As a carer, it is important that you make sure that the patients you work with are properly fed and care for. This means working with the patient and the family to make sure that they have a healthy and balanced a diet as possible.
Designing and delivering a healthy and balanced diet plan can really differentiate you from the competition. If you are working privately, this could allow you to charge more and out-compete other carers who don’t think about this.
What should they be eating:
You will have covered this in your Care Certificate or NVQ. As a reminder, a healthy diet is made up of nutrient-rich foods. For a balanced diet, variety is key: aim to eat a mixture of fruits and vegetables, lean meats, fish, whole grains, dairy, legumes, nuts and seeds. All of these foods are high in nutrients and will give your body the vitamins and minerals it needs.
Eating a healthy diet, including plenty of vegetables, has many scientifically proven health benefits. Research shows that a balanced diet can help to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, kidney stones, type 2 diabetes, bone loss disorders and even certain cancers. It has also been shown to have an impact on neurological conditions like dementia, if only because patients have the energy to fight it and focus.
Encouraging your client to eat well
Encouraging your client to change their eating habits may take some patience. Being persistent and clear about the benefits of any new foods and meals you introduce is half the battle. Getting the backing of the family and GP covers most of the rest. However, people are stubborn, so you don’t want to push it too hard.
Any concerns regarding your client’s nutritional health, including weight loss or gain, should be reported to their GP or a dietician. As mentioned above, their backing can have a real impact on the likelihood that the patient will accept a new diet.
Though cooking from fresh comes with many nutritional benefits, it isn’t always possible. Frozen foods, especially vegetables, are still very high in nutrients and may be more convenient for you and your client, as they take less time to cook and last longer than fresh produce.
There are a number of specialist food companies that can deliver fresh and frozen meals directly to your client’s door. These meals come in different portion sizes, textures and thicknesses, depending on how much your client is able to eat or swallow. You make like to recommend one or two of these hot meal delivery services for the elderly, to the patient or their family:
If your client is losing weight or struggling to eat, supplement drinks and desserts can be prescribed by their GP to provide extra calories and nutrients.
The basics of food and nutrient groups
- Carbohydrates are the brain’s main source of energy and include fruits, breads and grains, starchy vegetables and sugars. At least half of the grains you consume should be whole grains. Whole grains and fruit are also full of fibre, which helps maintain bowel health, regulates blood sugar levels, and reduces the risk of coronary heart disease.
- Protein is responsible for the building and repair of body tissues and is vital for the structuring of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood. 10-35% of their daily calorie intake should come from lean protein sources, such as low-fat meat, dairy, beans or eggs.
- Fat is a key energy source for the body and helps increase the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E and K. 20-35% of your daily calorie intake should come from fat. Choose healthy options such as omega-3-rich foods like fish, walnuts and vegetable-based oils. Omega-3 helps with overall development and growth. Limit their intake of saturated fats, such as high-fat meats and full-fat dairy.
- Vitamin C helps the body synthesise collagen, which structures the blood vessels, bones and ligaments. Rich sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, strawberries and peppers.
- Vitamin D helps the body to maintain healthy calcium levels and can be found in various food sources, as well as synthesised by the sun.
- Sodium (salt) helps to maintain stable levels of fluid outside of the body’s cells, and helps cells function normally. However, too much sodium can increase the risk of serious health problems, such as high blood pressure, stroke, or heart failure.
- Potassium maintains fluid volume within and outside of the body’s cells, and can also help to lower blood pressure, by balancing out salt’s negative effects. Bananas, potatoes and tomatoes are all rich sources of potassium.
- Calcium helps build and maintain strong bones and teeth. Calcium can be found in milk, low-fat cheese and yoghurt.
The above basics are useful to bear in mind when designing a meal plan and diet for your client. For more guidance on eating well, visit: