Following a healthy, balanced diet, and giving your body all the nutrients it needs, is important for anyone. Our diet impacts our health, wellbeing and mental health. For someone living with a disability, following a healthy, nutritious diet is even more important as it can help improve or manage their condition, help them function better, and give them the energy they need to cope on a daily basis.
When it comes to following the right diet for a certain disability, consulting a professional dietitian can help prevent nutritional issues from arising or improve issues that already exist, including weight loss or weight gain, nutritional deficiencies, or bowel issues.
However, there are ways to ensure healthy and accessible food choices are available for those living with disabilities as well as those looking after someone with a disability.
Advantages of following a healthy diet
As mentioned, following a healthy diet is important for anyone, whether living with a disability or not. But there are some additional advantages to following a balanced diet for disabled people.
Some reasons why disabled people should eat healthily include:
Ensuring healthy food choices: Variety is key
The most important thing to focus on when changing your diet to be healthier and more nutritious is variety. So, ensure that all five food groups are consumed daily.
Choose fruits and vegetables that are low in sugar to manage energy levels. These include apples, oranges, watermelons, and strawberries. Also choose high-fibre options like bananas, raspberries, and kiwis. Here’s a delicious recipe to get your vegetables in: Parmesan Crusted Roasted Vegetables.
Carbohydrates include all your pasta, bread, rice, noodles, potatoes, etc. Choose wholegrain/wholewheat when you can. Mashed potato goes well with a variety of dishes.
Proteins can be gained from a variety of sources such as legumes and pulses, tofu, fish, eggs, and meat varieties.
Dairy includes milk, cheeses, and yoghurts. For easier digestion and sustainability, you can opt for oat milk or other plant/nut alternatives.
Our bodies need healthy oils to function optimally. Preferably, use more avocado and olive oil and refrain from using butter and vegetable oils.
Tips to enforce and maintain healthy eating habits
Sticking to healthy eating habits can be difficult – even more so for those living with a disability. Here are some ideas to keep in mind to help implement changes to your diet, even if it’s just in the beginning while you get used to it.
Slowly introduce the changes: If someone is bombarded with a lot of changes and new foods, they’ll be less likely to see it through. So, ease into the new diet and see how it goes.
Keep food safe: Make sure to throw away foods that have expired and cook food properly. When getting used to a new diet, the last thing you need is to contract food-related illnesses.
Eat with company (if possible): Following a healthy diet is often easier and more enjoyable when shared with others. If you can, invite a friend over for lunch or dinner, or take part in a shared meal with loved ones.
Pay attention to portion sizes: Managing portion sizes is important. A tip to help you improve your portion size is to fill half your plate with vegetables or salad before dishing up meats and/or carbohydrates.
Pay attention to how you feel after meals: When we eat healthy, our bodies feel better after eating. Whereas when we eat junk food, we often feel drained or even nauseous. Pay attention to how you’re feeling after you’ve eaten to make sure you’re on the right track.
Make sure you stay hydrated: Make sure you drink plenty of water during the day to stay hydrated. Also, try to minimise your intake of sugary and carbonated drinks.
Make smart snacking choices: You might still have the urge to snack between mealtimes and that’s perfectly normal, but choose better, healthier snacks. Try swopping sweets and chips for fruits and nuts, for example.
Implementing and following a healthy, nutritious diet is difficult – even more so for those living with disabilities whose access to different foods may be limited. When you want to change your own diet, or the diet of someone you’re taking care of, our number one tip is to do it gradually. Secondly, try playing around with the different food groups when planning meals to ensure that they’re all included on a daily basis.
Our diet impacts our health, wellbeing and mental health. For someone living with a disability, following a healthy, nutritious diet is even more important as it can help improve or manage their condition, help them function better, and give them the energy they need to cope on a daily basis.
The most important thing to focus on when eating healthier and more nutritious is variety. Ensure that all five food groups are consumed daily, i.e., fruits and vegetables, carbohydrates, proteins, dairy, and oils/spreads.
Sticking to healthy eating habits can be difficult – even more so for disabled people. Our number one tip is to introduce the changes slowly. If someone is bombarded, they’ll be less likely to see it through.