Let’s team up!

Let’s team up!

By Ann Fry, MSW

I’d like to discuss the needs of the cancer patient and the provider of their needs as a “team.” In other words, how do you really work together on this project we can call CANCER or “The Big C”?

First and foremost, let’s declare you are in this together — the patient, well, it isn’t choice — he/she has cancer. But, the caretaker “chooses” to be there and to help and to care for the other. Perhaps it’s obligation because of marriage vows or parental or child responsibilities. However, they choose to stay and help as they can. So, how can we turn this into a team effort?

Second, let’s not think of it as a team, but let’s actually BE a team.

I work with corporations, coaching their managers and their employees to work together to make a better corporate culture or environment. I help all the pieces of the pie figure out what it takes to be a better team. I want to use that knowledge to help you here.

Here’s a question to pose to yourself:

What does it take to be part of a team or to BE a team?

Stop reading this and write down some responses.

Now, that you’re back to the article, let me describe some of my answers:

  1. A cooperative unit
  2. People involved in some joint action
  3. Collaboration

For a sports team to work, people DO have to join together, cooperate, go after a common goal.

The same can be said for a family team, and thus for a personal team working towards their common goal. For our purposes, we are using dealing with the Big “C” together for the well-being of you all.

You might not be punting, or running for the goal or might not have a ball or a stick in your hands, but you are moving forward, hoping for an outcome that is favorable and that you can all agree to and put energy towards.

With that definition, ask yourselves, what are our goals?

  • Do you want the cancer to be gone?
  • Are we willing to face the scary parts together for the ultimate goal that it will “knock off” the cancer?
  • Can we keep each other on track?

Here’s an example of excellent teamwork from a husband and wife team I know well. She had brain cancer, which then spread to the need for stem cell treatment. Whether earlier in chemo OR during the time she was in modified isolation, he was always there. He slept in the chair in her room every night, so when she awakened, he would be a familiar face for her. When she was in isolation, he had a full couch in her “suite” and would sleep there with his mask, gown and gloves. Now, in order for that to happen, he had to get team support from his grown kids. They had to take care of the pets at home, bring things as needed. He also needed to get support and “buy in” from his workplace. They allowed him to set up his computer and work remotely from the hospital.

She is now, home, still in semi-isolation. He is able to go physically to work now sometimes and they are advancing in positive ways.

I invite you to discuss with each other what your purposes are for your team, where you want to go with it, what you want your outcomes to be.

Remember, that alone we can do only so much… but together, we can do so much more!

5 delicious meals that are easy to swallow

5 delicious meals that are easy to swallow

So many of the people we care for have a hard time eating because of swallowing difficulties. One solution is to prepare meals that are especially moist and soft. Cooking for someone with dietary restrictions doesn’t have to be boring — here are 5 delicious recipes that are healthy and easy to swallow.

grilled sea bass with herbs

Photo by Alexpro9500

Moist and tender whole sea bass

Photo by Leo Gong

Roasted halibut with lime, papaya, and avocado salsa

Photo by Cooking Comfort Care

Turkey Tortellini Soup

Photo by Marissa of Get Off Your Tush and Cook

Sweet potato-kale hash topped with an Egg

Photo by Cara Anselmo, MS, RDN, CD

Vegan chocolate cheesecake


Thanks to Jessica Iannotta, MS, RD, CSO, CDN, for compiling these recipes.

Caregivers keeping it fresh

Caregivers keeping it fresh

Storing and labeling hacks for your fridge

Food safety is an especially important concern for cancer patients as cancer treatment can weaken the immune system.

Bacteria can easily grow when food is left undisturbed, exposed to the elements, or at a temperature between 40°F-140°F (also known as the “temperature danger zone”).  Therefore, safe food storage is one of the most important ways we can prevent food from being contaminated.

The most important thing you can do to prevent foodborne illness is to keep an organized kitchen. Pay attention to expiration dates and how long food is being stored. In your pantry, canned goods should be kept in good condition and stored in a cool, clean, and dry place. If cans are dented, leaking, bulging, rusted, or beyond their expiration date, discard immediately. High-acid canned foods (tomatoes, grapefruit, pineapples) can generally be stored in your pantry for 12-28 months, whereas low-acid canned foods (meat, poultry, fish, vegetables) can be stored for 2-5 years.

Food can be stored longer in your refrigerator or freezer, so make sure to periodically check both with an appliance thermometer to ensure they are at the appropriate temperature to prevent bacterial growth. Refrigerators should be kept at a temperature of 40°F or below and freezers should be kept at a temperature of 0°F or below. Leftovers and perishable food should not be left out at room temperature for more than two hours (or one hour if the outside temperature is 90°F or above).

When purchasing fresh poultry or meats, be sure to cook or freeze within two days.

Certain meats, like beef, veal, lamb, or pork, can be held for up to 5 days in a refrigerator until they need to be cooked or frozen. Make sure all meats and poultry are securely wrapped to inhibit their exposure to the outside environment as well as to prevent their juices from dripping onto and contaminating other foods. Raw meats and poultry can be double-wrapped in foil or plastic wrap.

Cooked leftovers should be consumed within four days of storage in the refrigerator (unless advised otherwise by your doctor). There are many labels available to download and print that can help you to keep track of when you are refrigerating or freezing foods – I like these free Martha Stewart labels. Simply write the contents of the package or container and circle the date you are freezing or refrigerating them on. This can help you to easily keep track of how long food is being kept and when it needs to be cooked or thrown out.

Storing food in the appropriate manner can also help prevent cross-contamination.

The following infographic highlights how you can easily revamp your refrigerator for optimal quality, freshness and safety:

Source: PartSelect.com

Meals to Heal

As Project Manager at Meals to Heal, Corinne Easterling assists in managing the blog and social media initiatives. She is a graduate in Nutrition and Food Studies from New York University and a part-time caregiver. She hopes to continue her education and become a Registered Dietitian to help people with serious diseases manage their nutritional needs.

Creative Combinations: integrating new and healthy foods into meals you already make

Creative Combinations: integrating new and healthy foods into meals you already make

by Corinne Easterling of Meals to Heal


Try substituting your cereal with something lower in sugar and topping it off with fruit and nuts for flavor.

Making nutritious meals can be challenging and especially when trying to devise a new, untested recipe that is satisfying and flavorful.  We have some easy ways to improve your old favorites by using simple ingredient swaps or additions.  The next time you’re at the supermarket, toss some of these healthy options in your cart to have on hand the next time you cook.  Our simple tips will help you to modify your favorite recipes and make the move toward better health easier and less stressful.

Boost Healthy Fats

Nuts and seeds are a great source of protein, fiber, and healthy, anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats.  They also make a great addition to pretty much anything!  Try sprinkling them into your oatmeal, over salads, blended into smoothies, mixed into baked goods – the possibilities are endless!  Chia seeds are also hydrophilic, meaning they draw in water and become gelatinous and can be used to naturally thicken soups, gravy, and sauces.

Get More Fruits and veggies

Most any fruit can be added to your breakfast cereal or favorite yogurt for an antioxidant boost.  If you have toast in the morning, try topping it with nut butter and fiber-rich bananas instead of butter or try low-fat ricotta cheese with fresh berries.  For lunch, avocado can be a healthier alternative to mayonnaise on your sandwiches and sure to add plenty of leafy greens as well.  For dinner, chopped vegetables can lighten up most any recipe, but if you didn’t grow up a veggie-lover, you can lessen their taste by pureeing and stirring into sauces and soups.  Chopped or pureed mushrooms can replace a portion or all of the meat in a recipe without lessening the hearty taste.

Opt for Whole grains

Choose whole-wheat products for its ample fiber and B vitamins and don’t forget to look at the label to be sure that whole wheat is the first ingredient.  Also try substituting all or a portion of your usual all-purpose flour with whole-wheat flour.  Ground oatmeal can also be mixed into ground meat or substituted for all-purpose flour.

Increase Fiber

Beans, peas, and lentils are abundant in fiber and protein and can conveniently be added to any soup or stew.  Lentils can be used as a substitute for meat and peas are great mixed in with mashed potatoes.  Did you also know you could even puree beans and use in place of butter in cookies, cakes and brownies?  You may need to refer to a recipe in order to know how much butter could be exchanged for bean puree, but this substitution could help lower your cholesterol by preventing excess saturated fat intake and contributing to the excretion of cholesterol from the body as it becomes trapped in indigestible fiber.

Lower Saturated Fat

In addition to the might substitution and alterations listed above, you can lower your saturated fat intake simply by selecting leaner cuts of meat.  Lower fat ground turkey or chicken can be used in place of ground beef and there are also healthier versions of sausage and bacon made from poultry rather than pork.  Sirloins and round steaks of beef generally have less marbling and therefore less artery-clogging saturated fats; porterhouse, T-bone, rib-eye, filet mignon, and strip steaks are the fattier cuts that you should limit as much as possible. No matter the cut, trim as much excess fat away as possible.

When preparing meat, oven frying can drastically reduce the fat typically associated with deep frying.  Try to use olive oil instead of butter to simultaneous cut back on saturated fats and increase your healthy, unsaturated fat intake.  Baking, grilling, roasting, sautéing, and poaching are also tasty, lean options of preparing meats and poultry.

If appropriate, you may also want to consider substituting seafood.  Fish are very high in protein and rich in healthy, anti-inflammatory fats.  Fish is delicious used in seafood, pasta, salad and even on burgers and sandwiches!

Select lower fat dairy options – instead of buying whole milk, opt for 2%, 1% or skim and look out for low or non-fat yogurts and cheeses.

Cut Back on Salt

The easiest way to reduce your sodium intake is by avoiding processed foods.  Processed foods can be a tremendous source of sodium and added sugar in your diet and so should be eaten in moderation.  Consuming too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.   Look for low sodium sauces and seasonings when possible and experiment with adding lemon juice, different herbs and spices, onions, garlic, vinegar, or hot peppers to add flavor without sodium.  Lemon juice is a rich source of Vitamin C while onions and garlic boast a wide variety of healthy benefits.

Reduce Added Sugars

Select the healthier versions of your favorite cereal if possible and add fresh fruit to sweeten.  Select unflavored yogurt and add in your own fruit or drizzle in honey so you know how much sweetened is in it.  Try fresh squeezed or look for “No Sugar Added” labels on the juices in your local grocery.

Creative yet simple substitutions and swaps can take your favorite recipe from indulgence to nutritious meal.  Get creative and don’t be afraid to experiment!

Corinne Easterling is a Project Manager at Meals to Heal. She is a graduate in Nutrition and Food Studies, with a concentration in Nutrition and Dietetics. She started at Meals to Heal as an intern while receiving her Bachelor’s degree from New York University.  She continues to assist the Meals to Heal team in maintaining the website and other day-to-day activities, as well as volunteering part-time.  She will be continuing her education to become a Registered Dietitian at Leeds Metropolitan University in the Fall.

Quick caregiver meals: healthy, fun, fast and cheap

Quick caregiver meals: healthy, fun, fast and cheap

Start yourself off on the right foot each morning by selecting a healthy breakfast — it gives you the energy and nutrition that a caregiver needs to start the day!

When selecting a healthy breakfast, look for options that contain fiber, lean protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, and healthy sources of fat. Fiber is found in complex carbohydrates such as oats, whole wheat, and other whole grains. Lean protein includes low-fat dairy, eggs, and lean meats. Healthy sources of fat include nuts and seeds, avocados, seafood, and certain oils. Be sure to choose healthy, natural ingredients as the processed versions of quick breakfasts often contain excessive amounts of sodium and sugar.

As a carer with limited time on your hands, these guidelines may sound too complicated and time-consuming.

If you have a plan (and a backup plan), however, it can be quite simple and that is why we are here to help! It’s always a good idea to try to plan your meals so you have all the necessary ingredients ahead of time, but it is also great to have some grab-and-go and/or frozen options for those mornings when the snooze button gets the better of you. To save you time and money, we’ve gathered some quick, affordable, easy, and delicious breakfast options!

If you have more time to spend making a healthy breakfast, try:

  • Vegetable Frittata – eggs are a complete protein that helps to keep you fuller for longer. Antioxidant and fiber-full vegetables, such as spinach, tomato, and mushroom can be quickly tossed in, or if you have any cooked vegetables left over from dinner the night before, you can add them as well.
  • Avocado and egg toast – instead of your normal toast with butter and jam, try topping it instead with a fresh, mashed avocado and a fried egg. Be sure to use whole wheat toast (100% whole wheat should be the first ingredient on the list) for added fiber and B vitamins.
  • Oatmeal – If you have the time, it is definitely worth it to make your oatmeal from scratch. You can flavor it with different fruits and nuts each day as well as control the amount of sweetener you use.
  • Breakfast sandwich – Fill a whole wheat pita or whole wheat English muffin with scrambled eggs, and sliced tomatoes, avocado or low-fat cheese, and any other vegetable or lean meat of your choice.

If you have less time and need a quicker breakfast option, try:

  • Fruity Smoothie – Just toss your favorite fruit, yogurt, and other healthy ingredients into a blender. You can even save time by chopping and measuring everything before-hand and storing in the freezer; the morning you want to make the smoothie, simply throw them all into the blender!
  • Yogurt Parfait – Plain, greek yogurt is creamy, delicious, and high in protein. Fresh sliced fruit or granola can be added to make it a more balanced breakfast. Tip: make your own granola beforehand – there are plenty of healthy recipes you can find online and it is so easy and affordable!
  • Almond butter toast/waffles – Spread almond butter on your favorite whole grain toast or waffles and top with sliced fruit.
  • Breakfast burrito – Smear your favorite breakfast spread (almond butter, low-fat ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, or cream cheese) on a whole grain wrap or tortilla, add sliced fruit or vegetables, roll up and enjoy! You can also make a more traditional breakfast burrito with scrambled eggs, black beans, pico de gallo, and low-fat cheese.

If you just need to grab and go in the morning, try:

  • Overnight oats – In a small mason jar or Tupperware, combine C rolled oats ,1 ½ Tbsp chia seeds, 1 tsp cinnamon, and 1 C almond milk. The next morning, enjoy as is or toss in some fresh fruit and you’re on your way! This recipe can be made up to four days in advance.
  • Homemade granola bars – Find a healthy recipe and make your own granola bars at home – its cost effective and simple.   On mornings when you just don’t have much time, you can just grab one and go.
  • Baked oatmeal squares – This is what happens when you cross oatmeal with granola bars – chewy goodness. Try this recipe and cut and wrap individual portions ahead of time.
  • Other quick ideas:
    • Premade high-fiber muffins and mini quiche (though they cannot be stored for very long)
    • Hard boiled eggs can be made and kept in the refrigerator for days at a time
    • Bananas and apples are easy fruits to take with you and eat on the go
    • Yogurt and a disposable spoon can travel easily as well.

We hope these ideas will inspire you to start you morning in a healthy way. Bon Appetit!

As Project Manager at Meals to Heal, Corinne Easterling assists in managing the blog and social media initiatives. She is a graduate in Nutrition and Food Studies from New York University and a part-time caregiver. She hopes to continue her education and become a Registered Dietitian to help people with serious diseases manage their nutritional needs.

When your loved one refuses to eat what you’ve prepared

When your loved one refuses to eat what you’ve prepared

Photo credit: Meg

As a caregiver to someone in treatment for cancer or other chronic diseases, the desire to help and to make life easier for them becomes an overwhelming passion. The focus on diet and nutrition is often the target because it is more controllable than other aspects of cancer treatment. How many times have you thought of a great meal idea that you are sure will be tasty and pleasing, gone grocery shopping, prepared the recipe and made a nice presentation for your loved one, and then hear from them,

“I just can’t eat that.”

They are going through so many physical, emotional and mental side effects from their cancer journey that they probably can’t even tell you why they can’t eat something you’ve taken time to prepare. Below are strategies that I have learned from caregivers and people dealing with cancer treatment on developing the best relationship to meal times and food.

Improve the way you and your loved one are thinking

  • Many times, the loved one that is ill was the family member that did the shopping and food preparation. Think and discuss ways that your new role as the caregiver can change to meet the needs of your loved one.
  • As a caregiver, remember that your loved one still wants to feel in control of their situation. Ask questions and keep the communication open. Becoming forceful, pushy and demanding can lead to contention and resistance. When your loved one doesn’t partake in mealtimes, ask what they think would be most helpful. If they don’t have any suggestions, try some of the strategies below.
  • Keep your thoughts and the comments you make positive. Boosting the motivation to eat and maintain nutritional intake can happen with positivity and loving support.
  • Try your best to understand see their perspective. Talk with them about it, if they are willing. Prepare yourself mentally that your loved one could have many changes in their food preferences, taste and eating abilities.
  • Be aware that many people undergoing cancer treatment eat smaller amounts of food and often eat more comfort-type foods instead of nutritious choices. Be supportive of their choices.
  • Do not allow yourself to obsess about numbers. Monitoring weight, calorie intake or other nutrients can cause unnecessary worry and increase conflict. Focus on providing a positive attitude, love and support.

Strategies to improve overall nutritional intake

  • Serve food in small portions and use smaller dishes or cups. Large portions can appear very overwhelming and can often diminish an already small appetite. Strive to offer small portions of food more frequently throughout the day.
  • Try to engage your loved one in social eating. Many people dealing with cancer treatment find themselves eating alone, which can make eating less enjoyable. Have food available when people visit and encourage your loved one to partake.
  • If you are working during the day and your loved one is home alone, prepare food and beverage options that are quick and easy. Use a cue, like an alarm, to remind them to eat and/or drink. Call throughout the day to provide encouragement.
  • Make meal times more appealing by eating in new locations around the house. Set up a meal outside on the patio, enjoy a picnic together or have a candlelight dinner in the dining room.
  • Make the meal look appetizing by adding garnishes, colorful choices and trying new recipes. If your loved one is consuming a texture modified diet, like a mechanical soft or pureed diet, ask them to try flipping through a cooking magazine while eating. The colorful, appealing pictures may boost their appetite.
  • Keep food prepared, in view and easily accessible on the counter, coffee table or at eye level in the refrigerator. When our loved ones don’t have an appetite, food is rarely on their mind, but they are more likely to remember to eat when food is in view.
  • Many people dealing with treatment are unable to eat their favorite foods because of different side effects that they are experiencing. Try new and different foods that may appeal to them.
  • If you notice that your loved one eats best at a particular time of day, focus on providing the most nutrition at that time. Increase the calories and protein content by adding cheese, whole milk, sour cream, eggs, butter, salad dressings, nut butters, healthy oils and oral nutrition supplements.
  • Always practice safe food handling techniques. Cancer treatments can inhibit an individual’s immune system and people undergoing treatment are at an increase risk of food borne illness. If you question the freshness or quality of a food, throw it out.
  • Lastly, take care of yourself! Being a caregiver is very important and everything you do, no matter how small, makes a huge impact. If you are not eating, drinking, sleeping and getting time for yourself then you will not be at your best. If you become ill, depressed or overwhelmed, the burden of caregiving can get to you, and you won’t be able to provide care.

Use these tips to become an effective caregiver and help improve the relationship to meal times and food of your family member who is going through cancer treatment.

picture of angela hummel from meals to healAngela Hummel’s passion to help people with cancer has developed from learning the nutritional demands of cancer and seeing the improvement that nutritional modification can provide. 

She is a registered dietitian and certified specialist in oncology nutrition and studied nutrition at Central Michigan University, where Angela completed her bachelor’s degree, dietetic internship, and master’s degree. Angela is part of the clinical team at Meals to Heal, where she counsels people on oncology nutrition issues and contributes to clinical their website and other Meals to Heal content.

The Caregiver’s Kitchen: How to Prevent Food Borne Illness

The Caregiver’s Kitchen: How to Prevent Food Borne Illness

Preparing meals for a cancer patients is a stressful process: making healthy, appetizing foods that appeal to their changing tastes can be difficult.

Caregivers also have practice safe food handling in order to prevent food-borne illness. Believe it or not, it does not have to be overwhelming – there is an easy place to start!

Have you ever heard the phrase: Clean – Separate – Cook – Chill?

This process ensures safe food handling by washing your hands and surfaces often, separating raw meats from other foods, cooking food to the right temperature, and refrigerating promptly.  It can seem daunting, but arranging your kitchen appropriately and making sure you have the necessary tools for safe food handling can make the process a little bit easier.

Check out our tips for optimizing your kitchen and streamlining the safe food handling process!


Before you begin cooking, make sure your kitchen is clean and free of clutter. Your kitchen should have:

  • Clean dish clothes and dish towels. These should be changed daily to prevent them from contaminating clean dishes.  If you use sponges, be sure to replace them weekly. Sponges can also be easily sterilized by microwaving wet for two minutes.
  • Clean surfaces.  A sanitizing solution can be mixed by adding two teaspoons of chlorine bleach to one quart of water – use this to wipe down surfaces, then rinse with clean water and allow to air dry.
  • Multiple clean cutting boards.  If you will be making a meal that requires both raw meat and raw vegetables, these should be prepared on separate cutting boards to prevent cross contamination.
  • Food thermometer.  For certain dishes, it is wise to actually check the temperature of the food to ensure it has reached an appropriate level to prevent foodborne illnesses.
  • Hand soap.  Believe it or not, the most important food safety practice is hand washing! Whether using hand sanitizer or plenty of soap and water, try to “wash” your hands for at least 20 seconds. Wash your hands before each step of the food preparation process.


With a fully prepared kitchen, you are now ready to begin prepping your food.  Be sure to read through the recipe all the way at least once.  Have all the tools and equipment ready in the order you will need them.  This keeps you from having to search through cabinets or drawers with unclean hands midway through. Prepare your meats closer to the stove or pan where you will be cooking them so you won’t have to carry raw meat across the kitchen and potentially drop or contaminate other foods or clean areas.  Prepare your vegetables closer to the sink. Water dripping from washed produce could potentially contaminate other foods or clean surfaces.  Be sure to wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly – either under running water, soaked in clean water for 1-2 minutes, or scrubbed with a clean produce brush (if produce is firm or has a thick skin).  Produce can be dried with a clean dish towel or paper towels (just remember to replace your dish towel with a clean one before drying any dirty dishes).


FDA chart of safe cooking temperaturesAfter separately preparing your meats and produce, you now have to cook them! For cancer patients with compromised immune systems, it is particularly important to prevent foodborne illnesses.  Cooking foods to the safe, appropriate temperatures ensures that any contaminants are destroyed. Know the right temperatures!


It is equally important to chill and store your leftovers at the safe appropriate temperatures.  Cooked foods should be cooled to an internal temperature of 41ºF within 4 hours and cooking. Set your refrigerator between 34ºF and 40ºF  and your freezer between -2ºF and 0ºF to ensure your food is being stored at a safe temperature.  For large leftovers, such as your Thanksgiving turkey, it may wise to break down leftovers into smaller portions so that the chilling and reheating can be done quicker and easier.

Planning and organizing your kitchen before cooking safeguards you and your family against foodborne illnesses while also making it easier to prepare healthy, nourishing meals for you and your loved one!


portrait picture of the author corrine easterlingAs Project Manager at Meals to Heal, Corinne Easterling assists in managing the blog and social media initiatives. She is a graduate in Nutrition and Food Studies from New York University and a part-time caregiver. She hopes to continue her education and become a Registered Dietitian to help people with serious diseases manage their nutritional needs.

Supermarket Hacks: Caregivers – spend less money on healthier food

Supermarket Hacks: Caregivers – spend less money on healthier food

As a caregiver, it is just as important to focus on good nutrition for yourself as it is for your loved one.

Often this task can be overwhelming – but there is a simple place to start. Healthful eating starts when you are shopping in the supermarket. How often do you leave the supermarket with much more than you intended to buy going in?

It’s important to grocery shop with a plan: make an organized list and have some food in your stomach when you leave the house. If you go into the supermarket hungry or on a whim, you’re more likely to give in to food cravings and purchase unhealthy convenience foods. Planning your meals ahead of time and making an inventory of what you have in your kitchen will help give you an idea of what you still need to buy. Make a shopping list organized into sections, this way you can easily navigate the supermarket without being lured into buying processed foods as you wind through the aisles.

For the most part, you will want to stay around the perimeter of the supermarket.

This is where you will find the fresh, healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, seafood, poultry, and low-fat dairy. Try buying produce a few days before ripe; this will ensure fruits make it home safe and unbruised and won’t over-ripen if unused for a few days. Also experiment with seasonal fruits and veggies. Since there is usually an abundance of seasonal produce and it requires less transit time to arrive on the shelf at your local grocery store, these fruits and veggies tend to be less expensive and fresher!

Make smart use of the freezer section where healthy foods are frozen at the peak of freshness.

Buying frozen fruit, veggies, seafood, and lean meats can be a convenient way to have fresh, healthy food on hand whenever you need it. Buying frozen can also be a less expensive way of getting your favorite fish or out-of-season produce in your balanced diet. Include more plant-foods in your diet, which are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and cancer-fighting antioxidants. When shopping the aisles, look out for easy-to-use plant proteins, such as seeds, nuts, dried or canned beans, and lentils. Replace your usual refined carbohydrates with a variety of fiber-rich whole grains. Whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa, couscous, barley, and bulgur are some of the many whole-grain options available. Also be sure to stock up on flavorful fresh or dried herbs and condiments (look for low-sodium varieties) to season you healthy dishes with.

Finally, use your label reading skills! Don’t trust the front of the package.

Those health claims are often just there to entice you to buy it. Look at the list of ingredients and be sure you know what you’re buying. As long as you pay attention to where you are going and what you are buying, you’ll be supermarket savvy caregiver! The do’s and don’ts of supermarket shopping don’t have to be overwhelming – if you stick to the perimeter and aim for a colorful shopping cart you are on the right track!

As Project Manager at Meals to Heal, Corinne Easterling assists in managing the blog and social media initiatives. She is a graduate in Nutrition and Food Studies from New York University and a part-time caregiver. She hopes to continue her education and become a Registered Dietitian to help people with serious diseases manage their nutritional needs.

Caregivers, Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Proper Nutrition

Caregivers, Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Proper Nutrition

What better way to head into the holiday season than with some strategies to help you achieve more optimal nutrition. Nutrition plays an important role in a caregiver’s life, not only to reduce the risk chronic disease, but to maintain optimal health, well-being, and strength to support and care for a loved one.

The benefits of proper nutrition include

  • A healthy heart. A heart healthy diet can lower your risk of heart disease.
  • Strong bones and teeth. Dietary calcium helps prevent bone loss.
  • More energy. Balanced nutrition allows you to maintain steady blood sugar and energy levels.
  • Weight control. It is important to be aware of caloric intake and balance it with energy expenditure for weight management.

Here’s where to start

  1.  Always start off your day off right by eating a healthy breakfast. Many people do not have appetite when they wake up in the morning, but it is the most important meal of the day since it will help you keep energized throughout the day – the energy required to carry out the tasks of a caregiver. In order to maintain this energy, eat healthy snacks, such as fresh fruits or nuts that are full of nutrients that your body needs. Avoid highly processed foods and snacks that are loaded with preservatives and sugar, including sugary drinks. They are sources of empty calories and will not provide you with sustained energy.
  2. Learn how to read and understand the nutrition labels. Pay attention to them whenever you are buying groceries. Many food labels can be deceiving, so it is important to pay attention to the ingredients list as well to ensure you are purchasing a healthy food.
  3. Make mealtime enjoyable. Meal times are great opportunities to get together with your family and friends, which makes it a perfect time to talk about healthy eating and to share your knowledge about nutrition. Maintaining a healthy relationship with food is the key to a healthy lifestyle.
  4. Make healthier food choices by making simple changes.


Here are some suggestions for each food group


  • Limit how much processed meat and red meat you eat.
  • Choose fish, poultry, or beans instead of red meat.
  • Include more plant proteins like beans lentils, and nuts.
  • Use healthy cooking methods, such as baking, broiling, or poaching.

Vegetables and Fruits

  • Eat at least 5 servings of a variety of non-starchy vegetables and fruits per day.
  • Include a variety at every meal and for snacks.
  • Emphasize whole fruits and vegetables.
  • Limit creamy sauces, dressings, and dips.


  • Eat whole grains and/or legumes with every meal.
  • Choose whole-grained breads, pasta, and cereals.
  • Brown rice instead of white rice.
  • Limit intake of high-sugar foods.


  • Choose low-fat or non-fat dairy products whenever possible.

To learn about nutrition for cancer patients, take a look at our HEAL Well: A Cancer Nutrition Guide. It will provide you with information about basic nutrition and diet for cancer patients. It also provides some answers to how you can manage eating-related difficulties that may occur while you are caring for a cancer patient.


“ACS Guidelines for Nutrition and Physical Activity.” ACS Guidelines for Nutrition and Physical Activity. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2013.

Beesley, V.L., Prince, M.A., Webb, P.M. (2010). Loss of Lifestyle: Health Behaviour and Weight Changes after Becoming a Caregiver of a Family Member Diagnoses with Ovarian Cancer. Support Care in Cancer 19.2(2011): 1949-1956

Ennis, Edel, and Brendan P. Bunting. “Family Burden, Family Health and Personal Mental Health.” BMC Public Health. BioMed Central Ltd, 21 Mar. 2013. Web. 07 Nov. 2013.