Six essential food and nutrition time savers for busy carersPosted on: 13 November 2018 by Rob Hobson
Rob Hobson looks at six ways to maintain a nutritious, healthy diet if you are a busy carer with limited time to cook and look after yourself.
There are around 7 million carers in the UK, equating to one in ten people and this figure is predicted to rise by 3.4 million people over the next 15 years, especially as older people are living for longer and in many cases with some form of disease or disability.
The majority of carers in the UK are women and many are considered to be part of the ‘sandwich generation’ caring for children and older parents at the same time and mealtime are one of the many responsibilities.
Try and make diet a priority even if time constrained
Time management is a major component of caring, especially if you’re also trying to balance work and other family commitments. Mealtimes can put a burden on carers, but this doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice good nutrition. Insuring the nutritional intake of an older person in your care is just as important as any other part of the commitment. A healthy diet can help to prevent malnutrition, which if left to develop may lead to any number of issues making life uncomfortable for the person in your care and increasing the burden put upon you to have to deal with any ill health as a result.
Create a balanced meal
Try and insure meals contain a good source of protein (meat, fish, Quorn, tofu, beans, pulses, cheese), a source of carbohydrates (pasta, bread, potatoes, rice or other grain) and plenty of vegetables, whilst bursting with flavour to encourage appetite. Try also creating a list of store cupboard essentials that you can buy each week, so you don’t get caught short for quick meal options, especially when you’re feeling completely frazzled.
Six ways to save you time in the kitchen
Providing a balanced diet doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive and there are many ways in which you can take short cuts to save time in the kitchen leaving you more time to sit and eat with the person you’re caring for.
Smoothies are a great way to provide a very quick breakfast or snack if you’re feeling rushed for time. Use any milk as a base and throw in fruits (frozen or fresh), spinach and oats then sweeten with a little honey. You can also prepare single smoothie packs in individual sandwich bags and keep them in the freezer to save a little more time. You can also add multivitamin sachets to smoothies for an added boost such as Healthspan YoGo (£19.99 for 20 sachets).
Cooking in batches once or twice a week is a great time saver. Dishes such as stews, casseroles, hearty soups and other one-pot dishes are perfectly suited to this and can be packaged individually and stored in the freezer. Try adding in plenty of veggies to your dishes (frozen is fine) or pulses (canned) to maximise the nutritional content. You can buy ready cooked grains in ambient pouches that can be microwaved to save time boiling grains.
Mealtimes can be made up of lots of small food items, which can be taken straight from the fridge to create a lunch or supper platter. Dips, vegetable sticks, chopped fruits, pitta breads, cooked meats, scotch eggs, hard boiled eggs, cheese and biscuits are just a few examples and if stocked up can offer a meal in minutes.
Healthy ready meals
You don’t have to be a slave to the stove when preparing meals and there are plenty of healthy ready-meals available that can be microwaved in minutes to provide a quick meal option. Foods such as fish pie, cottage pie or beef stew always go down well and can be teamed with a serving or two of frozen veggies such as carrots or peas to help boost the nutritional content of the meal.
Learn a repertoire of simple five-minute-meals
Creating a quick repertoire of nutritious quick meals can be a great standby when you’re struggling with what to cook. Eggs are perfect (omelettes or scrambled), wholemeal toast with canned fish or baked beans, pasta with canned tuna tomato sauce, soup with wholemeal toast, grilled salmon fillet with ready-made mashed potato. Try teaming each dish with vegetables by either serving them as a side or adding them into the dish.
Soups are a great way to cook up a meal in a flash and when served with wholemeal bread provide a good balanced meal. Try and boost their nutrition potential by adding in canned pulses, lentils or other frozen vegetables before cooking. Soups can also be low in calories so try drizzling with a little olive oil after cooking or topping with parmesan shavings.
For busy carers, working out how to prepare quick meals can free up valuable time better spent elsewhere. Understanding how to make quick meals nutritious is hugely important so as to insure the health of the person you’re caring for, which will benefit both them and you in the long-run.
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