Cooking for Myself… a break from crisps and soup!

Cooking with PKU is a difficult one, as well as the obvious food restrictions, you can’t buy PKU friendly ready meals in shops, there’s no easy grab lunchtime snacks such as sandwiches or pot noodles. Everything has to be planned, premade, weighed and organised. When I first saw pictures of low protein pies, risottos and stir fries I would just get overwhelmed and think “oh no, that’s what I should be making!” This overwhelmed feeling just meant I stuck to easy but protein based food, soups or microwave bag rice, oven chips, waffles or jacket potatoes.

Food Shopping:
Even with food shopping I recognise that I would fall into the same emotional traps over and over again. I would have a shopping cart full of veg (lettuce, cabbage, carrots, cucumber, sweetcorn, tomatoes, beetroots, suede, potato, peppers, onions… argh!) and I wouldn’t use any of it because it made me feel so overwhelmed when I opened my fridge. I unfortunately wouldn’t use all that food so it had to be thrown away which as well as feeling overwhelmed I also felt guilt from wasting food.

Baby steps:
I discovered the secret is just to do baby steps. I started cooking low protein pasta with jar pasta sauce or low protein rice with jar curry sauce. This however, never quite felt satisfying and didn’t really ever fill me up. So I was challenged to try to add just one vegetable with every meal. I made sure in the supermarket I would only buy some mushrooms, then next time just peppers or just onions. I learnt how to chop and cook them (everything cooks at different speeds I discovered!) and added them to the pasta/curry sauce. I kept doing this until one day I found myself picking up more and more vegetables, excited to give them a try.

Trying out vegetables…. one by one….

From those baby steps I realised adding more vegetables into my meals made the meal a lot more tastier as well as a lot more satisfying. Once you do find vegetables you enjoy it’s also important and fun to try different spices. Often the difference between what I call a ‘Mexican’ meal, a vegetable curry or a pasta sauce is just what herbs and sauces I have chosen to put with the vegetables. The beauty of using different spices and sauces is that all the effort has already gone into preparing and cooking your vegetables. So whether I use tomato sauce and basil, curry powder and cumin or chili powder and Tabasco they all make delicious meals without too much effort.

No weighing… no limits….
With making these kinds of meals, it’s important to remember that they are also all completely free of protein! (Allowing for sauces). So you really can make as much as you want and it also means that there are leftovers for a filling lunch the next day, solving the problem of just relying on crisps and soup.

During lockdown I have also ventured into low protein baking – so please read my blog about this to see how I got on….and Thank you for reading this – from Clair