When you spend the day caring for others' needs, it is more than possible to arrive at dinner time exhausted and uninspired. And, if you're like most of us in that situation, you will be strongly tempted to reach for something highly caloric, high fat, highly salted or sugared, refined and fast! And then to regret it until bedtime or beyond.
Caregiving takes a lot of energy and we all need nutritious meals to fuel us as we do our caring work. Here are a few tips for ensuring healthy eating at the end of the day:
1. Cook twice the recipe whenever you make a favourite meal and freeze the leftovers in individual serving bags for another day. Or, alternatively, plan a big cooking day once every couple of weeks and cook several meals at once for stocking the fridge and freezer. (Put a chicken in the crockpot, a roast in the oven, soup or stew on the top of the stove and make a big bowl of quinoa or bean salad and - hey, presto! - meals for the next two weeks. I usually take a 4-5 hour Sunday afternoon to do this kind of cooking and it saves me so much stress during the week.
2. Simplify your meals. Home made soup, salad and a fresh wholewheat bun can make a great dinner. Some of my favourite quick and healthy recipes come from Jules at the Stone Soup website. Here she offers simple, healthy, 5 ingredient recipes that are ready in a flash. She also has a 5 Ingredient cookbook and a virtual cooking school for the less skilled among us.
3. Add your favourite healthy ingredients to a commercially prepared product. For example, add kale and quinoa or pot barley or chopped-up microwaved yam or beets to a healthy canned soup. (Watch the salt content here.)
4. Learn some simple, healthy sauce recipes to dress up leftover meats or pasta. Jaimie Oliver's Basic Tomato Sauce is one of my favourites. It's available in his Jaimie's Dinners cookbook and on the Internet.
5. Ask for help if you are a family caregiver who is too tired to cook. When friends or family ask what they can do to help, ask them to bring a dinner as a once-off or on a regular basis. Be sure to let them know your preferences, dislikes, and any food intolerances or restrictions.
6. Include your family in meal preparation the night before. (You may have a whole house full of little sous chefs!) Get them to chop vegetables, stir pots, wash dishes - whatever is age- appropriate and within their capabilities. You may have to exercise a little patience to begin with, but soon they will become more skilled and they will feel so proud of their newly acquired skills.
If you have any other ideas that work for you, please add them to the list!