Why is food important for me?
Food is needed for energy, for keeping us strong and healthy. Eating well is important for wound healing and for fighting off illness and infection.
Eating is also a social event – if you have access to Day Centre facilities, then
try to go along as often as you can. Eating with others is much more enjoyable than eating alone. Cooking with a friend or inviting someone for dinner makes eating much more enjoyable.
Am I getting all the goodness that I need?
The easiest way to get all the goodness and nutrients that you need is to eat a wide variety of foods. Eating regularly by having a breakfast, lunch/dinner and evening meal and supper with some in-between meals snacks is the best way to meet food needs.
What if I don’t feel hungry?
Medical conditions and medications can sometimes alter or diminish taste and smell, making food taste different and less appealing. If you find that your ability to taste and smell has changed, it is important to consult your GP to see if there is a cause for this change.
If it is necessary medication or an illness ,that has caused this problem, there is evidence to suggest that enhancing the flavour of food may help to compensate. For example:
• Choose flavours that complement food. Try glazing vegetables such as carrots with honey or syrup or add flavourings such as garlic or lemon.
• Grate a little full flavoured cheese onto potatoes, cauliflower or broccoli.
• Add lemon juice to fruit flavoured desserts for an extra tang.
• Use oriental sauces (soy, fish, black bean) to chicken, pork and fish dishes.
• Use herb and stock cubes for soups, sauces and gravy.
If you are on a reduced sodium/salt diet, please consult your Doctor, as savoury flavourings tend to be high in sodium
Even if your appetite is small and you cannot face big meals, you can easily get everything that you need by eating small meals and snacks throughout the day. Try snacks such as scrambled eggs/beans on bread/toast, or a bowl of cereal and milk.
What if I can’t eat ordinary foods?
If you have difficulty with swallowing or any other problems that may be helped by a change in your diet, your Doctor may refer you to a dietitian who can help you to meet your needs through food that is both nutritious and tasty.
What about my bowels?
Bowel habits can change with age. You may find that you move your bowels every few days rather than every day. As long as your motions are soft and you do not have to strain to pass them, you are not constipated.
If you are constipated, try increasing the amount of fluid and fibre-rich foods that you are taking.
Chronic constipation can lead to a build up of drug toxins in the body, and the action of some medications can sometimes be affected. For this reason, it is important to avoid constipation by ensuring an adequate intake of high fibre foods. Drinking plenty of fluid is essential to avoiding constipation. Water is best, while fruit juices and weak tea are also good choices. Do not take medication for constipation without your GPs advice.
What about fibre?
Fibre adds bulk to the diet and helps food to move faster through the gut. Fibre is found in foods such as:
Brown bread (wholemeal, wheaten or high fibre types).
High fibre breakfast cereal (check out the variety in your local shop) including porridge.
• Fruit (with skins on where possible).
• Vegetables and pulses, especially peas, beans and corn and lentils (used in soupmix).
• Prune juice can act as a natural laxative. If you do take prune juice, a small glass (100ml) taken every second day should be enough.
How much fluid should I drink?
Try to drink at least 6-8 cups of fluid every day. Suitable fluids include water, fruit juice, milk, weak tea and coffee.
Keeping active is important for good health. It can help control body weight, strengthens bones, helps to keep your bowels regular and is a great way of socialising.
It is important to enjoy the exercise that you do, so choose an activity that you like e.g. walking, swimming, dancing, cycling etc. Make sure you wear comfortable clothes and shoes when you are active.
What if I can’t get to the shops?
It is a good idea to keep a store cupboard for days when you may be unable to get out or you do not feel up to cooking. If you have a freezer, this will be very useful for storing food. You can build up your store cupboard over a number of weeks by adding something extra to your shopping list every week. Useful foods include:
• Fish – frozen or tinned e.g. tuna, mackerel, sardines, salmon.
• Meat – frozen or tinned e.g. corned beef.
• Milk – tinned or dried, tinned milk pudding, custard and rice.
• Fruit – dried or tinned, fruit juice.
• Vegetables – frozen, tinned or dried e.g. beans, peas, instant mashed potato.
• Soup- tinned, chilled or packet.
• Cereal – breakfast cereal, tapioca, rice, and semolina.
• Bread – crisp bread or fresh bread stored in the freezer.
• Biscuits – e.g. digestives, cream crackers.
• Drinks – e.g. drinking chocolate, cocoa, milk drinks e.g. Complan, Build-Up.
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