Tips for Individuals & Organizations

For many, cooking can be an individualistic adventure; you decide what to buy at the grocery store, what to cook, when to cook it, and how much of it to devour. However, cooking can also be a social adventure, the chance for groups of people to come together over shared food. Sometimes, a nutrition expert can also get involved for an even more complex and enlightening combination of food and people.

Tips for individuals:

  • Supplement a main dish that you’ve brought home from a restaurant with less-expensive side dishes that you make or buy from the grocery store.
  • Research what actually helps people eat better and what the research shows.
  • Learn how to shop well by keeping an eye out for low-cost, healthy choices.
  • Make and eat healthy, easy snacks instead of junk food.
  • Check out our website for easy, healthy lunch recipes that can be taken to-go. Please, note that there is no “Lunch” tab because the “Soups and Salads,” “Dinner,” and even “Sides” tabs can serve as great lunch ideas, in addition to their main purposes.
Small mountains of quinoa, a grain-like seed with an off-white color with tiny white curls throughout  it
Quinoa dishes make great snacks and lunches | Photo by Elizabeth Layman

Tips for organizations:

  • Brainstorm tips for personal assistants and family members to empower the disabled person’s nutrition awareness, cooking skills, and shopping skills and to assert his/her food choices.
  • Offer “good food discussion” groups at disability centers or groups, and don’t forget to also offer healthy snacks there!
  • Invite a local chef to give a talk or demonstration.
  • Join up with another organization to create a cooking class– list options of agencies somewhere easily accessible for all of your members.

Tips about recruiting nutritional expertise:

  • Most states have begun developing programs to help low-income families improve their nutrition. These programs are often state-based versions of the federal program SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).
  • Some of these programs have disability awareness built-in.
  • Use the Internet to research what these programs look like in your state.
  • These programs should be full of nutrition experts, but you can also find experts online.
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out to experts and ask them to visit your favorite cooking club or disability organization, so you and your community can learn more about nutrition together.

Nutrition Tips for Caregivers

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.

A legal pad with an example shopping list on it
Make a shopping list | Photo by Elizabeth Layman

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 bowl filled with different sugar packets like Sweet'n'Low
Limit unnatural sugars | Photo by Elizabeth Layman

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