Family caregivers know that providing proper nutrition for a spouse or aging parent is very important to maintaining their loved one’s health. Family caregivers know that good foods, nutritional supplements, and proper hydration are one of the keys to keeping a loved one healthy. However, proper nutrition for home caregivers may fall off the daily “to-do list” when caregivers skip meals, snack on unhealthy foods, and skimp on fluids.
The demands of daily caregiving make it difficult to focus on a caregiver’s own nutritional needs. Here’s a few ideas that may help curb unhealthy snacking while saving a few steps in healthy meal preparation:
- Freeze up. One of the biggest problems confronting family caregivers is that there’s so little time to make the meals they need to have. One solution is to set aside a block of time on one day or night of the week and prepare a week’s worth of dinners all at once. These can then be frozen and popped into the oven or microwave each night. This won’t work for every kind of meal, but many mainstays, such as soups and stews, hold up well to freezing and thawing.
- Snack wisely. Snacking can be a nutritional nightmare. It’s easy to grab a bag of potato chips or a candy bar when you’re feeling hungry and dinner is a long way away. Try instead to load up the house with healthy snack alternatives. Keep a bowl of fruit or a package of carrots or celery handy. Yogurt is also great to snack on, as are almonds.
- Watch the cans. Canned beans and vegetables are convenient and easy – but they also tend to have much more salt than fresh or frozen vegetables. If you don’t have time for fresh, opt for frozen instead. If you do use canned foods, rinse them thoroughly to help eliminate some of the extra salt.
- Boost energy naturally. Tired home caregivers often reach for that cup of coffee or can of soda to get an added boost of energy. Instead, try green tea, which has less caffeine than coffee or, better yet, lemon water, kiwi – which is a low-calorie energy-booster – or nuts.
- Supplement. It’s best to get vitamins from your diet, but sometimes a supplement is needed. Check with your doctor to see whether you should be taking any specific vitamins to increase your nutritional health.
Another option to consider is meal sharing. If your food tastes are similar, consider cooking and splitting meals with a neighbor or relative. You’ll both receive twice the meal variety with half the effort.
Also, a visit with your family medical provider can help you determine the diet and food selection that is best for your own nutritional needs.