists and recipes galore. Many suggest using a few hours on a Sunday to cook and package meals. But with a chronic illness you may need to simply adjust that to whatever day you wake up feeling up to the task. Do your research and planning in the meantime.

Check out “Salt & Prepper” for downloadable meal packages that include grocery lists, recipes, a Meal Prep 101 guide and more.


One-pot meals

The appeal of one-pot meals isn’t hard to see. By cooking everything in one pot you can save preparation time, planning energy and minimize clean up—all very important if a chronic illness limits your energy capacity.

However, this type of recipe has long tended to be overrun by pasta and egg dishes. More recently, the trend has expanded to more inventive categories. Try this list of recipes from Greatist that includes breakfasts, cake mugs, salads and bread.



Electric pressure cookers

The old stovetop pressure cooker has seen an upgrade and revival in electric pressure cookers that are increasingly affordable. Enough people use them at this point that recipes and how-to guides are easy to find.

Their relevance to people cooking with chronic illness lies primarily in the speed and ease of cooking. In addition to often cooking one-pot meals, they provide the set-it-and-forget-it feature of crock pots with the speed of the pressure cooker. Most also come with a number of other features so they can replace your rice cooker and slow cooker. They don’t do everything well, but are great for things that normally have a long cooking or soaking time. And they cook meats especially evenly with full flavor.

This video can help you understand their power. And browse recipes here for a taste of what they can do.


Food as medicine

Doctors are increasingly using food and nutrition as part of treatment plans. Researchers are studying the impact of eating habits on disease or disease symptoms. While you should always talk to your doctor before changing your eating habits, good nutrition is an important part of staying well.

When you have a chronic illness, your doctor may also require diet restrictions. People with pulmonary hypertension usually need to avoid sodium, for example. Some people with epilepsy are treated with a ketogenic diet. And a thalassemia diagnosis sometimes requires being conscious of iron intake.

Certain diet trends actually align well with those needs, or even originated from them. That means plenty of resources exist to help you find recipes, cookbooks and graphics or other information to understand which food is best for your needs.

Take advantage of quick-and-easy cooking trends to help ensure what you put inside your body is helping, not hurting your chronic illness.


The spring issue of Community includes recipes for four meals based on 10 ingredients.

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