But why is cooking trickier when you have ADHD? Learn more about how the disorder affects the ability to make meals from scratch and get the best tips for simple cooking with ADHD.
What Makes Cooking with ADHD So Challenging?
ADHD is a disorder that affects how the brain handles executive functions. Your executive functions are basically all the skills that allow you to manage complex tasks, such as:
- Planning beforehand
- Getting started
- Following instructions
- Staying focused
- Switching between tasks
- Evaluating your progress
- Managing your time
- Knowing when to stop
Every single one of these executive functions is required when cooking, which is why this activity can be so troublesome for someone with ADHD. It requires you to use these functions all at the same time, which is particularly taxing. Cooking is also a complex, multi-step procedure, so it’s easy to see how someone who struggles with inattention could find it difficult to stay on track.
The Best ADHD Cooking Hacks
When someone with ADHD finds making their own meals to be overwhelming, it can easily lead to unhealthy habits. They might end up choosing fast food or frozen meals more frequently and eating fewer fresh fruits and vegetables, for example.
That’s why it’s so important to find clever ADHD cooking hacks that actually work. Here are some of the best tips for people who want to cook more homemade meals despite their ADHD challenges.
Hack #1: Use meal planning
With ADHD, it helps to have the cooking process start before you even go to the grocery store. If you try to wander the aisles and just get inspired with ideas for meals, it’s way too easy to get distracted along the way.
Instead, pick out your meals beforehand. Create a list of your favorite meals and what ingredients are needed for each one. You can keep these lists on notecards or make them accessible in an app on your phone.
Don’t push yourself to mix things up every single week. Instead, choose some go-to meals that you can return to over and over while you work on your cooking abilities. Once you feel more confident in the kitchen, you can expand your recipe repertoire. If you need a little inspiration, start by checking out our easy recipes for ADHD.
Hack #2: Streamline your grocery shopping
Now that you’ve planned out some meals you’d like to eat, it’s time to shop. The lists of ingredients you created with hack #1 will come in handy here. Stick to the list and make sure you get each item. It’s easier to shop for just one or two recipes at a time to avoid confusion.
If you find the hustle and bustle of the grocery store to be distracting, consider using a grocery delivery service instead. It’s easier to double-check that you have all the ingredients in an online cart, and you’ll end up with fewer impulse purchases when you order from home.
Hack #3: Make easy (yet healthy) food choices
While the occasional quick fix is okay when it comes to your diet, cooking from scratch at home will help you have a much healthier lifestyle. But some nutrient-rich meals and snacks can be pretty challenging or time-consuming when it comes to prep. Here are a few ways for people with ADHD to make healthy food choices that are a lot easier to manage:
- Choose pre-cut fruits and vegetables
- Select jarred sauces and dips instead of making them from scratch
- Use instant oatmeal, rotisserie chickens, and other food shortcuts
There’s one caveat to this tip: If you’re buying anything jarred or “instant,” be sure to check the packaging. Some items have excess sodium added or nutritional deficiencies. Once you find the brands that make healthy options, stick with them.
Hack #4: Use simple cooking devices
When it comes to the cooking process itself, the thing that makes it hardest with ADHD is having a lot of different steps. The more you can cut down on the number of steps involved, the better. That’s why simplified cooking methods and devices are great for people with ADHD. Here are a few examples:
- Slow cookers: Dump all the ingredients in for a “set-it-and-forget-it” meal
- Rice cookers: These cook rice perfectly every time, so you don’t have to babysit it on the stove.
- One pan meals: All the ingredients go on a single sheet pan and cook in the oven together.
- Soups: Everything goes in one pot and simmers on the stovetop.
In addition to these meal ideas, don’t forget about one of the simplest cooking devices of all time: a kitchen timer. Time management is one of the most challenging executive functions for many people with ADHD, so even when you think you’ll remember when to take something out of the oven or off the stove, ALWAYS use a timer.
Hack #5: Plan for leftovers
Even when you use all the tricks and tips above, it still requires a good deal of planning and concentration to pull a homemade meal together. The thought of doing that every day may be daunting to you, but fortunately, there’s a good workaround: leftovers.
If you’re going through the trouble of cooking, always make extra. Keep the leftovers in the fridge to eat in the following days, or build up an inventory of single-serve portions in the freezer so you can grab something easily on the days you don’t feel like cooking.
By planning for leftovers, you’ll reduce the number of times per week that you actually have to cook. When it’s not something you’re doing every day, it can feel a lot less stressful. And as you master your go-to recipes over time, it can even become something that you look forward to.
If you’re struggling with your ADHD, be sure to check out our Knowledge Base for more tips and tricks. You can also reach out to us at Done if you’re interested in an ADHD screening or prescription medication.