A recent study about cooking at home shows that people who make most of their own meals eat a healthier diet. But finding the time and energy to cook after a hectic day is a challenge. If you’re already overwhelmed with your responsibilities as a caregiver, how can you find time to cook tasty, nutritious meals for a loved one?
The answer: Keep it simple! Here are 10 cooking tips you can add to your caregiver meal preparation toolkit to help you streamline dinner preparations.
Taking Stock of Your Nutritional Needs
- Review any dietary or fluid restrictions your loved one received from their physician or dietitian, as well as any food allergies. Use them as guidelines when choosing simple recipes.
- Do an online search of your loved one’s diagnosis, plus the word “nutrition.” Example: “diabetes nutrition” or “congestive heart failure nutrition.” Use the information to plan meals. If you have questions, review the information you find with a health care provider.
- Remember, you can supplement meals, if necessary. Smoothies are a clever way to ensure daily fruit and/or vegetable intake.
Healthy Eating 101
Making sense of information about nutrition often seems like a hopeless cause. Who’s right? When experts can’t agree on what “healthy eating” is, how are you supposed to know?
Finding Recipes and Planning Meals
- Buy a food magazine with lots of pictures, or go to a website with healthy recipes. Let your loved one choose dishes that are appealing.
- Order groceries online and have them delivered or ready to pick up.
- Instead of cooking every night, plan to cook two or three nights a week. Plan meals so you can reuse leftovers other nights. Or cook large portions and freeze smaller amounts to use on busy evenings. Have breakfast for dinner or go out to eat one night.
Adopting Time-saving Strategies
- Look for one-pot meals (less time cleaning up). Another way to speed prep and minimize clean-up: Pay attention when you measure ingredients. For example, after you measure dried herbs or spices, pour the amount into the palm of your hand. When you learn what different amounts look like, you can leave utensils in the drawer.
- Slow-cooker recipes can free up several hours in your day. Choose recipes with short preparation times. And remember that slow cookers aren’t just for dinner! Cook steel-cut oats in a slow cooker. You’ll wake up to a hot and hearty breakfast that’s much more nutritious than instant oatmeal.
- Repeating meals isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As long as your loved one enjoys a certain recipe, and their overall diet is well-balanced, feel free to repeat a favorite food or meal. In fact, if there’s a specific food that your loved one prefers, you can base your recipe search around that ingredient.
- Cultivate an environment of mindfulness while preparing food. This will lessen the stress of meal preparation.