Being a Great Cancer Caregiver

Nutrition plays an important role in a caregiver’s life, not only to reduce the risk chronic disease, but to maintain optimal health, well-being, and strength to support and care for a loved one.

 

The benefits of proper nutrition include

  • Heart health – a heart healthy diet can lower your risk of heart disease.
  • Bone and teeth strength – dietary calcium can helps prevent bone loss. The IOM recommends that most adults get 1000-1200 mg of calcium daily.
  • Increased energy – balanced nutrition allows you to maintain steady blood sugar and energy levels.
  • Weight control – it is important to be aware of caloric intake and balance it with energy expenditure for weight management.

 

Where to Start

  1. First, always start off your day off right by eating a healthy breakfast. Many cancer caregivers do not have appetite when they wake up in the morning, but it is the most important meal of the day since it will help you keep energized throughout the day – the energy required to carry out the tasks of a caregiver. In order to maintain this energy, eat healthy snacks, such as fresh fruits or nuts that are full of nutrients that your body needs. Avoid highly processed foods and snacks that are loaded with preservatives and sugar, including sugary drinks. They are sources of empty calories and will not provide you with sustained energy.
  2. Learn how to read and understand the nutrition labels and to pay attention to them whenever you are buying groceries. Many food labels can be deceiving, so it is important to pay attention to the ingredients list as well to ensure you are purchasing a healthy food.
  3. Make mealtime enjoyable. Meal times are great opportunities to get together with your family and friends, which makes it a perfect time to talk about healthy eating and to share your knowledge about nutrition. Maintaining a healthy relationship with food is the key to a healthy lifestyle that can sustain cancer caregiving.
  4. Make healthier food choices by making simple changes.  Below we have listed some suggestions for each food group.

 

Incorporate The Food Groups

Proteins

  • Limit how much processed meat and red meat you eat.
  • Choose fish, poultry, or beans instead of red meat.
  • Include more plant proteins like beans lentils, and nuts.
  • Use healthy cooking methods, such as baking, broiling, or poaching.

Vegetables/Fruits

  • Eat at least 5 servings of a variety of non-starchy vegetables and fruits per day.
  • Include a variety at every meal and for snacks.
  • Emphasize whole fruits and vegetables.
  • Limit creamy sauces, dressings, and dips.

Grains

  • Eat whole grains and/or legumes with every meal.
  • Choose whole-grained breads, pasta, and cereals.
  • Brown rice instead of white rice.
  • Limit intake of high-sugar foods.

Dairy

  • Choose low-fat or non-fat dairy products whenever possible.

 

For more information about caring for cancer patients, check out our cancer caregiver guide. It will provide you with information about basic nutrition and diet for cancer patients. It also provides some answers to how you can manage eating-related difficulties that may occur while you are caring for a cancer patient. 

 

References
[i] “ACS Guidelines for Nutrition and Physical Activity.” ACS Guidelines for Nutrition and Physical Activity. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2013.
[ii] Beesley, V.L., Prince, M.A., Webb, P.M. (2010). Loss of Lifestyle: Health Behaviour and Weight Changes after Becoming a Caregiver of a Family Member Diagnoses with Ovarian Cancer. Support Care in Cancer 19.2(2011): 1949-1956
[iii] Ennis, Edel, and Brendan P. Bunting. “Family Burden, Family Health and Personal Mental Health.” BMC Public Health. BioMed Central Ltd, 21 Mar. 2013. Web. 07 Nov. 2013.
Aoi Goto, DTR

Aoi is a dietetic technician and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Food Studies from New York University. She began as an intern at Savor Health in her senior year before joining the team as the Community Manager. Her work involves customer service, managing website/blog/social media, and assisting with various projects. She is interested in the oncology field and plans to continue her education to become a Registered Dietitian.

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