BIST member Celia M. shares her tips for eating well that she’s picked up with experience.
In many ways, the world of someone with a brain injury is much like the one we lived in before our little detour in life. No two people with a brain injury are identical nor do the effects of the injury impact us the same way. When it comes to eating, proper nutritional habits are extra-important for us, as the brain requires nutritional calories to function efficiently. Yet, this is one area that many of us really struggle with.
Remembering to eat continues to be one of my biggest challenges. Yes, of course I get hungry! But the difference now is that if I don’t eat right at that moment, the thought of eating is often forgotten. Later, when I do remember (if I remember), it’s usually end of the day, I’m sleepy and exhausted, which results in me going for “filler foods.”
In my case, hot chocolate and toast with butter has been the go-to food. It’s quick and I did not have to rely on anyone to make it (I have a tendency to forget the stove and oven on — so unless someone is around to monitor my cooking, it’s best I stick with the toaster and microwave). I’m certain some of you reading this are nodding your heads in agreement!
Quick and being able to make it independently are key words to feeding ourselves, as lack of energy; focusing on task; and remembering, have many of us with acquired brain injury dependent on others to cook our meals.Read on for tips for feeding your hungry brain.
Tips for Feeding Our Hungry Brain
- Eat small meals every three hours
- At every meal, try to include foods with: Protein (salmon, halibut, eggs, chicken, beef, beef liver), Fatty Acids (salmon, flaxseed, avocado, halibut), Zinc (beef, crab, chicken), Carbohydrates (vegetables, fresh fruits and grains).
- Set the alarm on phones, iPad, timers, etc. if your brain/body signals are off. It’s important not to shut the alarm off, saying to yourself “Ok … in couple of minutes…”, confident that this time you will remember to eat in just a minute or two. Trust me, more often than not, you will forget.
- Medical and therapy appointments often have us out of the house during meal times. Ask your care provider to make up small baggies of nuts, grapes, apples, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, yogurt or energy bars to take with you on the go.
- Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water. Sometimes hunger is actually dehydration.
Tips for Preparing Our Healthy Eating Plan
- Keep a list on the fridge to quickly add items that you will need on shopping day. My rehab therapist has taught me to convert these lists into sheets with the most purchased items, so that it’s easy to just circle an item. On shopping day, take the list with you.
- If noise and crowds are a challenge (as they are for me), pick a time to go that is not busy. This will vary from store to store, so ask a clerk when it is less busy.
- Try to avoid processed foods. Fresh produce, meat, dairy, breads and fish is located along the outer parts of the store, which helps save energy since you don’t need to go up and down each aisle. Mind you, if the store is not busy, going up and down the aisles is great exercise, which is also important for our brains.
- If taking items out of packages to store in smaller packages, make sure the expiry date is always written on the new packaging (i.e freezer bag).
- Develop a list of your favourite meals and keep it on the fridge or cupboard door.
- Enlist the help of a nutritionist to develop three or four weekly meal plans that can be rotated. A nutritionist will also be able to identify any vitamin supplements that will be beneficial to helping our brains function more efficiently.
Try to AVOID these foods
- Excessive sugar and sweets
A brain injury results in various changes not only to our emotions and abilities but it also affects our bodies’ overall function and gaining weight is common. So eating healthy will certainly help with maintaining our weight. Just as we seem to do better when routine is part of our day-to-day living, so does our brain. Eating at regular times is more important than ever now that our brains are not functioning as quickly and/or efficiently as they once did.
Celia M. BIST member
Have you discovered some great ways to eating healthy? Please share your suggestions in the comments section below.
Vegetable image by Simon Howden