Section 5 – Cooking and Eating Healthy

Cooking and eating are essential life skills that every adult needs to have in order to live independently. You don’t need to be a chef, but you should have some basic cooking skills. Cooking should be fun, not overwhelming or stressful. Every kitchen needs to be equipped with certain items. You don’t need the fanciest or most expensive things, but you do need some basic items. Keep in mind that with whatever you purchase, you’ll probably need to pick it up, move it, and clean it. A large mix master mixer is very heavy, so think before you buy. Some basic kitchen items include:

Young adult Caucasian female with Down syndrome, long red hair wearing glasses, a tan shirt, and a red & white apron with a dish towel over her shoulder in the kitchen.
  • Pots & Pans
  • Measuring Cups
  • Cutting Board
  • Baking Pans
  • Mixing Bowl(s)
  • Mixing Spoons
  • Storage Containers
  • Colander
  • Cooking Utensils
  • Measuring Spoons
  • Plates & Bowls
  • Peeler
  • Spoons & Forks
  • Can opener
  • Knives
  • Baking Dishes

There may be other items you would like to have, but the above are basics.

Healthy Meals

Eating healthy is a life-long process that requires a lot of discipline. It’s especially important for people with disabilities because your disability can play a big role in your ability to stay well. Therefore, you want to provide your body with proper nutrition. The reality is that many people with a disability are also overweight.  

The United States Department of Agriculture offers some great resources on their MyPlate Plan website at  You can even get customized plans to maintain a healthy weight.  They recommend the following:

Fruits – Focus on whole fruits. Any fruit or 100% fruit juice counts as part of the Fruit Group. Fruits may be fresh, frozen, canned, or dried/dehydrated, and may be whole, cut up, pureed, or cooked. At least half of the recommended amount of fruits should come from whole fruit rather than juice.

Vegetables – Any vegetable or 100% vegetable juice counts as part of the Vegetable Group. Vegetables may be raw or cooked; fresh, frozen, canned, or dried/dehydrated; and may be whole, cut-up, or mashed.

Grains – Any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or another cereal grain is a grain product.  This includes bread, pasta, breakfast cereals, grits, tortillas, popcorn, rice, and oatmeal. Grains are divided into 2 subgroups:  whole grains and refined grains. You will need to check the ingredient labels on food to know which ones are whole grain. Make half of your grains whole grains.

Proteins – All foods made from seafood, beef, pork, chicken, turkey, lamb and eggs are protein. Certain beans, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds and soy products are also part of the protein group. Eat a variety of proteins and keep your beef, pork, and chicken at 93% lean.

Dairy – All milk, yogurt, cheese, lactose-free milk, fortified soy milk, and yogurt are dairy foods. It does not include foods made from milk that have little calcium and high-fat content, such as cream cheese, sour cream, cream, and butter.  It’s best to use low-fat or fat-free dairy milk or yogurt.

Other Tips on Healthy Eating – Limit added sugar, saturated fats, and sodium (salt).  

Before you can cook, you must first purchase food.  Going to the grocery store can be overwhelming for some people. Some stores are really big and have lots of choices. You can easily get distracted with items you didn’t intend to buy but suddenly ended up in your basket – well, because it looked too tempting to pass up.  This can be budget busters and you really need to stay focused while grocery shopping. It’s best to make a list of what you need; this will help you stay focused while shopping. You can order groceries online and have them delivered, too. Just be aware they usually mark up the groceries to cost a little bit more to cover the cost of delivery. 

Many young people decide the solution for grocery shopping and cooking is just to get take-out food, have a pizza delivered, or go out to a restaurant and eat. Chances are you’ll be on a tight budget, and doing this will be a treat and require you to save a little money. Most people cannot afford to eat out every day. You won’t be able to afford to do this, either. In addition to the cost of the meal, you have to pay taxes, tips, and sometimes delivery fees. 

Finally, many individuals live on a very tight budget and may experience food insecurity. This is especially true for individuals with disabilities who are on a fixed income. Sometimes it’s due to lack of income, but other times it’s due to making poor budget choices. In addition to Louisiana SNAP benefits (food stamps), we have many food banks and pantries in communities that could help out when needed.  


Updated 8/9/2023