I don’t know about you, but dinner around our house is rarely the image of a Norman Rockwell painting. We’re often running in from work and activities, trying to put healthy food on the table, but even with good intentions, we know that our food choices could use some help.
Sometimes, in our busyness, we forget about the importance of good nutrition. Caregivers are some of the busiest people I know. It’s not unusual for them to be running from place to place, juggling many important tasks, and finding little if any time for themselves. Before they know it, they’ve accidentally skipped lunch, grabbed something at a snack machine, or eaten unhealthy meals because they’re stressed.
The fuel that we put into our bodies is important, and we can (and need to) build healthy eating patterns into our busy lives. Taking care of ourselves isn’t selfish! On the contrary, being healthy is vital to better caregiving.
Here are a few tips for busy caregivers:
Do an inventory and notice your patterns
Many times, we get into patterns without even realizing it. Consider paying close attention to what you’re eating as well as your eating habits for a week. Are you eating more sugary foods than you realized? Are your vegetables limited to the piece of iceberg lettuce on your sandwich? Are you reaching for the tub of ice cream before going to bed every night? Do you crave anything in particular when you get stressed? Recognizing what you’re eating and the habits you’ve fallen into are important first steps toward making healthy changes.
Have healthy food and snacks on hand
Making sure our bodies get the important nutrients we need can be challenging when we are very busy, but we can help set ourselves up for success by having healthy options ready. Avoid having unhealthy foods in your house. Keep healthy options in your car and purse. Know which convenience stores, grocery stores, and drive thru restaurants have good options that you can get when you’re on the go. Many times we grab something out of convenience, so make it easier to grab something healthy.
Remember that little changes can make a difference
Sometimes I get overwhelmed by a huge goal like “eat healthier,” and I don’t even know where to begin. Remember that little changes can be important, so pick one change that you can make and start there. One week, choose sparkling water instead of Coke at lunch. The next week, eat an apple and cheese stick instead of Doritos for your afternoon snack. The next time you’re at the grocery store, look at the labels on the yogurt you buy, and start getting a kind with less sugar and more protein.
When we’re considering healthy eating, we need to remember that our bodies, minds, and spirits are connected, and it’s important to take care of our whole selves. Many times we show signs of stress through our bodies—overeating, not eating enough, having headaches, experiencing fatigue. Consider positive ways that you can manage stress. Would you benefit from seeing a counselor? Can you meet with a friend on a regular basis? Are there support groups in your area that could give you helpful tips and remind you that you’re not alone? Can someone sit with your care receiver while you go to church? When our stress is managed, we often feel more empowered to take care of ourselves and to maintain good habits.
What step will you take toward eating healthier this week?
Here’s to good health!
For further reading:
- How to Build a Healthy Eating Pattern
- Cancer Dietician
- Healthy Eating While Caregiving: