Cooking Tips from an Occupational Therapist
Ashley Jowett
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2022

Cooking Tips from an Occupational Therapist

Even for the home chefs among us, the daily act of cooking can present safety challenges, especially when it comes to your hands and upper body. For those who have already had a hand injury and those who would like to prevent hand injuries and in celebration of Occupational Therapy Month, held in April each year, I would like to share these tips from the American Society of Hand Therapists. These tips will help you decrease stress on your hands and upper body as you cook.

Evaluate your tools. There are many ways to optimize the tools we use in the kitchen. Look for kitchen utensils and cookware with comfortable, oversized, easy-to-grip handles. Use oven mitts, rather than flat potholders, to protect your entire hand from burns. Use plastic, when possible. It is a lighter material and reduces the stress of extra weight on your hands and arms. We like electric can openers or the under-the-cabinet mounted Y-shaped can opener. These types free both hands to help with opening the jar or bottle, which decreases pressure on your thumbs. Find easy-open canisters for storing common ingredients. Swapping out the tools or containers you use often can make a big difference over time.

Modify your techniques. There are easier and more efficient ways to execute the most common kitchen tasks. For instance, use scissors, rather than your thumbs, to open packages and bags. Slide pots off burners onto hot pads, rather than lifting them. When taking items out of the oven, slide the oven rack out, so you can get both hands securely on the edges of your cookware. If you have a large heavy dish, consider making the same meal in a few smaller dishes instead. Use a tray to transport dishes. When cleaning knives, keep them separated from the other dishes. Clean them one by one and allow them to dry on the counter top.

Tweak your posture, not your back. Posture is important as you spend time in the kitchen. Try not to let your shoulders round forward. Instead, keep your shoulders back. If it is difficult to maintain good posture while performing a task, consider sitting at a table, instead of standing.

These tips allow us to have even more fun in the kitchen while protecting our hands and upper bodies from preventable injury. Occupational therapists use a wide range of creative and customized plans to help patients of all ages develop, recover, improve, and maintain the skills needed for daily living and working. For more information and to schedule an appointment, visit https://svhealthcare.org/services/rehabilitation or call 802-447-5140.

Colleen Thorpe, MSOT, OTR/L, is an occupational therapist with SVMC Outpatient Rehabilitation, part of Southwestern Vermont Medical Center and Southwestern Vermont Health Care, in Bennington.

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