Maintaining good nutrition habits is tough for anyone, but it's especially difficult for a caregiver. Often your loved one is on a special diet or has a particularly selective appetite. There may be other family members to feed, and your time and energy are certainly limited. But you've still got to eat right. Good nutrition is a habit that you have to consciously cultivate. It begins at the grocery store. Learn to read labels. Start buying foods that benefit your body and mind. If you don't bring it home, you can't eat it.
Vegetables and fruits are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber — and they're low in calories. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables may help you control your weight and reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease by lowering your blood pressure. Eat deeply colored vegetables and fruits because they tend to be higher in vitamins and minerals such as sweet potatoes, spinach and blueberries.
Top 10 Cooking Tips
Use these tips to inspire healthy habits in the kitchen.
- Preserve the nutrients and colors in veggies. Cook them quickly by steaming or stir-frying.
- Use herbs, vinegar, tomatoes, onions and/or fat-free or low-fat sauces or salad dressings for better health, especially if you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
- Use your time and your freezer wisely. When you cook once, make it last longer by preparing enough for several other meals. Freeze it and have a ready-made healthy treat for the next time you are simply too tired to bother.
- A smoothie can cover a multitude of needs. Throw a banana (you can keep them in the freezer for weeks) into your blender along with frozen berries, kiwi or whatever fruit is around, some orange or other 100% juice, some fat-free or low-fat yogurt. You can get 4–5 servings of fruit in one glass of yummy shake. Try getting your loved one to sip on a smoothie. It’s easy, cool, refreshing and healthy.
- Prepared seasonings can have high salt content and increase your risk for high blood pressure. Replace salt with herbs and spices or some of the salt-free seasoning mixes. Use lemon juice, citrus zest or hot chilies to add flavor.
- Canned, processed and preserved vegetables often 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 products with less sodium. If you buy canned, rinse veggies under cold water to reduce the level of sodium.
- Prepare muffins and quick breads with less saturated fat and fewer calories. Use three ripe, very well-mashed bananas, instead of 1/2 cup butter, lard, shortening or oil or substitute one cup of applesauce per one cup of these fats.
- Choose whole grain for part of your ingredients instead of highly refined products. Use whole-wheat flour, oatmeal and whole cornmeal. Whole-wheat flour can be substituted for up to half of all-purpose flour. For example, if a recipe calls for 2 cups of flour, try 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1 cup minus 1 tablespoon whole-wheat flour.
- In baking, use plain fat-free or low-fat yogurt or fat-free or low-fat sour cream.
- Another way to decrease the amount of fat and calories in your recipes is to use fat-free milk or 1% milk instead of whole or reduced-fat (2%) milk. For extra richness, try fat-free half-and-half or evaporated skim milk.