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Eating well for carers

As a carer, eating a balanced diet is essential to provide your body with all the nutrients it needs. A balanced diet will keep your body strong and give you enough energy to provide the best care for the person you are caring for and yourself.

Eating well does not have to be difficult. Whether you are underweight or overweight, by understanding how to achieve a balanced diet and how to fit it into your lifestyle, you can manage your weight and stay in good health.

Based on the eat well plate you should try to eat:

  • Plenty of starchy food
    Bread, breakfast cereals, potatoes and pasta are a good source of energy. Always choose wholegrain varieties where you can.
  • Plenty of fruit and vegetables
    Aim for five portions a day to provide you with a good source of vitamins and minerals. 1 portion is equivalent to: 1 apple, 1 medium banana, 7 strawberries, 1 handful of grapes, 150ml glass of unsweetened orange juice, dessert bowl of salad, 3 heaped tablespoons of mixed vegetables.
  • Some protein
    Meat, fish, eggs, beans are a good source of protein.
  • Some milk and dairy foods
    Cheese, yogurt or choose low-fat options if trying to reduce fat in your diet.
  • Limit the amount of foods high in fat or sugar
    Such as crisps, chocolate, sweets.

Tips for eating well on a budget

If you are on a budget, there are simple and affordable ways to shop for a healthy, balanced diet:

  • Use supermarket own brands as a cheaper alternative to branded products.
  • Look out for offers on foods that keep, such as tins of pulses or tomatoes.
  • Dried, frozen or canned fruit (in juice) and vegetables are cheaper than fresh varieties – and just as healthy.
  • When you buy fresh fruit and vegetables, it can be cheaper to buy them loose rather than pre-packaged. In addition, it is usually cheaper to buy fruit and vegetables when they are in season.
  • Supermarkets often reduce prices on products that are close to their sell by date and this can be a great way to pick up a bargain. But be sure you can cook or eat everything you buy (or are able to freeze it) before it goes off.
  • When making meals, prepare large quantities and freeze the extra portions. This can be a cost and time effective way of maintaining a balanced diet.
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Tips for managing or losing weight

Please see note below.

  • Plan ahead! It can be easy to fall back on junk food or quick takeaways so plan meals in advance. This way you will have all the ingredients you need to prepare a balanced meal.
  • Eat everything in moderation. There is no need to cut out any food group, as long as you control portions. For example, you can have smaller portions by using a small plate.
  • Replace high fat and sugary food with starchy options, which provide plenty of energy to fuel you through the day.
  • Snack on high fibre foods, which can keep you feeling fuller for longer. Nuts, fruit and vegetables are high in fibre and make nutritious snacks.
  • Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. If you are often on the go it can be difficult to eat 5-a-day. Try including fruit or vegetables at every meal, for example add fruit to cereal at breakfast.
  • As a carer it can be difficult to get enough exercise. Always try to walk when possible, take the stairs instead of the escalators and consider a video workout class if you are indoors a lot.

Tips for gaining weight or improving nutritional intake*

If you are struggling to eat a balanced meal, or have simply gone off your food, here are some practical tips to help improve nutritional intake:

  • Eat small, frequent meals and snacks every 2-3 hours.
  • Increase intake of foods that are high in calories and protein, for example: meat, fish, eggs, full fat dairy products (like yogurt and cheese).
  • When on the go, eat snacks like nuts, crackers and cereal bars, which provide plenty of energy.
  • Consume nourishing drinks based on milk, such as Complan, to increase energy and protein intake. These are also available as ‘ready to drink’ options, which are convenient when you are at home or out and about.

*Important notes

  • Anyone who has other conditions such as diabetes or high cholesterol should always seek personal advice from their health professional, before taking these steps.
  • This advice offers short-term solutions to help build up nutritional intake, for example after illness. Anyone experiencing problems in the longer term should speak to their GP or other health professional.
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