When living with Crohn's or colitis, it can be challenging to opt for nutritious foods when you’re feeling exhausted as these foods often require more prep work and time in the kitchen. However, these are the times that you likely require wholesome, nutritious foods the most. The key for success is preparing ahead of time. Here are some tips you can use to help you reduce the burden of cooking even on your most challenging days.
1. Take a seat.
Conserve energy by sitting in a chair while prepping food. This helps to reduce the amount of effort it takes to cook on lower-energy days.
2. Stash the extras.
When you have the energy to cook, choose a freezer-friendly recipe, double it, and freeze the leftovers. Divide them into individual portions and store them in freezer-friendly bags or containers. This way, you can skip the cooking and allow yourself to rest on low-energy days without sacrificing nutrition. Don’t forget to date and label each meal before freezing!
3. Reduce your workload.
Minimize time spent in the kitchen by opting for pre-washed, pre-cut veggies. You can find these either fresh or frozen in most grocery stores. I suggest keeping the frozen varieties on hand because they make it easy to throw a quick meal together, with minimal effort and cleanup required.
4. Make sheet pan dinners your go-to.
Ever tried a sheet pan meal? It’s one of my favorite ways to simplify the cooking process. In essence, you bake your entire meal on a parchment paper/foil-lined cookie sheet. Just toss your pan in the oven, set a timer, and you can rest while the food is cooking. Not only does this method reduce the time and effort needed to prepare the meal, it also reduces post-cooking cleanup. You can forget about scrubbing multiple pots and pans; just toss the used parchment or foil and return the clean sheet to its place.
5. Invest in a slow cooker.
A slow cooker is another way to simplify the cooking process. With this gadget, you can safely cook your meal over a 4-8 hour period, which saves you from needing to constantly stir or check on your food while it’s cooking. As a bonus, the slow cooker allows ingredients to bathe in the cooking liquid longer, which creates a much more flavorful meal.
6. Cook in bulk.
Cooking in bulk, or batch cooking, only requires you to cook once or twice, but allows you to enjoy meals throughout the week. Minimizing the amount of times you need to stand, prep, and cook will decrease your energy expenditure, which is ideal when you’re exhausted.
7. Consider a pressure cooker.
Pressure cookers slash cooking time and also remove the need to stand over the stove. Meals can be made in a matter of minutes, without supervision and in only one pot, to reduce cleanup.
8. Stay prepared.
Make a list of your favorite quick, but nutritious snacks and meals and keep them stocked in your kitchen and/or at work. They’ll be at arms reach on your low-energy days.
One more idea:
If you have someone supportive nearby, consider asking them for help. While relying on others can feel vulnerable and uncomfortable at times, think about how you would feel if you had the opportunity to help someone you loved who had limited energy to cook meals, or buy groceries. Would you feel honored that they reached out to you? Relieved to know that they consider you to be a reliable person in their life? Happy to use your energy when theirs is limited? Stating your needs can be a unique opportunity for connection and self-advocacy. If you have people in your corner, ask if they can help you get through a period of debilitating fatigue or active symptoms until you feel well enough to be independent again.