My top cooking tips for the days when PH saps my energy

On a bad energy day, preparing and cooking food can be overwhelming

Jen Cueva avatar

by Jen Cueva |

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Cooking has always been an enjoyable pastime for me. I believe the satisfaction of nourishing others stems from my Southern heritage. My late grandmother, Mawmaw, as we called her, passed down her buttermilk biscuit recipe to me. Reflecting on this evokes a craving for one, reminding me of the joy I find in my roots.

Unfortunately, after my pulmonary hypertension (PH) diagnosis, and because of limited “spoons” (a metaphor for energy), cooking often drops to the bottom of my task list. PH symptoms, treatment side effects, and lack of sleep quickly exhaust me.

I also have a poor appetite. Most days, I can’t decide what I want to eat. Struggling with nausea doesn’t help, either. So I frequently ask my spouse, Manny, for his preferences. He reminds me that he dislikes eating alone. Knowing the importance of adequate nutrition for my mental and physical health, I reluctantly collect a few ingredients despite my diminished appetite.

My aim is to prepare nutritious food with minimal effort and energy. I try to make my meals as simple as possible. I leverage primary flavors from various herbs and spices to get creative in the kitchen without feeling overwhelmed. Garlic and lemon are two of my favorites.

Following are some of my favorite hacks for cooking when my spoons are gone due to PH. They are useful for people with chronic illness or physical disability that makes a lot of chopping, cooking, and cleaning difficult or not feasible.

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Make small adjustments

I use a convenient counter-height stool when I need to prep several things. It easily folds away in the closet when not in use. I sit on it so that I don’t have to stand while washing and preparing fruits and vegetables. The stool is also helpful when I wash my hair.

Sometimes when I’m having a bad day, I’ll buy prewashed and pre-prepared ingredients. They’re usually more expensive, so I buy them only occasionally.

It’s OK to delegate

Breaking down small tasks like washing and prepping the vegetables earlier in the day is beneficial. Remember to utilize your family to help. Manny helps cut up larger items and assists with other tasks. Young children can also help with small tasks.

Many people, including Manny, like store-bought rotisserie chicken. I’m not among them, but occasionally, I’ll purchase one for him when I don’t feel like cooking.

Batch cooking helps

Cooking larger portions of foods, such as soups, stews, beans, and casseroles, is also helpful. Then I can freeze it for later. Served with a bagged salad, we have a full meal. These salads are the best! I’ve used the chopped salads to make wraps in the warmer months. If you come to our home, you’ll always find at least one bag of salad.

Dump-and-go meal, anyone?

I use the microwave for leftovers and the air fryer or Instant Pot for dump-and-go meals I find on Pinterest. I’ll admit, they could’ve sounded a bit more appetizing when I first saw them trending. But then I tried a few and found it easy to get a nutritious meal without standing over a stove.

The pandemic caused chaos and anxiety, but home delivery services often proved to be a lifeline. I still order groceries online, either to be picked up or delivered, depending on how I’m feeling. Why expend limited energy on shopping? However, when I feel better, I enjoy shopping for groceries and chatting with friendly store employees who’ve gotten to know me.

Hopefully, these tips will be helpful when PH leaves your energy depleted. What other recommendations do you have for simplifying the cooking process? Please share in the comments below. 

Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


Judy Fugate avatar

Judy Fugate

having problem getting soup etc tasting good without salt..I use salt substitutes but still no taste. Any suggestions? Thank you.Judy

Jen Cueva avatar

Jen Cueva

Hi Judy, it's so challenging and often it takes some trial and error to find what flavors we can boost. I like to use fresh herbs, extra garlic, and lemon or lime juice. It depends on the type of soup and flavors you are looking for. But, explore with some spices and herbs that you haven't used and play with it. Once you learn a few and it's to your liking, please come in the forums and share.

I love soups, so this is always when I play with tons of herbs and spices.

Thanks for taking the time to read my column and offer your thoughts. I'm hopeful that you can use a few hacks on days when PH saps you, too.

Hugs and love are coming your way, my PHriend.


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