Caring: Mealtime timesavers

Posted on: 12 June 2019 by Rob Hobson

After a demanding day caring for others finding time to cook and eat - healthily - is a challenge for many carers. Rob Hobson has some tips to plan and save time at meal times.

tiredness and diet

Mealtimes may feel like a chore if you’re trying to juggle work, family life and caring for someone so anything to save a little time can make the whole process much easier. Cooking from scratch is a healthy way to prepare meals but there are plenty of shortcuts that can still result in a nourishing plate of food.  Preparation and planning in advance are also good ways to organise yourself and save time.

Find nutritious quick fixes and timesavers

There are plenty of quick fixes to ensure your family is well nourished when you simply don’t have it in you to put time into the kitchen.  Oven ready meals don’t always have the best reputation but can be a useful standby and serving them with fresh or frozen veggies is a good way to make these meals healthier.  The front of pack nutrition labelling on these foods make it easier for you to choose a healthy option.  Fat, sat fat, sugar and salt are coded by traffic light colours with green being the lowest and red the highest.

Breakfast can be manic, especially of you have young kids to deal with.  Smoothies made with milk, oats and fruit are a very nutritious breakfast option that kids can drink on the way to school.  These smoothies also make nourishing snacks for anyone in your care that may need to put on weight and even offer a good meal replacement for those whose appetite may be challenged.

Fortified food products are a useful way to ensure an adequate intake of vitamins and minerals.  Many food and drinks are fortified these days such as breakfast cereals which can be used to make toppings for sweet or savoury foods.

Plan your menu for the week

This may seem like the last thing you want to be doing but it really saves time during the week and helps you to get your head around what your cooking every night.  If you have fussy eaters in the family, then maybe try and get them involved in meal planning to help take any additional stress out of mealtimes.  The previous article in this series also highlighted the usefulness of forward planning in helping to manage the weekly food budget.

Seek out quick simple and nourishing recipes

You don’t need to be Gordon Ramsey to create something tasty and nutritious! Find a repertoire of quick and easy meals from the internet or cookbooks.  Websites like BBC Good Food have a lot of really simple recipes that you can filter by time and skill level.  Many food brands and supermarkets also have a useful source of simple recipes.

Make the most of leftovers

Make sure you have plenty of containers to store leftovers.  You may choose to deliberately cook a little more at dinner time so there is food leftover for the following day.  Leftover vegetables and potatoes from Sunday lunch are delicious when re-fried as a hash and topped with a poached egg the following day.  Leftover meat also goes a long way and can be used in many different ways such as salads, omelettes and pancake fillings, curries or sandwiches.  Leftover meat also makes good finger food which is useful when feeding toddlers in the family or older people with dementia who may have lost the dexterity required to use cutlery.

You can create another meal the following day by adding canned beans or pulses to leftover Bolognese sauce, curries or stews.  Leftover veggies can also be blended down with boiled potatoes and stock to make really nourishing soups. Adding herbs and spices can change the taste of the dish to make it more interesting. 

About the Author

Rob Hobson is a registered nutritionist he also trained and worked as a public health nutritionist (MSc public health nutrition) and is Head of Nutrition at Healthspan, the UK’s number one online vitamin and supplement supplier.     Rob has a genuine and a special interest in the area of caring for carers and has worked with various bodies and care homes providing nutrition advice and guidelines.

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