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Julie  Stachowiak, Ph.D.

Cooking and Multiple Sclerosis

By October 31, 2012

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I used to love to cook, but I took a long break from cooking when I started feeling overwhelmed with increased fatigue and cognitive dysfunction a couple of months back.

Now that the weather is a little cooler and my symptoms have lessened a bit, I have been anxious to get back in the kitchen. I'll admit, the first couple of meals were a frantic and frustrating affair. I had to take a deep breath and approach cooking more strategically.

I have put together a list of the tips that have helped me feel more comfortable and happy in the kitchen. Please add your own in the comments section. Tell us what frustrates you about cooking and what you have done to make the whole task easier.

Read the full article: Cooking with Multiple Sclerosis

November 1, 2012 at 4:32 pm
(1) Alex P says:

Tip if you are temperature sensitive or movement or standing is an issue: Crockpot and pre-made ingredients. Use frozen meatballs, veggies, and anything the grocery store sells pealed or cleaned.

November 5, 2012 at 2:36 pm
(2) Mary-Ellen says:

First time I’ve sent in a comment, but so many articles you have written contain words, ideas, thoughts, questions that I haven’t really come across while I research MS on a regular basis.

I have cognitive issues and one that is frustrating for sure. I want to invite friends over for dinner, look forward to my family coming over for dinner and I know my mind goes blank!

Cooking, receipes, using the right ingredients, using the right utensils, putting together a meal that makes sense……..are hard for me to do now. Years ago, I automatically cooked, baked, read receipes, had no problems whatsoever, planned, organized, carried out dinner parties….had no stress about it all.

NOW…ha ha ha. When I read about you putting together cereal and vegetables for your kids….that was funny…..cause that would be the kind of thing I would do!

I go to the grocery store, through lots of things in my basket and know that once I am home, I’ll look in the fridge and then I can maybe make sense of what I can cook.

Finally, I no longer stress over not being able to make something from scratch, having it “home made”, having it look like I took great care in preparing something because I care about the people eating it……..now I go to the store, buy something already made and my wee brain can have a break.

I always make sure the products “ready made” are the healthiest choice I can make, less preservatives, low in fat….things like that!

Julie keep coming with your words and personal knowledge and expertise. I take your words very seriously, because I understand and speak your language and I appreciate all you have to offer us.

I was DX in 2004 and had MS since 1969!

Thank you, Mary-Ellen

November 7, 2012 at 10:00 am
(3) kim says:

I use all prepackaged vegetable,frozen vegetables, anything already cut up & cleaned. I have also learned to use the microwave, not for meats but pretty nuch everything else. And lets not forget that crock pot! Since it is too heavy for me to wash, I buy those bags; much easier clean up.
I buy frozen pearl onions or frozen diced onions & use them in place of cutting onions since I only have the use of one hand. Sliced mushrooms from the store can be frozen (single layer till frozen) & then put in baggies. Also, grape tomatoes, baby carrotts & peeled garlic freezes well. If you can freeze it You can cook with it!

November 7, 2012 at 10:05 am
(4) Alicia says:

Thanks for the tips. I also loved to cook before my MS diagnosis. After MS I started doing things like forgetting how many cups I flour I had put in the batter. I also sometimes need a rest before finishing and if I feel pressure to get a dish cooked in a hurry it can make me even more fuzzy-headed. One thing that helps me a lot is making meals in the slow cooker. This way I can do all the work in the morning when my head is more clear. I don’t have to worry about getting it all done quickly, because dinner is hours away. I try to make really large batches of food so that I can freeze a few portions for days when I am too fatigued to cook at all.

November 7, 2012 at 10:06 am
(5) Angela says:

I am a big, big fan of my slow cooker. Dump a bunch of stuff in there and let it go. The auto off feature is a godsend. Take full advantage!

November 7, 2012 at 10:11 am
(6) Patricia says:

I had cooked since I was 12 years old, helping my mother prepare supper (meat, 3 vegetables & dessert) due to her rheumatoid arthritis. I now cook every now and then. When I do cook, I use a Crockpot , make a casserole, prepare one dish meals, or an easy bucket of KFC with microwavable vegetable side dishes. Many times my husband picks up something at a drive-thru on his way home from work. Many times I have to change plans and cancel my plans for preparing a meal or even reschedule a family holiday dinner because I am so fatigued. I accept the times when I don’t feel like cooking but have in mind a alternate Plan B that works for everyone.

November 7, 2012 at 10:27 am
(7) Mistylilacs03 says:

Thank you for your informative reflection. If I may, I have another suggestion. I use not only a crock pot but a pressure cooker. I cook just about everything in it and quickly. I was a bit intimidated at first but once I got the hang of it, thanks to my hubby, I love it. I cook vegetables, soups, spaghetti sauce, pot roast, etc.
I hate a Cuisinart CPC-600 1000-Watt 6-Quart Electric Pressure Cooker, granted a bit pricey but it has more than paid for itself in time and energy.

Happy Cooking! Mistylilacs03

November 7, 2012 at 10:50 am
(8) Shelley Peterman Schwarz says:

Being severely disabled by MS, here are a few additional tips I’ve used:

I do my grocery shoppng at off-peak hours to cut down on the lines in the different departments, (butcher, deli, bakery, salad bar, etc). On days when I’m a little foggy or shopping at a new grocery store, I go to the customer service desk and ask for a map that shows the store layout. The map make me more efficient and saves me time and energy.

If jars are too difficult to open, I ask the clerk at the check out to “break the seal” and then reclose the jar. Just this one little change allows me to open jars independently at home even with my weak hands.

I use simple recipes with only a few steps. Nothing is complicated or involved. For example: I don’t/can’t separate eggs or lift a pot that needs to be drained.

No need to lift and open heavy cookbooks either. Use the Internet to find recipes for items you already have in your pantry. Or, look for recipes with 3, 4, or 5 ingredients.

I cover baking pans with aluminum foil to cut down on clean up.

November 7, 2012 at 10:57 am
(9) Colleen says:

My MS has inspired my (then) teenage daughter to start cooking. That helps.

I like a lot of the above comments. Prepared foods are a Godsend. I don’t use a crockpot often cuz I’m not a fan of the stewishness of the final products. Even tho it’s more expensive I do try to buy veggies & fruits that are already sliced and diced from the produce section. And I like salads, casseroles or hamburger helper kinda things.

I’m always concerned about falling (with a knife! yikes)

And for the 2nd time since I’ve been dxd I am hosting the family Thanksgiving. Last time I thought I did really well. Prepared pies ahead of time, had my children peeling & mashing potatoes, Hubby doing things as well. Family all brought covered dishes. While I cooked I sat and rested between things. And yet by 5:00 I was TOTALLY WIPED OUT. It was the strangest thing. My whole body hurt and I almost didn’t make it to my bed to lie down. Then I was so sore I wasn’t even sure I could rest. So be careful about T-giving!!

November 7, 2012 at 10:59 am
(10) imdhreeves says:

Cooking with MS might be a good place to mention that there have been some pretty interesting work with diet and MS. Dr Swank, Dr McDougall and others have recommended a very low fat diet which seems to work for many people with MS. When I first heard of the Swank diet I was assured on a blog or two that it was so difficult I should not bother. I have been eating the McDougall diet for 5 weeks now and feel so much better I plan to never go back to eating all of the oil that most Americans eat. I also have found it to be easier than cooking the way I did before. So if anyone is curious about it I urge you to investigate. Since I became vegan with no added oil I feel great. My fatigue is pretty much gone. Of course this is not the hot time of the year but I definitely have much more energy than I did in past winters. Most of the cooking I do now I just substitute vegetable broth or water for oil when sauteing. Frozen whole foods, without sauces, work very well.
So Julie, have you written about diet choices? I’d like to hear your take on the idea.

November 7, 2012 at 11:50 am
(11) Sarah says:

I love to cook, and coming from a long line of great Southern ladies who can cook circles around anyone, it’s in my blood. I was diagnosed in 1998 and fatigue is my greatest symptom. I run out of steam in the mid-afternoon, so some days I will prepare most of dinner in the morning and only have a few things to finish, to put in the oven, or some reheating to do. I also like to do as much prep as I can for the week. For example, cooking a large batch of ground turkey on a Sunday afternoon and then split it up to be used throughout the week (spaghetti, tacos, etc). I also have the added pressure of having a child with food issues (no gluten) so I’ve spent a lot of time adapting favorite recipes so I don’t have to prepare two separate meals for my family all the time.
A few years ago I created a meal plan on my computer, complete with a shopping list and recipes that would provide for my family for a week at a time. If I am having a rough patch, I can fall back on this list by letting my husband do the shopping. (It turned out to be a godsend for my mother when she took over for me after the birth of my youngest child.) And I always have something in the freezer for my son (the gluten-free child) just in case, like his favorite meatballs.
I do understand cognitive issues, mine are made worse by fatigue, so if this post seems like my brain is ship-shape all the time be assured it is not. I am able to plan ahead because I include meal planning on my daily calendar, which I cannot function without. Yes, it even tells me to pick up my children from school each day. :) When I do my shopping, I write down what I plan to prepare each day on my calendar, then I can help myself remember what needs to be taken out of the freezer, etc. If I don’t write things down, they don’t get done.

November 7, 2012 at 12:16 pm
(12) Marc says:

I love to cook, prior to MS and probably more so now because I honestly feel that nutrition affects MY MS. I have some cognitive lapses, but I honestly feel that those issues occur more when I “think” a recipe and not “feel” one. This may seem too “crunchy-feely”, but I feel that I have more dysfunction when I “think” as opposed ,to “feeling” food! Why, is that ingredient used, what should it taste like? Approaching food this way makes it easier to cook for me!

November 7, 2012 at 4:30 pm
(13) Jess says:

The best thing I’ve found is to sit at the kitchen table to cut vegetables (I find standing for long in one place very tiring but can get everything done while sitting down). Plus, I don’t prepare the vegetables and immediately start cooking – a short break really helps!

November 8, 2012 at 2:45 am
(14) Steffi says:

I am sitting here in front of my computer crying, because I realize for the first time, that there are others with cognitive dysfunction just like me.
I live in Germany and this part of my MS has never been treated or even been taken seriously by my doctors. To see, that others have the same problems – it’s just overwhelming.

Now to cooking – I have a romertopf here (I’ve just looked it up in amazon – it is available there). I think it is a german product, anyway – the good thing about it is: You just put everything together in it, put it in the oven, and then forget about it for the next hours.

Today for example we are having steak with onions: Put steaks, seasoning, onions into the thing, close it and cook it for about two hours – then it is ready for eating.

As my husband does most of the cooking (he loves it – honestly) I do not have to cook too often. But by not doing it I feel so completely useless here in the house (most of the time I am too weak for cleaning, ironing and stuff), so I turned to baking.

It is a good exercise for the brain to read, _understand_ and realize the recipes – especially if I use american recipes for these wonderful cookies (good thing about cookies is, you mix the dough and then with a spoon just splat it on the baking sheet – love it!)

Biggest problem here is to handle the cup-measuring which we don’t have in Germany. But the cookies are great most of the time and they are freezable – so I bake lots when I feel better, and when I am low I still have cookies for my little son.

Greetings from Germany!!!!!


November 8, 2012 at 2:11 pm
(15) Jenny says:

Growing up with Chinese parents they have always cooked “mis en place” style. It just so much easier to handle the actual process of cooking when all the ingredients are prepared out and ready to go into the wok. I had MS for 8 years now and struggling with cognitive challenges and fatigue, this technique has truly helped me with my own family and I take what I’ve learn with my parents to heart when it comes to cooking.

November 12, 2012 at 5:06 pm
(16) Renee Drew says:

I look for recipes that are quick to prepare. which means they have fewer ingredients as well as fewer steps. I have discovered kitchenscoops.com as a great source. The claim is that all recipes can be prepared in 20 minutes. That means that for me it will be ready in about 40 minutes! (With this confounded MS we have to laugh as much as we can!)

November 14, 2012 at 4:21 pm
(17) Mary Ann says:

My biggest problem with cooking is forgetting to turn off burners when I’m done. Thankfully, my husband knows this is a problem and keeps an eye out- even if he doesn’t understand why I keep doing it.
I try to be extra careful when I know he’s not home. This not only wastes energy but is actually dangerous.

December 6, 2012 at 8:55 pm
(18) Lucky Louise says:

Coooking….yes…I too used to enjoy cookiing. Now my hubby does the cooking…problem I have is trying to tell him what I do and don’t like to eat. We have been together for 17 years but I did’t realize how little he knows about my likes and dislikes. I suppose that is because I was the carer…the mother..the family organiser…. It is hard to be the one looked after.
I still cook very very occasionally and yes I use the slow cooker. i try and cook a big batch so I can freeze meals and I have got my hubby doing the same now.
I have discovered breadmaker machines! Fabulous for making the pizza dough I used to do by hand. And I bought a really good quality food processor that hubby has also agreed is was a really great investment. He is amazed at how quick you can chop the parsley for tabouli! LOL
A word of warning re pressure cookers. We have one and I used to use it till one day the cooking time was up and I was try to get the lid off and couldn’t understand why I couldn’t get it off. It was driving my nuts and making very tired trying to get it opened. In the end I just left it on the bench for about an hour while I went and had a rest. When I woke and came back I remember that you had to let the pressure out BEFORE trying to open……I now have made my hubby hide it from me so I don’t get it out and try and use it. If I had managed to break the seal I could have been seriously hurt…..I am just really lucky I hadn’t tried a knife or something under the end of the lid…..
I don’t do the grocery shopping …hubby doest that…I never thought I would say it but I miss it. I used to hate grocery shopping but I miss not havig a say in what food is bought. Am about to tackle this issue with hubby… I need to go with him once a fornight with my mobility scooter and let him let me have my own basket to pop somethings I think I would like in it. It wouldn’t work with him asking why I was buying this or that….Questions to my head in……

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