When you are a caregiver for a loved one who has a serious illness, fatigue may be a constant battle. The emotional and physical demands of caregiving at end-of-life are exhausting. Caregivers often try to make up for too little rest and too much stress by turning to foods rich in carbohydrates, as well as sugary and extra-caffeinated beverages. While these food choices may give you a short-term lift, at the end of the day they actually contribute to a greater sense of caregiver fatigue.
Making healthier food choices all day long is one of the best ways to fight fatigue. Some easy ways to do that include:
- Eat a healthy breakfast. Instead of reaching for sugary cereals or pastries, opt for a breakfast that includes lean protein. One tip is not to limit breakfast to just traditional breakfast foods. You could eat low-fat cheese with an apple and a handful of nuts or a whole wheat burrito with a slice of low-fat cheese and Canadian ham. These combinations will help you feel full longer.
- Choose unrefined carbs. Most people will readily admit that when stress is high, they reach for salty and sugary snacks. Chips, cookies, and candy are common comfort foods. Unfortunately, they are all high in refined carbs. A better choice would be to keep healthy foods that have unrefined carbs on hand. Fruits such as bananas, tangerines and apples or Greek yogurt, lean turkey rolls, and low-fat cottage cheese can provide you with a healthy increase in energy.
- Limit caffeine intake. It may be tempting to hit the Starbucks drive thru every afternoon or to keep energy drinks in the refrigerator. They can provide you with a quick pick up. The problem with caffeine, however, is that too much of it can lead to a bad sleep-wake cycle. The later in the day that you consume these beverages the more likely you are to experience problems sleeping. That leads to greater fatigue the next day which encourages the use of yet more caffeine. Try to limit your caffeine intake to just one or two cups of coffee early in the day.
- Eat small meals more frequently. Nutritionists often tell clients this is a key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. If you eat smaller, more nutritious meals throughout the day you help to keep your blood sugar level normal. That helps you avoid the highs and lows sugary treats and refined carbs cause in energy. Small meals could include foods such as a handful of nuts and small carton of low-fat cottage cheese or a smoothie made with fruit and Greek yogurt.
Modifying your diet to include healthy meals and snacks should help caregivers have more energy throughout the day. That will help you with juggling all of the responsibilities your role of caring for a loved one entails.
For additional caregiver resources, please visit us on the web at www.ExcellenceInHospice.com.