When it comes to caring for yourself as a family caregiver, nutrition can be a tough cookie to crack. While some folks seem to have it figured out, it can be difficult to rush through a day of caregiving and not reach for a bag of chips at the end of the day. We tell ourselves that eating healthy is the right thing to do, but when you’re tired and hungry, sometimes it is just hard. If you are caring for a loved one who is on a special diet, or refuses to eat certain things, then it can be even harder. Good nutrition, however, is often the foundation of our entire health. Eating healthy can improve our mood, help us have more energy, and give us the motivation we need to keep moving. How do we eat right as a caregiver? Try a few of these tips to help:
Tip #1 – Keep it Quick
If you are looking for something you can pop in your mouth while you’re heading to run errands, then you know how difficult it is to keep it quick. You can accomplish this, though, in one of two ways. The first way is to plan ahead. Try searching for homemade no-bake breakfast bars, or overnight oats. This allows you to create healthy snacks that you can eat on the run. The second way we can keep it quick is by learning how to incorporate quick meals into our cooking plan. An example of this might be steamed or stir-fried veggies. Often a meal can be “quick” in preparation – for example roasting a meal. This is as simple as dumping everything into a roasting pan, popping it into the oven, and walking away for a bit. The best way to search for these recipes is to google the way of cooking, instead of using the word “quick.” An example might be “roasting pork chops and veggies.” Something else that is quick? Smoothies…
Tip #2 – Prep
Buying canned beans, 1-minute rice, and instant potatoes can drain your bank account. If you have a freezer, you can prep your starches in advance, and simply thaw them out or warm them up when you’re ready for them. Spend one day cooking rice, mashed potatoes, beans, etc. Then when you stir-fry your veggies, you have a perfect side that is already prepared. While you’re at it, you can also make biscuits, rolls, muffins, and pita breads in advance for the week, so you have a healthy grain to grab on the go. There are some great flatbread recipes out there that are made with Greek yogurt so you can add your protein on the go too! If you don’t have a day to meal prep, you may consider simply doubling each recipe when you make it. This way you can freeze the leftovers and have a second meal with half the work.
Tip #3 – Substitutions
Avoid snacks full of preservatives by chopping up some fresh veggies and having them ready to go in single serve containers. You can also make your own healthy trail mix, with low sodium nuts, freeze dried fruits, and dark chocolates. If you’re looking for more heart-healthy ways to keep moving, try replacing salt with garlic salt, or other herbs and spices. Zesting a lemon or adding chilies can really make your flavors pop. Try using frozen veggies instead of canned, and when at all possible use fresh ones. Most canned vegetables are loaded with salt in order to preserve them, so if you have to use canned vegetables, then try low sodium or rinse them off with cold water before adding them into your meal. Replace butter, which is loaded with cholesterol, with olive oil and use applesauce in baking recipes, instead of oil.
Tip #4 – Make it a Party
Sometimes eating healthily requires motivation and support. You can meal-prep together with your family on the weekends, or with friends. Make it a party! If you’re not into meal-prepping, then consider good old fashioned recipe swapping with others who are trying to stay healthy. If you are interested in finding ways to stay healthy but feel like you still don’t have enough time, consider respite care. Having someone you can trust in your home to help you keep an eye on your loved one while you cook, or even having someone cook a meal once a week can really help! If you are interested in resources to help you find social communities to participate in, then we can help you here at Homewatch CareGivers of Annapolis! We’re always here to support you and your loved one. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.