Nutrition For Caregivers



One of the most important aspects of self-care, and caring for our families, is the food we put into our bodies. Our food choices can bring us energy or weigh us down, can bring feelings of health and wellness or sluggishness, anxiety, and distress.  

Good nutrition won't elminiate the stressors of your life, but it can contribute to your well-being, giving you more reserves and abilty to use healthy coping skills, as well as the nutrients your body needs to help you relax, sleep better, concentrate, and be generally more healthy.  Good food is a good way to build a solid foundation of health. (Talk to your doctor about nutritional supplements as well, as there are some that can help with stress.)

I've fully updated this page to bring you the latest resources, best practices and practical advice for your kitchen and nutrition. - LMR


Nutrition Makes 
A Difference!      

Nutrition for Caregivers covers

1. Nutrition for stress management - NEW 
2. Organizing for good nutrition - UPDATED
3. Special Needs Diets, an overview - NEW
4. Recipes and Links - NEW
5. Updated Resources on the web

Nutrition for stress management

One of the toughest aspects of special needs / medically fragile parenting, is that an extra helping of stress, above and beyond the norm, comes with the territory.  Doing what is easiest, as opposed to what is healthiest, can also become a norm in your household when you feel you are just surviving, and thriving is a concept that seems like a long lost dream.

But you CAN help yourself managage all that stress better if you make healthy choices, and hold on to or begin healthy habits.  What might seem difficult at first can become a beautiful part of your life.

We will get into the long-term solutions of Meal Planning and organizing your family's nutrition and your kitchen, but you can start helping your stress levels today, with a few simple steps.  


Start with Grocery Store Goodness - next time you shop for groceries, add healthy snacks, fruits and veggies to your list.  Get convenient snackable items to stock up on.  The goal is to begin replacing unhealthy snacks with healthy options. 

Always check ingredients, especially when you have food allergies in your family!  




Fresh seasonal fruits and veggies such as apples, pears, berries, oranges, peaches, lemons, carrots, tomatoes, beets, celery, pre-cut broccoli and califlower, and ready-to-eat salad greens. Red and yellow peppers and green cucumbers, onions and avocados - try to put a full spectrum of colors in your shopping cart!



Calcium and magnesium can help your muscles relax, and help you sleep better, metabolize your food better, aid in bone health, and soothe the nervous system. 

If you do dairy, small size non-fat greek or icelandic yogurt (or non-dairy equvalents for food allergies) as well as cheese and other dairy producs, used in moderation (can be high calorie) have calcium.  

If you use a milk replacement make sure it is fortified with vitamins and minerals.

Veggies like broccoli and legumes like navy beans have high calcium content as well. Almonds & figs (a delicious sweet snack with protien) together have high calcium.  Tofu and spinach are also rich in this essential mineral.

Many of these foods are strong in magnesium too, such as almonds, spinach, yogurt and legumes.  Pumpkin seeds are another good source of magnesium.





Whether you are omniverous, vegetarian or vegan, a variety of quality proteins is best.  Meat-eaters should focus on leaner cuts, fatty fish with omega acids, and grilled, roasted or pan-fried over deep-fried options.  (Watch portion sizes too - the size of your palm is a good guide!)



For lacto-ovo vegetarians, diary and eggs are still on the menu.  Vegans can have tofu and legume proteins, or seitan (if you can eat wheat), as well as seeds and nuts. 

IF you are "omniverous," research shows that regularly including legumes and reducing the focus on animal products can be very good for your health. (Food for thought...)

4. WHOLE GRAINS & COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES - better nutritional value for better health.   Complex carbohydrades provide the body with healthier levels of sugars, and keep the simple carbohydrate (i.e. sweets) roller-coaster from draining your energy and plumping up your waistline.

Healthline - Simple Carbs v Complex Carbs - What you should eat

5. THE FIBER CONNECTION - eating a diet high in fiber (like eating plenty of foods from the Rainbow along with whole grains, nuts and seeds), has been shown to help with greater alerness and less perception of stress!  

Medline Plus: Dietary FIber
NIH - Scientific study on dietary fiber and perceived stress



6. Healty Fats!  [Placeholder text]

I've found some differing information on the "healthy oil" front, and I will provide you with the individual resources so you can look at them.  My personal favorite is cold pressed organic virgin olive oil.  This is not your only option, however.

While there is still some debate over which fats are healthiest to cook with, there is ONE kind of fat that should definitely be off the table!  Hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated oil is, simply put, bad for you.  

Limiting saturated fats (like butter or any fat that is hard at room temperature) is another healthy choice.



2. Organizing for Good Nutrition [placeholder]



3. Special Diets for Special Needs

Special Needs kids can sometimes have special dietary needs, and the nutrition information we will present is not meant in any way to conflict with your child's special dietary requirements.  We are very familiar with dietary restrictions and special diets for medical reasons! 

Making healthy choices for food and activity also gives you another area of your life that you can positively control - having a sense of control is one of the major components to 'stress hardiness' (see Bounce Back! The Resilient Caregiver).  So, take control of your healthy eating habits and you will be taking care of your child's most valuable resource - you! 

4. Link to Recipes/Menus for Healthy Eating.

Each recipe is meant to be quick to make, including menus for a well-rounded meal.  Links to other resources are included on this page. [Not active yet]



5. More Links & Resources (including some alternative resources)


The Anti-Inflammatory Diet - an alternative to My Pyramid by Dr. Andrew Weil - worth exploring.   The Anti-Inflammatory Pyramid

Eat for Life - if you are interested in a primarily "plant-based" diet, this is one option (I am currently trying this myself, and will let you know via my blog how it goes!)

The Harvard Healthy Eating Pyramid - another alternative pyramid based on Harvard University's research

 University of Georgia - Managing Stress - Nutrition

Nutrition and Stress Management - Tufts University

Nutrition and Stress - University of NC Campus Health

The Vegan Lunchbox - looking for creative and healthy alternatives? Great for kids & adults!  And if you don't want to do the vegan thing, you can always substitute some animal proteins.  This is a fun food blogger with two great books that have made my son's special-diet lunch time much more happy and satisfying, and revitalized my cooking in general.

Stress Management - National Institutes for Health

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