Eating healthy while living with chronic pain can seem like an impossibly difficult task. Pre-packaged food is easy, but it’s often high in sodium, fat, and doesn’t contain the best quality ingredients.
You know that to really take charge of your health, you need to eat healthier. But how?
Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered with this list of four life hacks to eat pain healthy, with options for a range of budgets.
1. Simplify meals
Looking for pain healthy recipes online often starts out fun, but then becomes stressful as you look over the list of hard-to-find ingredients, multiple, complicated steps and maybe even cooking times of longer than an hour. Who has the time or energy for that on a random weekday?
Rethink eating, taking it back to its essence. Food is about fueling the body. Think of most of your meals as just that—fuel. Of course you can have a few recreational meals a week, in which enjoying a nice meal becomes the prime focus.
But most of the time, eat to fill your body with the life-giving nutrients it needs to stay healthy. And looking at food that way, it becomes really simple to eat healthy.
A quick salad makes an amazing meal. Or perhaps roast vegetables, lightly coating them with olive oil and garlic and cooking them for about 30 minutes at 450 degrees. Serve the vegetables with rice and beans or meat for protein. Avocado spread on whole-wheat toast, topped with sprouts or tomato makes a delicious, light lunch. You might add the vegetables cold onto some lettuce and top with avocado for an easy, simple dish.
If you grow tired of eating the same vegetables all the time, switch it up with different herbs and sauces. Steamed vegetables with spaghetti sauce, whole-grain pasta, and a dash of Parmesan cheese well represents Italian cuisine, while a stir-fry with soy sauce, ginger, and tofu transforms those same vegetables into fine Asian cuisine. And don’t forget the option to add corn, hot spices, or hot sauce and set yourself up for a Mexican fiesta.
It’s ok to eat the same meal all the time. If you roast a huge pan of vegetables early in the week, you can eat them for several days. Voila, pain healthy, affordable food.
2. Buy pre-chopped or frozen vegetables
This option costs a little bit more than purchasing foods in their whole form, but if you’re living with pain in your hands or feet that makes it hard to stand, it’s worth investing the extra money to enjoy better health.
Some supermarkets have better selections than others when it comes to pre-chopped foods, so visit a few in your area to see which offers the varieties you’re looking for. A good, more affordable option is buying frozen, chopped vegetables.
Frozen vegetables are generally considered the second-best option for produce, behind fresh. Canned vegetables or fruits should be avoided because they’re often packed with preservatives, sodium, or sugar. Frozen vegetables, meanwhile, aren’t packaged with additional ingredients.
Buying pre-chopped vegetables saves a significant amount of time and energy in preparing foods.
3. Hire a personal chef
If you think personal chefs are only for the rich and famous, get excited because your own home-cooked meals can be purchased for less than you may think. While this service is definitely a luxury item, it’s something to think about if you have the funds but not the ability to cook.
Also, consider that eating out is expensive. So if you order take-out frequently, the cost may not be that much higher.
Instead of having a live-in chef who cooks you food whenever you want—which is more along the lines of lifestyles of the rich and famous—personal chefs come to your house on a single day of the week and spend about five or six hours cooking up a storm. When they leave, you have a freezer chock full of ready-to-heat meals, prepared to your liking with the ingredients your body needs the most.
Costs usually include meal planning and preparation, with the client paying for groceries and often a one-time container fee for dishes to hold all the delicious food.
Costs vary, but one Phoenix-based personal chef’s rates begin at $200 for three entrees, four servings each with no side dish. That’s about $17 per serving or meal, per person. Side dishes, additional servings, and more entrees are all available for an extra fee.
4. Buy a mail-order food service
It may not be private-chef worthy, but it does take the hassle out of shopping for food and deciding what to cook. Several of these companies have opened; here’s an overview of a few.
Blue Apron ships ready-to-prepare, pre-portioned ingredients along with matching recipe cards to homes nationwide for prices starting at $8.74 per person, per meal. The company works with a network of locally owned farms across the country, making sure ingredients are as fresh as possible.
If you’ve ever gone to the supermarket, came home with a cart full of vegetables, and then wondered what to cook when it came time to eat, this service or a similar one may be for you.
Ingredients are shipped in just the right amount to cut out food waste. Step-by-step recipe cards make things easier. Blue Apron says its team of chefs creates each meal to be healthy and fast to prepare.
Example meals include options like seared salmon with vegetables to fresh dishes like summer squash and fennel salad. When you sign up, you can set dietary preferences, but other than that, you don’t have much control over the recipes.
Another, similar company called Hello Fresh, allows you more freedom when choosing recipes, but it’s also slightly more expensive. Each week, you choose the meals you’d like and the company sends pre-measured ingredients to your doorstep. Options include a classic box, with animal protein, and a veggie box for non-meat eaters.
A third option is Freshly, which offers more options in terms of the number of meals you receive each week. This service also makes breakfast available, while the others focus more on dinner items that could double as lunches. This service is the most affordable, with six meals costing $69.
A bonus to these programs is that they’re portion controlled, helping people stay mindful of how much they’re eating.
What are your favorite life hacks for pain healthy eating?
Image via Nicole Abalde via Flickr