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Resources for Independent Living with Vision Loss

American Foundation for the Blind® | Reader's Digest Partners for Sight

Cooking and Meals: Master Your Kitchen

For many cooking is a joy; for others it's a simple necessity. Unfortunately, the onset of even minor vision loss can turn what used to be a pleasure into a chore. The anxiety you may be feeling about preparing food is understandable. After all, you're literally playing with fire. Even so, with practice and a few modifications to your cooking space, you can continue to prepare food safely, independently, and well.

This section contains tips on grocery shopping and preparing food. For tips on kitchen organization and safety, see Your Kitchen. Please note that these are suggestions. Contact your state or local rehabilitation agency for training on safe cooking techniques.

Transcript of Video

Preparing Food

NARRATOR 1: People doing various kitchen tasks with an instructor.

NARRATOR 2: For those who are accustomed to cooking meals for themselves or their families, navigating the kitchen without full vision can seem daunting, or even scary. That perceived loss of independence can be a real blow, especially if cooking was a hobby. But it doesn't have to be that way. Staying active and safe in the kitchen is a matter of learning some basic techniques, applying simple strategies and using adaptive versions of kitchen equipment, all readily available in most stores.

Items like this liquid-level indicator can help. It beeps when a cup or glass is nearly full. Other devices include large-print timers, raised and colored markings that maximize usable vision and your sense of touch. Then there's a special safety food turner. Safety food turners are essentially two spatulas joined by tongs, but they offer greater control when handling hot food. All are inexpensive. When it comes to technique...

SPECIALIST: Let's cut all the way through.

NARRATOR 2: There's an alternative for just about every kitchen activity, from making a sandwich to heating up a can of soup. A visit from a rehabilitation specialist like this one is the best way to learn these techniques. Preparing a whole meal, from chopping to baking, can be a reality again. Other tools available include long oven mitts that cover the arm and a talking thermometer that checks for doneness so you can stop guessing. Many items are available in local stores, while others can be purchased at specialty stores or through a catalogue.

Enjoying the Meal

NARRATOR 1: Three adults at a dining room table.

SPECIALIST: Is that providing a lot of contrast for you?

NARRATOR 2: When it comes time to enjoying your meals, there are other easy-to-learn approaches that can make a big difference. Notice that there are several adaptations on this table, all of them meant to draw attention to contrasting colors and textures. You can see that the handles of the knife and fork are dark blue, and the fork is placed on a white linen napkin. The result? No more trouble finding utensils. This food guard, called a "food bumper," is a contrasting color to the plate, and is very helpful for keeping food in place. No more peas and corn landing on the table. The food bumper is made of a washable plastic, and it snaps right onto a plate. It can also serve as a way to orient the plate. Setting food in positions like a clock is a common technique. For instance, the chicken here is at 6:00.

SPECIALIST: Slide the blade of the knife down behind and keep it in close contact with the fork and give me some sawing motion back and forth and cut that piece of chicken.

NARRATOR 2: Simple changes to your routine and inexpensive devices can mean cooking and eating with confidence again.

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