People with disabilities and seniors who live in community residences or have a caregiver might not have control over their diets. Staff might just prepare foods that are easy to make and high in fat like pizza or hot dogs. Staff or consumers might not be educated about nutrition. However, nutrition is very important for disabled people. Nutrition improves quality of life and can help with weight management, fatigue, and depression. Disabled people should be involved in their diet plans. When an individual has the opportunity to learn about nutrition and the opportunity to choose the kinds of foods he or she eats, he or she can become more motivated to eat healthily and to become healthier in other areas of his or her life.
Here are some tips for caregivers to facilitate the empowerment of consumers:
- Caregivers should be encouraged to learn about the nutrition needs of disabled people and to obtain food safety training.
- Caregivers should promote participation in activities that encourage healthy eating and exercise.
- Consumers should be involved in choosing foods to include or exclude from their diets.
- Disabled people should have a diet that is culturally appropriate and that addresses their unique needs.
- Caregivers should encourage consumers to participate in cooking or in deciding how the cooking is done, if they choose to.
- Caregivers should provide encouragement and support with grocery shopping and cooking.
- Food should be of adequate quality, safely stored, and prepared.
- Caregivers should prepare smaller meals that the consumer can access five to six times a day, if appropriate and workable.
- Caregivers and consumers should work together to plan menus and shopping lists in order to help consumers make good food choices.
A healthy diet can include:
- A variety across all food groups
- Lower cholesterol, as well as lower saturated and trans fats
- Moderate total fat, mostly from healthful plant oils
- More plant proteins like beans, nuts, and grains; also, fewer and leaner meats
- Ample whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and a good calcium source
- A varied diet of fresh, whole, and minimally-processed foods
- A multiple vitamin supplement, if recommended by the consumer’s doctor
- Limited sugar, processed meats, and salt in meals and snacks
If you’re interested in learning more, check out our reference listed below:
University of Montana’s Disability and Health Program