Maintaining good nutrition habits is tough for anyone, but it can be particularly difficult for a caregiver.
Your loved one might be on a special diet or only have an appetite for certain things. There may be other family members to feed as well. And, of course, the time and energy you have available are limited. But you should still strive to eat well, because good nutrition is a habit that’s worth cultivating every day.
Begin at the grocery store. Learn to read labels. Start buying foods that benefit your body and mind, and leave the junk food behind. (Remember: If you don’t bring it home, you can’t eat it.) For example, vegetables and fruits are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber, and they’re often low in calories.
Eating a variety of healthy foods may help you control your weight and reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease by lowering your blood pressure.
Use these tips to inspire healthy habits in the kitchen:
- Prepare a quick meal with vegetables. Cook them quickly by steaming or stir-frying.
- Use herbs, vinegar, tomatoes, onions and non-tropical vegetable oils instead of salt or high-sodium seasonings, especially if you have high blood pressure.
- Use your time — and your freezer — wisely. When you find time to cook, think about preparing enough food for several meals. Freeze those extra dishes so meal prep is a snap the next time you’re too tired to cook.
- A smoothie can be a quick and delicious way to get more fruit in your diet. Throw a peeled banana into your blender along with frozen berries, kiwi or whatever fruit you have handy. Then add orange juice (or other 100% juice), some unsweetened fat-free or low-fat yogurt, and blend. You’ll have a cool, refreshing and healthy treat.
- Prepared seasonings can have high salt content — and too much sodium can affect your blood pressure. Replace salt with herbs and spices, or consider salt-free seasoning mixes. Use lemon juice, citrus zest or hot chilies to add extra flavor.
- Canned, processed and preserved vegetables can have very high sodium content. Look for “low-sodium” veggies or try the frozen varieties. Compare the sodium content on the Nutrition Facts label of similar products (for example, different brands of tomato sauce) and choose the ones with less sodium. If you buy canned vegetables, rinse them under cold water before cooking to reduce the level of sodium.
- Prepare muffins and quick breads with less saturated fat and fewer calories. Try swapping the oil for applesauce in your favorite recipe.
- Choose whole-grain ingredients instead of highly refined products. Use whole-wheat flour, oatmeal and whole cornmeal.
- Making a meal plan for the week? Aim for recipes that include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, skinless poultry, non-fried fish, legumes and nuts.
- Need a quick snack? Keep chopped fruit and veggies ready to go in the refrigerator. Looking for something savory? Grab some unsalted nuts. Craving something sweet? Keep some unsweetened, low-fat yogurt on hand. With some planning, you’ll be prepared when hunger strikes.