Following an AIP lifestyle generally means we must cook from scratch. I mean everything! I normally love to cook. Sometimes though, when I am super ill and having a flare (Hashimoto’s, Fibro, Endo, or all 3), it is the last thing I want to do! This was probably my biggest struggle when starting the Autoimmune Protocol. Having the strength to cook. When you are at rock bottom it’s a real issue. Even as I heal, I still don’t want to waste energy in the kitchen unnecessarily. I’ve been known to put it off until I literally have nothing left to eat! Have you been there? Too sick to stand, but forced to either cook or starve? Or too fatigued to cook, so tempted to eat something you'll regret? Not fun! Don’t worry, we can avoid this.
Many AIP-ers do a big weekly batch cooking. Have you tried it? This is a great method for some. If it works with your schedule and health, go for it! Personally I don’t have the strength to do all my cooking in one go. I can’t be cooking every meal as I need it, either! Here are some of my tactics for making the most of my energy & time spent in the kitchen.
1. Make every kitchen session count.
Instead of a big batch cooking session, I spread it out. Making the most of each time I cook. I try to make 1 simple meal or main dish per day. I make sure that everything I cook is in a large amount. This way, I have portions to refrigerate or freeze for later. It takes only a slight bit more time and energy to make multiple meals worth than it does to make one. When having a rough day, I will skip cooking. Building up a freezer or fridge stash lets me!
Some ideas for batch meals to make (double the recipe for a nice large stash):
2. Stock AIP “convenience foods”.
I know, there aren’t many true convenience foods that are AIP compatible. (Especially where I live. Even if I can find some to order, shipping is usually so exorbitant that I generally don’t bother.) I am talking about food that takes minimal effort to get from the fridge or pantry to your mouth! Some of my go-to “convenience food"? Washed baby spinach, avocados, baby cucumbers, pre-cut vegetables, clean lunch meats, frozen mixed vegetables, pre-cooked frozen shrimp, plantain chips, & canned seafood. When you combine your once a day batch meal food with these convenience foods, you only have to spend minimal time in the kitchen! Just grab your leftovers of choice, pair with a convenience veg or protein, and you’re good to go!
3. Have a chair or stool you can use in the kitchen.
This one is for those of us who struggle with weakness and/or pain. Cook seated as much as possible. It goes against habit, but it really helps to stretch your strength! (I have a walker for home; it gets its most use in the kitchen while I sit to cook!) This is effective when chopping veggies, sautéing at the stove, waiting for a timer to go off...you get it. So simple yet so helpful.
4. Make a dish in stages.
When you are particularly weak or flaring, it helps to break cooking down into steps. Chopping, sauteing, roasting, etc. Then rest in between each stage! Or take that time to do something that can be done lying down or with your feet up. Not expending all your energy at once can help prevent a crash!
5. Prep more vegetables than you need.
Some people are great at washing and prepping their veg as soon as they come home with them. I usually don’t have the strength after shopping. My method is to prep a bunch the first time I need that ingredient. Making a salad? Wash and chop all your lettuce at once. It stores great in a bag for the rest of the week. The same goes with my other fresh vegetables. I find this makes it much easier on the days when I am not doing so well or am in a rush. It’s easy to cook when your prep work is done!
6. Stick to the basics.
Those fancy, complex AIP recipes you see? Don’t try them if your energy is low. Tempting, but save that for a day you have a little more strength. You’ll enjoy it even more when cooking it doesn’t kill ya. Trust me. We may be Epicures, but the main goal is getting our proper nutrition. Some days, simpler is better.
7. Ask for help.
Having someone to help you do food prep or cook makes a big difference. You’ll be amazed how much you can accomplish with another pair of hands. Even if its just for a few minutes. I admit I have a difficult time with this one. I don’t like to be the one needing help, I like to be the one giving it. It’s a hard mindset to change. Times when I have asked for help (or accepted an offer of help) it has been invaluable! I am so grateful to my family and friends who have been there for me! And guess what? - They don’t think any less of me for it. So when you’re flaring, or just can’t cope, don’t be afraid to ask! Your spouse, a close family member, or a good friend won’t mind lending a hand occasionally. They will probably be happy for the excuse to spend some time with you.
(See article AIP Life: Maintaining Friendships While Chronically Ill.)
Well friends, those are my methods. I hope you find some of them useful! What tips can you share for AIP cooking?
Let me know what you think!
The Emancipated Epicure, Bethany. I'm a Foodie & Autoimmune Warrior who loves to cook. Working at healing with the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol.
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