Preparing a healthy, nutritious meal is important for good health, but cooking can be daunting when your knees are aching or your fingers are stiff. No one would blame you if you’re tempted to pick up fast food or if you call in an order for pizza, but if you do that too often, health goes down and weight goes up. Instead, try these shortcuts to healthy foods that help make cooking with rheumatoid arthritis easier.

Batch cook. Prepare double portions or even enough for the whole week. For example, cook two or more chicken breasts at a time and refrigerate the leftovers to use in salads or sandwiches the next day. You can also freeze the extras, and use them when you’re not having a good day.

Consider convenience. Try frozen, pre-cut vegetables and fruits.

Stock the crock. Place meat or poultry, pre-sliced vegetables, spices and liquid in a crock pot, turn it on and hours later enjoy a hot, cooked meal – and only one pot to wash.

Nuke it. Microwaving can heat frozen vegetables or leftovers quickly, without adding fats or depleting nutrients. Using a microwave oven on the countertop eliminates stretching or stooping to cook.

Grip with ease. Use kitchen or cooking utensils with padded handles or grips.

Belly up to the bar. Instead of standing at your counter or stovetop, pull up a high barstool and sit down to chop, mix or stir.

Potluck. If you’re having family or friends over for dinner, make the meal a potluck affair. Assign each guest a dish to bring so you won’t have to cook the whole meal.

Roll it! Use a pizza cutter to cut sandwiches, chicken breasts, lasagna and other foods. Hold it with both hands -- and roll.  

Loosen up. Use a nutcracker or long-handled pliers to loosen tightly sealed bottles.

Drip dry. When washing dishes, use a rack to let them air dry. This saves you energy and saves your hands from having to maneuver a towel.  

Open up. When buying milk, choose plastic containers that have twist-off tops instead of cartons or bottles that have tops that need to be pried off.

Easier meal prep. Save time, effort and clean-up with one-pot meals. Stews, pasta dishes or chicken cooked with vegetables in a foil disposable pan or oven-baking bag can make easy meals with limited cleanup.