CareGiving Nutrition

caregiving nutritionYou Are What You Eat?

(I don’t remember eating a sexy beast this morning!)

Caregiving nutrition is the first of three areas caregivers find themselves caught up in when giving care to their children, pets, parents, and even themselves. The other two are often pain management, and sleep.

Much of our days revolve around food. The gnawing empty feeling we hope to control by eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner, perhaps with a few snacks in between, without going crazy and overeating.

Fortunately, many of us enjoy the privilege of being able to eat when we are hungry, and that is what most of this blog will be about. However, even in the United States one in five children do not have enough food to eat. FeedingAmerica.org says that, “15.3 million children lived in food-insecure households in 2014.” One of the charities we donate to is FeedMyStarvingChildren.org which sends millions of meals to children in these countries all over the world. Their specific focus is to get the special nutrients into these starving children’s bodies, so that they can begin to grow and thrive. One such child is Emmanuel, who was two years of age and still only weighed 9 pounds. In one year of good feeding he is walking, talking, laughing and up to 22 pounds. While most one-year olds in the United States are over 22 pounds, it’s a start, and it is done with a focus on nutrition.

Eating is Not the Same as Nutrition

Starving children will put almost anything into their mouths and stomachs to feel better. Rocks. Clay. Completely digestible and non-life-sustaining. Starving children in the United States do not have to resort to this, usually, but sometimes the foods their caregivers provide for them have not much nutritional value either: chips, candy, soda.

Good Diet? What is that, Exactly?

One day on a city bus I saw a young woman feeding a baby a bottle full of brown liquid, and I asked what it was. I figured it might be chocolate milk. “Oh, it’s cola. She really likes it” the young woman replied. The baby didn’t even have teeth yet. There were so many potential health issues!

  • Caffeine is not recommended for anyone still growing, even up to age 16. This baby was not even six months old.
  • The sugar content, or sugar substitute, could start causing insulin resistance to begin, leading to diabetes.
  • There is absolutely no, none, zero nutrients in soda. Even as a hydration method, soda is a failure.

The culture of grab and go convenience is of great concern for more than just the “starving” population. If we are feeding our children empty calories and never providing the nutrients they need for healthy brain and body development, what is our future?

Scurvy: Coming To an Inner City Near You?

We also have a culture of only eating what we “like” or “feel like” eating. If we don’t like fish, we never eat fish. Don’t like fruit? Don’t waste money buying it only to throw it away.

What we are missing is this: these foods contain essential nutrients your body must get from outside sources! The very word “essential” is to make that point. Anything called a “vitamin” also means that your body requires some outside action such as eating or getting out in the sunshine in order for the absorption or synthases of that nutrient to occur.

CareGiving Nutrition Responsibility–Nutrition Not Just Satiety

The Merriam Webster Dictionary says Satiety is a” feeling or condition of feeling full after eating.”

When you're #caregiving for a child, pet, or parent, you are ultimately responsible for their… Click To Tweet

When you’re caregiving for a child, pet, or parent, you are ultimately responsible for their nutrition, not just their hunger. Children will get calories from candy and soda, but that is all. They may feel full from a muffin, but how much sugar and even non-food substances may be found in that muffin? For another example, check out this blog by The Food Babe and her petition with Starbucks Coffee company. Calories will help their body have energy to keep moving, and even grow. But nutrients are what help their brains, muscles, and immune systems develop. Omega-3, specifically, is important for brain development and the best source of Omega-3 is salmon and other large ocean fish. Not fish sticks.

Thus the adorable photo of the child looking like, “What are you trying to give me now?”

Older adults have other needs, and can be picky eaters too! Yet protein, and certain vitamins like B12 and CoQ10 are often deficient in the foods they eat.

Older adults have other needs, and can be picky eaters too! Click To Tweet

One would think pets are the easiest caregiving group to feed nutritionally, though there are many opinions about what is good nutrition for pets as well. Read The Truth About Pet Food Research.

Personal Responsibility

As with other #CareGiving our first responsibility is to take care of ourselves, and maintain our own health. If you are sick with the flu, it’s difficult to chase after a toddler! What foods are you eating, or not eating? You can use this checklist to consider an extensive list of foods that provide essential nutrients to your body. If you, or those you care for, are not eating the foods, you have some options:

  • Start adding the foods into your diet to give you the nutrients you need
  • Consider supplementing your diet with food based supplements to provide those nutrients

Our CareGiving Quick Guide may be of some help as well.

Education is Key

Oh, wait, you are not a nutritionist? Most #caregivers are not! Click To Tweet

Oh, wait, you are not a nutritionist? Most people/parents are not! So take the time to learn what you need to know. There are literally thousands of good books about nutrition and feeding your children, even how to hide nutrients in foods so they eat them. Local parent education classes are another good resource.

How about this? Tell your 5 year old boy it’s frog brains when it’s really a lot of spinach in a nutrient dense smoothie, and let us know if it works!

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Please comment below with other great resources you can share with other readers of this blog.

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