One of the most frustrating things about becoming a family caregiver can be learning that your loved one may need a special diet. Sometimes even the simplest of directives from a doctor such as reducing sodium can be confusing when you actually start shopping. It is natural to think that plant based proteins are healthier than red meat for heart-attack survivors, but then when you actually look at the back of a package, you realize that they’re loaded with sodium which is the opposite of what you need. If you’re wanting to make smarter food choices but get confused by the health claims, messaging, logos, and branding on foods, then we’re here to help. In this article we will discuss how you can be smarter when it comes to healthy shopping as a caregiver.
Yup, You Have to Read the Nutrition Facts
Just because a package says organic, all-natural, or even low-sodium, doesn’t mean that it is healthier than the other alternatives on the shelf. When you have choices, you need to double check the nutrition label, since content can vary by brand and preparation. Reading the nutrition facts doesn’t have to be complicated, simply choose the item with the lowest amounts of saturated fat, trans fat, added sugars, and sodium. Also, make sure you’re looking at the entire list of ingredients, some brands label sodium and added sugars with different names to trick you.
Fruits and Veggies Please
Your meals should be “colorful” and include fruits and vegetables. A cheese sandwich at lunch just isn’t enough. This means purchasing fresh veggies when you can, including your herbs. If they are out of season, your next best option is frozen. Frozen veggies usually have fewer added preservatives and contain little to no sodium. If you can’t do fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, then try canned fruits and vegetables that are low sodium, packed in water, or in its own juice. Heavy syrups or sauces often add sugars and other unwanted ingredients that can suddenly make your healthy meal into something not so healthy.
From Scratch Doesn’t Mean What it Used to
We tend to buy a lot of “convenience foods” which can include canned beans, instant rice, and so much more. When you have the option to buy dried goods and cook them “from scratch” it is not only cheaper, but healthier as well. This doesn’t mean that you have to sit in the kitchen all day or soak your beans overnight. With an instant-pot or slow cooker, you have more options than you think. There are a wide variety of different rice options that are very healthy and can be done in an instant pot very quickly.
Whole grain products are good for your body because they help reduce cholesterol and clean out your digestive tract. Whole grain doesn’t always mean that a food is less processed, though, or has less preservatives. This means that it is important to look for the American Heart Association Certified red check mark, which meets the criteria for heart-healthy food. Not all red hearts or check marks are from the American Heart Association, so make sure you look closely. Whole grain and whole wheat can be more than just bread or flour that you use in your baking. Whole grain can be something found in crackers, cereals, pasta, tortillas, pita breads, and so much more.
Full Tummies Please
It is hard to shop when you’re hungry. If you go to the grocery store craving anything that you can open and eat, then that is very likely what you will come home with. Our final tip is to make sure that you go to the store fully fed. You are much more likely to make healthier choices, if you aren’t in a rush to get home and eat. Impulsive purchases due to hunger are often unhealthy, and believe it or not, you often buy more “convenience foods” such as canned meats that are full of salt when you shop on an empty tummy. You may also find that your grocery trip is much cheaper if you are only buying what is on your list, instead of what you’re hungry for.
Remember, if you need extra time to shop, so you can really study those nutrition facts, then it is okay to reach out for help. Respite care professionals are here to help your caregiving journey go well. At Homewatch CareGivers of Silver Spring, we’re here to help! We are experts when it comes to finding the resources you need to live with dignity. Contact us today to learn more or continue to browse our site for more information.