Being a carer can be as exhausting as it is rewarding. Often, as a carer, we end up putting ourselves last, meaning we can miss out on all-important nutrients and quality, wholesome meals, as we skip or scrimp on meals to save time.
Missing out on a nutritious diet, however, can end up doing us more harm than good. Our energy levels will suffer, we may become more prone to illness and infection, we have less patience to manage our day and our weight can be troubled. Ongoing fatigue means less energy to prepare nutritious meals, which may lead to a reliance on take-away foods which are higher in salt, sugars and overly processed.
A nutritious diet that encompasses a wide variety of whole foods will help you to look after yourself, so you can continue to care at your best. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, quality proteins and dairy products should make up the majority of your diet. Trying to pre-prepare meals can save you time in the long run and allow you to have something healthful on hand to grab and go.
A chia pudding is rich in protein, tasty and nutritious. You can mix up a jar of pudding to keep in the fridge and grab for snacks, or bulk it up for breakfast. Mix ¼ cup of chia seeds with ¾ cup of milk (whole, almond, coconut) in a glass jar. Seal the lid and give a really good shake, before popping in to the fridge overnight to set. You can add vanilla essence or cacoa powder to change the flavour. Enjoy on its own or topped with berries and some homemade museli for a larger meal.
Nuts and seeds are rich in healthful fats and protein. Store-bought varieties may be filled with added sugars, so why not make your own? Grab a bag of mixed (unsalted) nuts and chop them roughly. Sprinkle shredded coconut to a baking tray, top with chopped nuts and bake in a 180 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, tossing halfway. Watch the muesli closely so it doesn’t burn. This is a great snack to nibble on, or a delicious topper to yoghurt and fresh fruits.
Cook in bulk
Cooking ahead and having meals ready will help you out when you are starving and need something quickly. Soup, stir-fry, pasta dishes and grilled meats can all be cooked and frozen in to individual portions, allowing an easy defrost and reheat when you are ready for a meal. You can add some fresh salad or quickly cook up some pasta to serve on the side.
A slow cooker is a wonderful investment. Most supermarkets even sell them now, at great prices. Throw all of your ingredients in before you leave in the morning and come home to a ready cooked meal. What’s better, the slow-simmering flavours are enhanced in the long cooking process.
Don’t overlook these nutrition powerhouses for a quick and easy dinner. An omelette with some fresh mushrooms, tomatoes and shallots with a crunchy side of grainy toast is a delicious and nutritious meal option. Hard-boiled eggs can be cooked in bulk and grabbed for easy and nutritious snacks or sliced and added to a salad.
While these can be a little more expensive, they can save you much time – try to grab a few on sale. Individual or couple serves of rice, quinoa or oats can be popped in the microwave and are ready in 1 minute. Add a tin of tuna and stir through a handful of spinach leaves for a quick and tasty meal.
Adequate hydration is essential to good health. If you feel hungry all the time, have headaches, have low energy, dry skin or constipation, chances are you are dehydrated. Keep a bottle of water with you and refill it regularly throughout the day.
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This article originally appeared in the Aged Care Report Card.