Laura’s husband Martin was in a car accident. As soon as she received the call, she rushed to the hospital to be by his side. She hadn't had lunch, and by the time he was stabilized, Laura hadn't eaten all day. So she grabbed a snack from the hospital vending machine.

Her husband was finally admitted overnight, and after discussing his condition with the doctors, Laura needed to get home to their two children. Along the way, she picked up some fast food because she was tired and wouldn't want to cook when she got home.

Founding habits

This is how many caregivers fall into an unhealthy pattern of not taking care of themselves. Eating well isn’t easy when you’re a caregiver. Doctor appointments get in the way of grocery shopping. You often don't have the time or energy to cook. As a family caregiver, you're spending an average of 24 hours per week providing care.

“Eating right doesn't have to be confusing or complicated.”

When Martin had his accident, he sustained a broken leg and a broken arm. He needed a wheelchair to get around. His injuries complicated everyday tasks like getting into bed or the shower.

Laura weighs 135 pounds. Martin is 190 pounds. She needed all her strength to help lift him into the wheelchair, the bathroom or the car.

Why eat right

If you're like Laura, a combination of missed meals and fast food isn't going to cut it. You need to eat healthy to keep your strength up. We know that caregiving stress can affect your eating habits. Some caregivers tend to skip meals and not eat much at all. Others will eat anything in sight.

Eating right doesn't have to be confusing or complicated. Start with protein. As we age, we lose 8 percent of our muscle mass every decade after the age of 40. Protein helps sustain muscle mass, and muscles promote body weight control, bone strength and resistance to disease.

Due to stress, caregivers are at higher risk for diabetes, high blood pressure and other illnesses. But a healthy diet can help protect you. There are some easy steps every caregiver can take toward eating healthier. Avoid skipping meals. Stay hydrated. Pack a lunch if you’re going to be taking the patient to treatment during the day. Stock up on healthy snacks and always have them on hand.

As a family caregiver, you do this out of love. Just as love makes the spirit strong, good nutrition makes the caregiver's body strong.