In this section:
> Stress management
> Technology and stress relief
> Less Salt
> Lower cholesterol
> Healthy snacks
> Coping with guilt
> Be more assertive
> Boost your immune system
> Tempt your elderly or frail relatives outdoors
> Avoiding back pain
> Getting the most from your GP
> Advice on prescribed drugs
> Difficult conversations
> Moving the person you care for
> Relaxation tips
> Laughter therapy
Christina Merryfield, Lead Dietitian, Bupa Cromwell Hospital
Caring for someone is often a full-time job and as such, it’s not surprising that sometimes you may not know when your next mealtime may be. Sometimes, it may get to mid-afternoon before you realise that you’re running on an empty tank, or even had time to prepare something to eat.
As a carer, eating a healthy, balanced diet is essential for your wellbeing. Eating the right balance of foods will:
- give you the energy you need to care
- help you maintain a healthy weight
- help prevent longer term health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis and some types of cancer
Incorporating some healthy snacks into your diet will help you maintain your energy levels throughout the day, as well as keep hunger at bay until you have time for your next meal.
In general, it’s fine to snack, as long as you eat a balance of foods and are able to keep active. You may be unsure whether it’s okay to graze during the day or if it’s better to plan mini meals in advance. My advice would be to plan if you can – the danger with grazing is that you may not realise how much you’re eating, which can lead to unwanted weight gain.
Mix up your food groups
Snacks should supplement or complement your main meals, so try and choose one from a food group you’ve not eaten from yet that day to help you achieve a healthy balance. For example:
- if you have had cereal and milk for breakfast, then have some fruit, such as a banana, or a handful of dried fruit
- if you have had orange juice and wholegrain toast for breakfast, go for a yoghurt or fromage frais
High energy snacks
If you find yourself peckish throughout the day, it’s wise to choose snacks that are high in energy, rich in vitamins and nutrients, and low in sugar and salt. Try the following starchy carbohydrate snacks for energy.
- A handful of rice crackers.
- A slice of wholegrain toast with honey.
- Two slices of malt loaf (some brands come pre-sliced) with low-fat spread.
- A plain or fruit scone.
Time is precious when you’re a carer, so planning ahead a little by organising your snack options will stop you reaching for a quick fix, such as a chocolate bar. This may provide you with a quick burst of energy as your blood sugar levels shoot up, but they will drop just as quickly, leaving you feeling tired and sluggish. Instead, try these quick, sweet treats, which also contain essential vitamins and nutrients.
- Strawberries and bananas are great for smoothies. Wash, peel and chop, divide into portions and put into freezer bags. This takes a bit of preparation (about 15 minutes), but will save time in the long run.
- A frozen banana put into a blender tastes like real ice-cream!
- Frozen grapes are easy to grab from the freezer too.
- You can often buy more exotic fruits, such as mango and melon, in pre-sliced portions from the supermarket.
Grab and go snacks
There may be times when you need to go out unexpectedly, a situation occurs or things just don’t go to plan. Therefore, it’s a good idea to keep some pre-packaged snacks in your cupboard so you’ve always got something nutritious to hand.
- A handful of unsalted nuts and dried fruit is a quick and easy snack.
- Fruits, such as bananas, apples and oranges, are ideal if you need to grab and go.
Food that fills you up for longer
Choosing snacks that help keep you fuller for longer can help you maintain your energy levels until your next meal, without the danger of putting on extra weight. Foods that have a low energy density, which mean they provide less energy (calories) per gram, means you can eat more of them without consuming excess calories. Foods with high water content are also good at keeping you full without the added calories. Try these savoury snacks:
- a mug of minestrone soup
- celery, cucumber and carrot batons
Remember that what and when you eat affects your energy levels, so it’s important to eat at sensible times.
- Don’t skip breakfast as this will set you up for the day ahead.
- Only eat when you’re hungry.
- Don’t mistake hunger for dehydration – make sure you drink enough water throughout the day too.
- Try not to replace your main meals with snacks. Mid-morning and afternoon are ideal times for snacking if you’re struggling.
- Try not to eat too late at night or just before you head to bed, as you may not get the good night’s sleep that you need.
If you can, try to have a selection of snacks on stand-by. That way, you can grab them when you need to, either on the go or if you’re at home. It’s not always easy to factor in the time to plan ahead if you’re caring 24/7, but if you’re able to, you’ll find that it takes the stress out of worrying about what to eat and when, safe in the knowledge that you’re on top of your diet.
For more ideas, try these healthy snack options
What do you do instead of reaching for a chocolate bar?
Post your health tips in the comment section below.
Produced in collaboration with Bupa’s Health Information Team, June 2012
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