By Stephanie Dobak
National Malnutrition Awareness Week is coming to an end, but continuing to spread awareness of proper nutrition remains important. While many educational efforts focus on optimizing the nutrition status of people with ALS, a healthy, balanced diet is extremely important for caregivers as well. Adequate nutrition helps maintain energy stores, supports a strong immune system, and reduces the risk of chronic diseases. But the demands of caregiving can put healthy meals on the backburner.
Here are some tactics to simplify mealtimes while still eating healthy:
- Ask for help. Many friends and family want to show their support, but often don’t know how. Suggesting making a nutritious meal is a simple, practical way for people to feel involved.
- Batch cook. Make double the meal size you usually do and freeze half to eat at another time. That way you’re only prepping and cooking once.
- Make one-pot meals. No need to always use multiple pots and pans making meals. One-pot meals save time on clean up.
- Break out the slow cooker. Slow cookers are wonderful and there are a ton of healthy recipes online. Dump everything into a crock pot, let it do its magical thing for a few hours, and come back to a wonderful meal.
- Repeat meals. For example, have Mexican food Mondays or Stir fry Saturdays. That will save you brain space on meal planning.
- Sign up for home-delivered meals. Though pricier, these can either be ready to eat or provide pre-measured ingredients with directions to cook. Some examples are Hello Fresh and Blue Apron.
- Have groceries delivered or ready for pick up. Instacart and other services allow you to save your grocery lists, so you have all your staples from week to week.
- Meal prep. Spend 1-2 hours a week prepping fruits, veggies and proteins. That way you can grab-and-go or have everything ready to start a meal. For example, cut up peppers to eat as a snack or sauté for fajitas.
- Don’t undermine smoothies and protein shakes as meals. Blending Greek yogurt, nut butter, fruit, and spinach is an easy way to make a full, well-balanced meal. If you’re in a bind, something as simple as a protein drink and fruit does the job.
- Buy healthy fast food or grocery store prepared foods. Life gets busy. That’s why grocery stores offer rotisserie chicken, baguettes, and pre-packaged salad - you’re ready for a meal!
Stephanie Dobak, MS, RD, LDN, CNSC, is a clinical dietitian at the Jefferson Weinberg ALS Center in Philadelphia, PA. Special thanks to her for allowing us to share these great tips with the ALS community