Preparing meals and snacks
With the right techniques, equipment and strategies, preparing meals with sight loss doesn't have to be daunting.
Hints and tips to make preparing food easier
There’s a lot you can do to make things easier when cooking a meal, and much of it has to do with preparation. Here’s how you can get yourself ready:
- Make sure the kitchen surfaces are free of clutter, put out all the equipment and food you need so that you can work systematically, and check you have cleaning cloths for your hands and surfaces.
- Keeping knives in a tray or a knife rack to reduce the risk of catching your fingers on a knife edge when looking for something else in the drawer. Alternatively, you could put the knife at the back of the work surface with the blade facing away from you when you’re not using it.
- Keeping your knives sharp will make them easier to control, as you're not having to apply as much pressure when cutting.
- It can often be easier to use scissors rather than a knife to cut up and prepare food.
- Prepare all your vegetables and salad before starting to cook.
- Cut meat up into small pieces to ensure it cooks through evenly, using a different chopping board to the one you use for vegetables. You may find it easier to use scissors rather than a knife.
- Keep a container close to where you’re working in which you can place peelings and other food waste.
- Try not to bend over or stoop when you’re preparing food as this can result in bad posture – try sitting at a table or use a stool at the worktop.
- You’ll probably find that everything takes longer, so it’s a good idea to allow time to regularly practise skills like cutting up food.
If you have remaining vision
- Colour contrast can really help – white bread on a red chopping board for example. Have a look at our suggestions for equipment you can buy.
- Lighting can play an important part when you’re cooking. It can improve the appearance of contrast and colour, helping you to see items more clearly. You might find it helpful to work nearer to the natural light coming through the window, use under cupboard lighting or use a task lamp, which illuminates a particular area or object. Moving a lamp just one metre closer will quadruple the amount of light, which means it’s much more effective to bring a light closer to help you with a detailed task, such as preparing food, than relying on overhead ceiling lights.
Useful equipment for food preparation
We’ve suggested some adaptive kitchen equipment that may help when preparing food. We've offered examples through links to other websites but they're available on other online stores too.
Chopping, cutting and peeling food
Before cutting and peeling vegetables (or fruit), make sure the area around you is tidy and you know where everything is that you need and you can find it easily.
Cutting and chopping
Before you start, give yourself time to explore and be familiar with your knives. Identify the blade edge and make sure it’s always positioned downwards. A bump-on placed away from the sharp edge or a shaped handle can help with this. It's also a good idea to ensure your chopping board is on a non-slip surface.
To stop the food item from rolling or slipping, first use the bridge technique to cut it in half.
When cutting, ensure your fingertips on the hand holding the food are curled under, to avoid accidentally cutting either them or your nails. This also positions the second and third finger joints of that hand to help guide the edge of the knife blade. You can also buy finger guards that help protect your fingers as well as guide the knife.
Alternatives to using knives include devices such as a plunge chopper or an apple slicer. Or you may decide that it’s easier and just as viable financially, to buy pre-cut food, for example, frozen chopped onions.
- Work systematically; peel one thing, place it in a separate area or container (peeled items all together and away from the unpeeled things), then peel the next thing. To help with this, you could try using three containers: one for the peel (small compost bin or another small container), one for the unpeeled vegetables, and another for the peeled ones.
- Peel all the way from top to bottom or bottom to top (whichever way you prefer), avoiding your wrist and fingers of the hand holding the vegetable.
- Turn the veg slightly left or right in your hand (pick the most comfortable way for you and continue in that direction).
- Peel all the way from top to bottom or bottom to top again (continue in the same direction as before).
- Keep going until you think you have gone all the way around and then feel for any missed areas to go over.
- You might prefer to peel things over the sink because it can be easier to feel the difference between the peeled and unpeeled areas if the vegetable is wet. It also helps you find the peel as know where it's falling.
- If you have some remaining vision:
- The colour of the peeler can help you find it on the work surface.
- Consider lighting. For example, could you work by the natural light by a window, use under cupboard lighting or use a task lamp?
- Use contrast. For example, a chopping board, dycem mat or paper to catch all the bits, and coloured bowls or pots for the peeled and unpeeled items.
Chopping and peeling equipment
- Use a medium heat on the hob, and, if need be, cook for longer so you know the food is thoroughly cooked through.
- When stirring food on the hob, use a long-handled spoon as this will keep you away from the heat.
- Using a larger and deeper pan can help avoid food spilling out of the pan.
- Consider marking your cooker, microwave and other white goods with Tacti-mark or bump-ons to allow you to identify heat levels, cooking times etc. Our advice on labelling provides more information.
Useful cooking equipment
Preparing sandwiches and toast
Spreading on bread and toast
You may find it easier to use the back of a spoon rather than a knife to spread. Mastering the correct pressure to apply to the knife/spoon can be difficult – try starting with toast rather than bread as toast isn't as soft.
Loading the knife/spoon
When you first practise getting butter, jam, etc. on a knife or spoon, try to use relatively full containers. If you have someone sighted with you, they could describe the jar or container and give verbal and/or physical guidance whilst you feel around the jar or container with the knife/spoon. Use a gentle scraping action rather than ‘digging’. If you don’t have anyone with you and you need some help, perhaps consider using apps like Be My Eyes, which connects you with a sighted volunteer, or Facetime (if you have an iPhone) to speak to someone you know.
There are two techniques you can use to enjoy a slice of bread or toast with a perfect serving of butter, jam, or whatever you prefer:
Cutting sandwiches and toast
- Use the index finger and thumb of the hand that’s not holding the knife to locate the top and bottom corners of the bread or toast.
- Slowly bring your thumb and finger together, keeping in contact with the bread edge, to help you locate mid-way down the slice of bread.
- Place the knife on the crust edge where your finger and thumb meet.
- Cut the bread using a gentle sawing action with light pressure.
Apps to help with food preparation
Here are some links to more information about some apps that you may find useful to help you identify things when you're preparing food.