Does the following food meet all my nutritional needs?
July 29, 2011 5:51 PM   Subscribe

So, I'm vegetarian and I can't cook due to multiple disabilities. Does the following food meet all my nutritional needs? If not, what other no-cook foods could I add in?

(When I say I can't cook, I can't even slice cheddar cheese off the block due to chronic finger/hand/wrist pain. I also have pain, fatigue and balance problems that mean I can't stand up. I can give a piece of fruit a quick rinse under a running tap, though.)

My diet at the moment is:

unsweetened cherry juice;
soy milk;
presliced cheddar cheese;
mung-bean and pumpkin salad from the farmer's market;
fruit yoghurt from the farmer's market;
pumpkin and ginger soup from the supermarket;
lentil and kidney bean patties from a local vegan cafe.

On top of this, my Dr gives me B12 injections every 2 weeks; I am on a brand and dose of iron tablets recommended by my Dr; and a magnesium supplement.

Does this meet all my nutritional needs?

If not, what other no-cook foods could I add in?
posted by Sockpuppets 'R' Us to Health & Fitness (32 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I would definitely add some chocolate.
posted by Kangaroo at 5:56 PM on July 29, 2011 [17 favorites]

There are calorie counters online that also include nutritional information. Here's one. This way, you can keep track of any future changes to your diet and the nutritional implications.

Other no-cook vegetarian foods that I suggest:

* Caprese salad (you can buy presliced mozzarella and tomatoes, then just drizzle balsamic vinegar over them. Add basil if you like). You can also buy pre-made caprese.

* Hummus and pita bread. Doesn't get much easier, and hummus is a good source of protein for vegetarians.

* Fruit and protein smoothies. From your description of your disabilities, it seems like you could still make these. I buy a bag of frozen fruit from Costco, throw some protein powder in there, and blend it with almond milk.

* Boiled eggs, assuming you're not a vegan (which it doesn't seem you are).
posted by jeffmshaw at 5:59 PM on July 29, 2011

You could probably add the following into your diet without too much trouble:

Nuts (almonds especially, yum) for healthy fat
Pre-cut vegetables (my local market sells cut veggies for convenience - fresh green peppers, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes)
Prepared juices/smoothies without too much sugar
Granola/enriched cereals
posted by rachaelfaith at 6:00 PM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Canned (with an electric can opener) or dried (which require soaking) beans can help with protein. Drizzle with oil and vinegar for a bean salad.
posted by googly at 6:18 PM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

You could do hummus with some feta on top. Use baby carrots, or the pre-cut broccoli in the bag, to dip with.

Not that I noticed a deficiency (I wouldn't know); it's just a very low-effort food that is delicious.
posted by notsnot at 6:27 PM on July 29, 2011

Maybe you could investigate pre-made foods? Around here there's a health food store which makes tons of salads, sandwiches, and other vegetarian entrees and sides, most of which can be eaten cold (a la Whole Foods, but much cheaper). They have different things all the time, which would take care of the variety problem for you. All you'd have to do is buy a week's worth of various items, pop the top, and eat.

At the very least, this'd allow you to get some dark leafy greens in your diet (kale!), which is really important given a limited selection of foods.
posted by vorfeed at 6:29 PM on July 29, 2011

Don't dried beans even after soaking require boiling?

Can you use small plug-in appliances at all, like a hotplate, toaster oven, slow cooker, etc.?
posted by waterandrock at 6:30 PM on July 29, 2011

I agree with the suggestion to plot a day of eating these foods into Fit Day or Daily Plate. I don't use DP but I know Fit Day will give you an across the board nutritional breakdown so you can see where you're lacking.

You appear to have, for example, only one source of citrus, and it isn't whole. This would concern me.

When my husband goes away, I take a total cooking vacation and have been known to eat without benefit of fire for up to three weeks. Things I eat include olives; salami; tiny mozerella balls with cherry tomatoes, oil and vinegar; hummus with anything (pita, crackers, carrot sticks); yogurt; cold soups; ice cream; bagged salad; artichoke hearts; cold grilled eggplant from the farmers market; pre-cubed feta.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:33 PM on July 29, 2011

I would add some leafy greens (salad/spinach) and maybe some yellow/orange veggies, for the fiber and variety, plus the vitamins. The more colors you can get on your plate, the better.
posted by xingcat at 6:33 PM on July 29, 2011

Hummus and pitas are the best snack ever. Even better with some crumbled feta and kalmata olives thrown on top, and with a toasted pita.

Garbanzo beans/chick peas make a healthy vegetarian snack with lots of protein.. My method isn't no cook, but perhaps you could manage... Dump a can of beans on a cookie sheet with some olive oil, sprinkle with and spices you like (garlic, chili powder, curry powder) and bake at 400 for 1/2 hr to an hour until crispy.
posted by catatethebird at 6:34 PM on July 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

Calcium might be a little low.

An easy way to up your protein is packaged, pre-smoked or marinaded, tofu. It is a rich, filling, umami hit. No cooking, tastes great straight out of the fridge.
posted by dontjumplarry at 6:42 PM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Crumbled chilled tofu (big chunks) drizzled with ricewine vinegar, light soy sauce, and sesame oil. Add some of these and you have a garnish.
posted by oflinkey at 6:44 PM on July 29, 2011

Prepackaged salads, milk, mozzarella sticks, energy bars are a few options. But based on the foods you're giving us, I'd be highly surprised if you're getting enough calories, much less nutrients.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:44 PM on July 29, 2011

Sugar snap peas, by the fistful. I like them because they're great and I'm lazy and you can buy prewashed ones and eat them straight from the bag. Same with baby carrots.
posted by slow graffiti at 6:52 PM on July 29, 2011

Seems like an electric can opener would be a useful thing for you to have. Canned chickpeas and bean soups are very nutritious and you can stockpile in the pantry.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:53 PM on July 29, 2011

Response by poster: You appear to have, for example, only one source of citrus, and it isn't whole. This would concern me.

DarlingBri - thank you.

I should add that that is deliberate - I love mandarins/oranges/pineapple juice, but eating citrus makes my psoriasis (skin condition) flare up so badly that I need heavy-duty cortisone medications to settle it down again, so my Dr has told me to avoid citrus.

The iron tablet that I take comes with built-in vitamin C.
posted by Sockpuppets 'R' Us at 7:12 PM on July 29, 2011

Adding leafy green might be a good idea. You could buy packages of pre-washed baby spinach leaves, and store-bought salad dressing, and make a salad. You can get salad dressing in flip-open containers if the twist-open ones are hard on your hands. Or instead of salad dressing, you could drizzle with oil & vinegar, using spouts.

Another good idea would be to see a Registered Dietitian - do not see someone calling herself a nutritionist, that doesn't mean anything, but an RD actually has credentials - a master's degree, I think (this is assuming you are in the U.S.) A RD should be able to give you excellent advice about your diet, better than we can.
posted by insectosaurus at 7:17 PM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

A pre-washed container of baby spinach is good for getting some leafy greens in your diet -- I use spinach everywhere I might use lettuce (salad, sandwiches) and it's like it's pre-cut, too -- the leaves are so small you don't have to chop them up.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:17 PM on July 29, 2011

Jinx! No preview.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:18 PM on July 29, 2011

Response by poster: But based on the foods you're giving us, I'd be highly surprised if you're getting enough calories, much less nutrients.

PhoBWanKenobi - Thank you. I have a very sedentary lifestyle due to illness, so I wouldn't think I would need as many calories as a typical person?

What I mean by sedentary: On my rheumatologist's orders I am spending 90% of the next 2-3 months reclining (sitting down with my feet up on a foot rest.)

I pretty much only leave my house for medical appointments.

My physiotherapist has me on an exercise regime of a 5 minute walk on a level surface with my walking frame 3 to 4 times a week, as she says any more activity will make me worse.
posted by Sockpuppets 'R' Us at 7:25 PM on July 29, 2011

Since you want to be healthy, but can't cook, I'd say look into a raw foods regimen. There is a ton of information and recipes out there. Some actually require a lot of prep, but there should at least be some good info on eating a healthy and balanced diet.
posted by attercoppe at 8:02 PM on July 29, 2011

Is the magnesium doctor-prescribed? Usually people take calcium and magnesium together because it's good to keep your intake of them in a certain ratio (rough 2:1, I believe.)

I second the more leafy greens. If you're eating them raw, kale is a good option since it's low in oxalic acid, unlike spinach. If you like them, frozen veggies (broccoli florets - not chopped broccoli, cauliflower, green beans) can stay in your freezer forever and can be steamed easily in a bowl in the microwave.

In general, for me, the high proportion of low-fat sugary things (cherry juice, pears, banana, sweetened [I assume] soy milk, fruit yogurt) would end up making me feel a little off because those all hit the bloodstream pretty quickly. So I would add more veggies and fiber and protein. YMMV.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:05 PM on July 29, 2011

I'm not sure how much yogurt and soy milk you're consuming, but, to look at your list, it seems like you might be leaning a bit hard on beans and pulses as a source of protein (I'm hazy on the specifics, but my understanding is that these lack some necessary amino acids, which can be had by incorporating grains). If you can do gluten, getting some bread in there would probably be a good idea (nthing hummus and pita—I'm perfectly able-bodied and enjoy cooking, but I'd be content to do that two meals a day, most times). There are of course gluten-free bread options, even if they don't always taste so great. If microwaving is an option, you could also add in some microwaveable variety of parboiled rice, and, if you can get pumpkin and mung bean salad, I'm sure you could track down some sort of prepared quinoa something-or-other. You can also "bake" potatoes or yams in either a toaster oven or in the microwave (the ooga-booga types claim that you "lose nutrients" by microwaving, but I've not seen any actual evidence to that effect).

Again with the microwave, you can take frozen (shelled) edamame (fresh soybeans), add enough water to act as a broth, and put in some (pre-minced) garlic, salt, pepper, and a glug of olive oil to make an unexpectedly satisfying side or entree.

You don't mention friends/family or your financial situation (like, if you're subsisting on a limited fixed income), and I get the sense that you're aiming for self-sufficiency, but could you have someone close to you make up a double batch of a few entrees each week (maybe pay for the ingredients?) and split them up 50/50?
posted by wreckingball at 8:18 PM on July 29, 2011

Also came in to suggest hummus ... try it on whole wheat bread or toast? A toaster oven might be useable for you, just a single button push, and the electronic (rather than mechanical) ones don't need any strength to push the button. We started this with my toddler to get him a whole protein on toast that wasn't peanut butter, but now we're all kind-of addicted to toast-with-hummus.

Another option is to get single-fruit (or single-veggie) baby food purees and spread them on toast. Like having jelly on your toast, but no added sugar, like jam or jelly has. (But eating them out of the jar is a little weird. They're better on toast.) If you want a few more fruit/veg options.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:20 PM on July 29, 2011

Oh, and I can't speak to the other calorie-counting websites (which I think are generally best for promoting disordered eating, though in your situation could be quite instructive), but's calorie counter (and probably those already mentioned) will give you a thorough daily assessment as far as protein, vitamins, and other minerals/nutrients are concerned.
posted by wreckingball at 8:22 PM on July 29, 2011

PhoBWanKenobi - Thank you. I have a very sedentary lifestyle due to illness, so I wouldn't think I would need as many calories as a typical person?

Here's a basic calorie calculator. Even leading a sedentary lifestyle, you still should maintain a minimum of 1200 calories per day.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:23 PM on July 29, 2011

Response by poster: needs more cowbell - The magnesium was prescribed by my physiotherapist, to reduce my muscle pain and muscle spasms.

I am also taking (GP recommended) vitamin D and an over-the-counter calcium supplement - but I thought that if I listed all the supplements I am on, my question would be way too long for people to read. :)
posted by Sockpuppets 'R' Us at 8:24 PM on July 29, 2011

Your profile says you're in Australia- do they have programs like Meals on Wheels where you are? They might be able to accommodate a vegetarian diet and having a few cooked meals every week would at least make for more variety.
posted by MadamM at 8:45 PM on July 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

For different protein sources, you could try packaged strips of tempeh. They come in different flavors (the maple bacon is really good!). Easy to add to salads, sandwiches or just eat out of the package.

Pre-made falafel balls are also awesome.
posted by ainsley at 9:18 PM on July 29, 2011

Don't dried beans even after soaking require boiling?
Cooking is absolutely essential for red beans and similar -- they're seriously poisonous until they've been cooked. Do NOT eat raw red beans.
posted by anadem at 9:47 PM on July 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

I see no grains, few greens, and not sure about fats. I think the hummus is a very good idea. You may want to avoid wheat, which many people associate with aggravation of auto-immune and allergy issues. You could have brown rice cakes or gluten-free corn tortillas with hummus. Green salad - spinach or other dark greens with fruit are very tasty, and I'd top with a small amount of olive oil. You need some oils in your diet. Felafel is tasty and easy to find. You can dip in plain yogurt if it's too dry, or use in salad, like a crouton.
posted by theora55 at 7:13 AM on July 30, 2011

In addition, have you considered looking at assistive devices? I know multiple quadriplegics who manage to cook on their own. A quick google brought up these guys in Western Australia. You're looking for things like these, if you want to look at specific items. (Link is US-based, sorry)

A chair by the stove is perfectly ok if you need it and follow reasonable safety concerns, to do things like boil pasta or a basic sear/sauté. I did this is culinary school with a badly sprained ankle.

You might look into getting together with either a group or a couple of other limited mobility folks and ask for some tips, or ask if you can get some sessions with a physical therapist or someone specializing in post spinal injury-type rehab to help you figure out how to cook.
posted by Hwin at 9:41 AM on July 30, 2011

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