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Fast and Simple Meals for Arthritis

Arthritis pain can make it hard to cook. Try these tricks to preparing easy and nutritious meals.
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Everyone wants to save time and energy in the kitchen. It's particularly important when aching joints from arthritis turn preparing a meal into a monumental task. We've put together some ideas for easy meals that take the strain off your hands and body and don't wear you out. At the same time, they manage to deliver great taste, as well as the nutrition you need to limit swelling from arthritis and stay strong.

And here's a tip: when you are feeling up to cooking, make extra. That way, you'll always have healthy food around to eat on your lower-energy days. If meal prep is largely out of the question for you, consider using your local Meals on Wheels program.

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Frozen Meals for Bad Arthritis Days

Frozen entrees are quick and easy, especially when your arthritis is keeping you out of the kitchen. But they are notoriously high in sodium and low in fiber. If you know what to look for, there are plenty of good choices in the freezer aisle to serve as the centerpiece of a nutritious meal. Look for dishes that supply 800 milligrams of sodium or less; a minimum of 15 grams of protein; and at least four grams of fiber.

Even the healthiest frozen entrees skimp on produce and whole grains. Supplement with a cup of fresh or frozen cooked vegetables, and a slice of whole-grain bread to make a complete meal.

Nearly-a-Meal Convenience Foods

Supermarkets abound with convenience foods that could be considered near-meals, easy for anyone with arthritis. Like most processed foods, they supply more sodium than you need, so look for lower-sodium varieties. These meal starters come up short on protein so they need to be supplemented with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy to make a balanced meal.

When arthritis makes cooking tough, enjoy a protein-packed bean soup such as lentil, black bean, or split pea. Invest in a reliable electric can opener to make it easier on yourself. You can also pick up a pre-roasted chicken, a breakfast burrito, sushi or other ready-made foods at most grocery stores these days. Plus, marinated albacore (white) tuna steaks and salmon fillets are available in easy-to-open packages and are ready to eat in seconds for lunch or dinner. In a pinch, even a can of seasoned tuna - served on six crackers - makes an instant healthy meal.

The Role of Liquid Meals in Your Arthritis Diet

Liquid meals supply many essential vitamins and minerals, but they lack adequate protein and fiber to be considered a real meal. Plus, they aren't particularly satisfying and can leave you wanting more. And they are relatively expensive. But in spite of all that, they are not without merit; convenience is one of their virtues. Pair them with a piece or two of whole-grain toast or a whole-grain waffle and fruit to round out their nutritional power for an arthritis-friendly meal.

Check the label to make sure the liquid meal contains a variety of vitamins and minerals. Most 8-ounce nutritional supplement drinks are fortified to provide 25% of the vitamins you need each day.

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