As our parents grow older, many of us have found ourselves in the role of a caregiver for our aging parents. Approximately 19% of all American adults are serving as a caregiver for people over the age of 50. While you might be responsible for caring for your parents, you also have to remember to look out for your own wellbeing.
Caregiving can be extremely stressful, which makes good nutrition even more critical to maintaining your health and wellbeing. But when you are busy taking care of someone, your own nutrition often becomes an afterthought and the temptation to eat processed food or sugary, junk food often wins. Eating foods with high levels of sugar or trans fats desensitizes neurotransmitter receptors, leading to heartburn and low moods.
Stress from caregiving can also have a detrimental effect on your immune system, causing frequent colds, cold sores, or other viral infections. If you don’t eat healthy enough to rebuild your immune system, you make yourself more vulnerable to illnesses such as cancer, chronic fatigue, or other immune problems.
Here are a couple of ideas to help you care for yourself at the same time as you care for others:
- Eat several small meals per day
- Include protein, vegetables, and healthy fats at each meal
- Limit consumption of coffee, soda and alcohol
- Drink eight to ten glasses of water per day
- Avoid processed sugar and carbohydrates
- To sleep better, avoid sugar, cookies, chips, popcorn and alcohol at bedtime