We may not eat as well as we’d like to when we’re busy, stressed and on a budget. But we are what we eat, so it’s worth the effort it takes to maintain a healthy diet.
- Eat carbs for energy
Caring takes energy and carbohydrates are your best source. Carers NZ’s fitness guru Wayne Halkyard says you get energy from fat and sugar too, but the boost it gives you is short-lived. Wayne recommends favouring low GI carbs wherever possible. Low GI foods break down slowly so you feel fuller for longer and have energy for more sustained periods. Try porridge or toasted muesli instead of rice bubbles or cornflakes; wholegrain breads instead of white; brown rice instead of white; or kumara instead of potatoes.
Eating little and often is another way to keep your energy levels up.
- Everything in moderation
Eating should be a pleasure. Don’t feel guilty if you sometimes enjoy a choccy biscuit (or two) with your cuppa, or fish and chips occasionally. Little treats can give you a lift. Just make sure the bulk of your diet is made up of the good stuff. You can’t go far wrong if you follow the Heart Foundation’s Healthy Heart Visual Food Guide.
- Drink plenty of water
Many of us are dehydrated and don’t realise it. Try to drink 6-8 glasses of water or other fluids throughout the day. Using a sipper bottle can make it easier to keep tabs on how much you’re drinking.
- Have meals in reserve
When you can, make more than you need and freeze what you don’t eat so you always have a quick meal for you and your family when you have one of those days that gets away from you. Keep the ingredients for a quick pasta or other easy meal in the pantry so you’re never stuck if you can’t get to the store. Foods that freeze well include:
- Casseroles (sausage, chicken, lentils etc)
- Homemade chicken nuggets
- Savoury mince
- Chilli con carne
- Tomato pasta sauce
- Pizza dough
- Vege fritters
- Loaves, biscuits and baking
- Stretch the budget
The food budget is often the first to be trimmed when money is tight. All the usual tips apply when trying to make your budget stretch further. Buy fresh food that’s in season (farmers’ markets are great for this). Make things from scratch when you can. Plan meals around what’s left in the fridge so you don’t waste food. Try to shop for a whole week of meals at once and avoid impulse shopping. Explore the world of vegetarian and vegan food – there are some yummy recipes out there that are easy, cheap and nutritious.
- Convenience meals
These days there are many frozen, fresh chilled, and other kinds of convenience meals that will allow you to eat well without having to cook. These are available from your supermarket, Google ‘frozen meals delivered’ to find options in your area, or check your local telephone directory.