Smart Food Choices to Beat Caregiver Fatigue

caregiver-eatingPart of the struggle of being a caregiver for a family member is finding time to take care of your own health. The more your loved one depends on you for basic activities of daily living, the less time you have to do the things we all know keep us healthy.

The result is chronically feeling fatigued. Because caregivers still have to care for their loved one no matter how bad they feel, they often try to find ways to make up for lack of good nutrition, exercise and sleep. It might be by loading up on carbs, overdoing it with caffeinated beverages, or indulging in too many sugary treats. While some offer a short-term energy spike, most eventually cause even greater fatigue. Making smarter dietary choices can help boost energy levels.

How can caregivers use food choices to fight fatigue?

1. Plan your menus a week at a time.

That can help you eat healthier when you are worn out and stressed out. Some caregivers set aside a few hours on a Sunday afternoon to stock their frig with healthy snacks and a big salad, and to prepare and freeze meals for the busy work week ahead.

2. Start the day with a breakfast of champions.

Don’t skip breakfast. It really is the most important meal of the day. Instead, begin with a breakfast that includes lean protein. That will help keep you from reaching for unhealthy foods when you are hungry later in the morning.

3. Choose foods that combine healthy carbs with protein.

Your body benefits more from this combination because they are absorbed more slowly. That prevents the highs and lows you often experience with other forms of carbs. Good choices include Greek yogurt, poultry, and low-fat cheese. Avoid the refined carbs found in candy, cookies and other sweet treats.

4. Say “no” to energy drinks and snacks.

When you haven’t had much sleep and have a long day ahead of you, the temptation to turn to energy drinks may be hard to resist. In the long run, they only make fatigue worse because they can disrupt your body’s sleep cycle. Try to stick with no more than one or two caffeinated beverages each day.

5. Eat more frequently.

Instead of two or three big meals a day, try to eat smaller meals and healthy snacks throughout the day. It helps keep your blood sugar consistent and your stomach full. That makes it easier to resist the unhealthy salty or sugary foods people reach for when they are hungry and in a hurry.

We hope these quick tips help our Michigan caregiving friends fight back fatigue!