Healthy Living in the North

Ditching the can opener: Tools, services, and tips to make healthy, homemade meals accessible

This article was co-authored by Rebecca Larson, registered dietitian, and Valerie Pagdin, occupational therapist.


Person cutting apple with one hand.

A rocker knife and cutting board with pins and suction cups makes cutting fruits and vegetables safe and accessible.

When you have a disability, making healthy meals at home can present additional challenges. Fatigue and difficulty with jars and utensils can create barriers to cooking. But there are ways to make cooking a bit easier so that everyone can enjoy healthy, homemade meals:

  • Buy frozen or pre-cut vegetables or fruit so that the preparation is already done.
  • Look for items that don’t require a can opener. Containers with screw tops (like some fruit and peanut butter) or those that are in pouches (yogurt or tuna) are easier to open.
  • Get your milk in a jug. Two litre plastic jugs with handles are easier to hold and pour than a milk carton.
  • Buy cheese and bread that are pre-sliced or have the deli or bakery slice them for you.

There are also many tools that can help you maintain your independence in shopping and cooking tasks. Using utensils with larger handles, cutting boards with suction cups to hold them to the countertop, or a mobility device to help you walk or carry items more easily can make a big difference in your ability to buy what you want and cook it the way you like it. An occupational therapist can assess your needs and help you find solutions that work for you in the kitchen. Ask your physician or primary care provider for a referral to an occupational therapist.

Accessible eating utensils.

Contact an occupational therapist to learn more about tools to make homemade meals more accessible – tools like weighted spoons, high-rimmed plates, and tremor spoons.

If transportation is a challenge, many grocery stores and service groups have grocery delivery options. Meals on Wheels is available in many communities and can provide meals if meal preparation is difficult or if you need a break. Food boxes, which contain fresh vegetables delivered on a regular basis, are available in some communities and may be an option to consider. Your local home and community care department can connect you to these programs.

If you need additional suggestions or help to make homemade meals more accessible, contact HealthLink BC Dietitian Services by dialling 8-1-1.


This article first appeared in Healthier You magazine. Find the original story and lots of other information about accessibility in the Fall 2016 issue:

 

Rebecca Larson

About Rebecca Larson

Rebecca works in Vanderhoof and the surrounding communities as a dietitian. She was born in the north and returned after her schooling. Rebecca loves tobogganing with her daughter in the winter, gardening and camping in the summer and working on her parents cattle ranch in her spare time.

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Foodie Friday: Cooking with Mom

Loaf of strawberry bread

What does cooking a special meal mean to you? For dietitian Beth and her son, it includes cooking together on Mother’s Day. On the menu this year? Strawberry Bread!

This past weekend we celebrated Mother’s Day and I bet that a lot of you showed mom how much you love and appreciate her by sharing a meal with her. Or maybe you cooked up something special for her?

Many family traditions start with cooking a special meal for a celebration of some sort, whether it’s a holiday, birthday, wedding, or reunion. The foods in these meals conjure up memories of nurturing, love, and connection. A fond memory from my childhood is the aroma of apple pie baking in the oven. When I smelled the sweetness of the apples and cinnamon combined with the mouth-watering fragrance of the buttery pie crust, I knew we were having a celebration! The whole atmosphere of the house changed during this time. My mom would be a flurry of action in the kitchen while my siblings and I looked forward to the excitement of all the visitors and the tasty food. I learned to cook from my mom and she and I both are recipe collectors and cookbook hoarders. I love the time I spend preparing meals for special occasions. For me, cooking means nurturing loved ones, making happy memories and sharing delicious food.

What does cooking a special meal mean to you?

My son and I cook together on Mother’s Day, which is one of my favourite family traditions. This year, we made Strawberry Bread as part of Mother’s Day brunch for his Nana.

Here is the recipe, adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks: Simply in Season: Recipes that celebrate fresh, local foods in the spirit of more-with-less, by Mary Beth Linda and Cathleen Hockman-Wert.

Slices of strawberry breadStrawberry Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ cup flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 ¼ cup mashed strawberries
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup oil (we used ½ cup unsweetened applesauce and topped up with oil)
  • 2 eggs

Instructions

  1. Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Mix strawberries, sugar, oil and eggs together.
  3. Stir dry ingredients into strawberry mixture until just combined.
  4. Pour batter into a greased bread pan.
  5. Bake for about an hour in the oven at 350 degrees.
  6. Enjoy!
Beth Evans

About Beth Evans

As a registered dietitian, Beth is dedicated to helping individuals, families and communities make the healthiest choices available to them, and enjoy eating well based on their unique realities and nutrition needs. Juggling work and a very busy family life, Beth is grateful for the time she spends with her family enjoying family meals, long walks and bike rides. She also loves the quiet times exploring in her garden, experimenting in the kitchen, and practicing yoga and meditation.

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Cooking with kids

Grilled cheese sandwich with vegetables and nuts as toppings.

Cooking with kids is a great way to spend time together and teach them invaluable skills! Kids as young as two years old can help wash vegetables and choose ingredients like the toppings for their own grilled cheese sandwich!

While it may seem more like work than fun, cooking with kids at any age is a great way to spend quality family time together while teaching important life skills.

Cooking with kids can be a gift that keeps on giving, now and in the future. When kids cook at home they are:

  • Exposed to healthy foods, which may positively shape their lifelong food preferences.
  • Given opportunities to build reading, math, chemistry and problem solving skills.
  • Provided opportunities to develop self-confidence and creativity.

Here are a few things to remember:

Provide age-appropriate opportunities to grow cooking skills.

  • Kids as young as two years of age can help in the kitchen with simple tasks like washing fruits and vegetables and adding ingredients to a bowl. By age 12, kids can have the skills to do independent meal planning and preparation. Check out the Nutrition Tools for Schools guide for more information on age-appropriate food skills
  • Supervise kitchen time and demonstrate safe food handling practices, including hand washing and keeping cooked and raw foods separate, as well as safe practices like working with knives and what to do in the case of a fire.
Ingredients for a grilled cheese sandwich

When cooking with kids, be sure to provide age-appropriate tasks, supervise for safety, keep it simple, and make it interactive. The skills kids learn will last a lifetime!

Keep it simple.

  • Choose recipes that have fewer steps and ingredients and/or take a portion of a recipe and let your child help. For example, your child may be able to whisk and scramble the eggs while you complete the other pieces to make breakfast burritos. Check your local library or online for cookbooks with simple recipes.

Make it interactive.

  • Especially in the beginning, cooking may mean letting kids choose from a variety of prepared ingredients to make their own version of the meal. In my home, “build your own meal” recipes have always been winners with all ages – our favourite being build your own pizza where everyone chooses from bowls of diced veggies, fruit and meat, grated cheeses and sauces like pizza sauce, pesto and hummus to top whole grain pita, tortilla or pizza dough.
Grilled cheese sandwich with lots of toppings.

Building your own grilled cheese sandwich is a great way to involve kids in cooking and along with a salad or soup, makes a delicious and balanced meal!

To get you started, try this recipe for “build your own grilled cheese sandwich”:

  • Bread (any kind you like)
  • Cheese (try mozzarella, cheddar, brie, gouda, or another favourite)
  • Toppings (sliced pears, apples, avocado or tomatoes; caramelized onions, cooked sliced potatoes, grilled vegetables like peppers or zucchini, spinach leaves, sliced meats, etc.)
  • Condiments (pesto, honey, mustard, jalapeno jelly, jam, etc.)

Lay the ingredients out and let your family pile all their favourite cheeses and toppings on the bread. Brush each side of the bread with a little vegetable oil and then bake, broil or grill until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted. To make a balanced meal, serve with a green salad or a bowl of tomato soup!

For more healthy eating ideas and recipes like this, visit the recipes section on the Northern Health Matters blog!


 

This article was first published in A Healthier You, a joint publication of Northern Health and the Prince George Citizen.

Flo Sheppard

About Flo Sheppard

Flo has worked in northern BC for over 20 years in a variety of roles. Currently, she is the Chief Population Health Dietitian and Team Lead for the Population Health Nutrition Team. She takes a realistic, supportive, and non-judgemental approach to healthy eating in recognition that there are many things that influence how we care for ourselves. In her spare time, you are likely to find Flo cooking, reading, volunteering, or enjoying the outdoors.

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