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.