Look after yourself: eating well

Sometimes the demands of caring can make it difficult to focus on household jobs. If you're too tired or busy to cook, or too stressed to eat properly, it can be easy to rely too much on pre-packaged or fast food. 

Food and eating are an important part of the way we live our lives. A good diet will improve your physical health and give you the strength and stamina you need to keep caring. A relaxed meal, in company and away from distractions, will also improve your social and emotional wellbeing.

Choose a balanced and varied diet

A well balanced diet includes all the nutrients our bodies need to function properly. It will include foods from each of the five major food groups:

  • bread, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles;
  • vegetables, fresh beans and peas;
  • fruit;
  • milk, yoghurt, cheese;
  • meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, dried beans and pulses.

It is important to eat a variety of foods from each group. Each food group is rich in different types of nutrients and different foods within each group provide more of some nutrients than others.

Try to eat plenty of plant foods (vegetables, legumes, fruit, cereal, rice and pasta), moderate amounts of animal foods (meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products) and small amounts of foods containing sugars, salt and oils.

Reduce fats and salts

Adult diets should be low in fat and some types of fat are better for you than others.

  • Saturated fats are found in red meat, poultry and dairy products and most commercially baked and deep-fried fast foods. They are easily deposited as fat tissue and can contribute to high blood cholesterol levels so you should try to reduce your intake.
  • Polyunsaturated and mono-unsaturated fats are found in fish and seafood, plant-based oils like olive or sunflower oil, avocados and nuts. They are thought to have some health benefits when eaten in small amounts as part of a healthy diet and you should use them to replace saturated fats in your diet as much as you can.

A high salt diet may contribute to a range of health problems, including high blood pressure. Try to reduce the amount of salt you add to your food and choose reduced or no salt versions of tinned and packaged foods.

Drink plenty of water

You need fresh supplies of water every day for most of your body functions. You become dehydrated when the water content of your body becomes too low. Dehydration can cause headaches, weakness and tiredness. It can also lead to mood changes and cause you to react more slowly to things.

You should try to drink six to eight 150ml glasses of fluid every day, including water, tea, juice and milk. Coffee and alcohol can contribute to dehydration, so you should not count these drinks as part of your recommended daily intake. 


For more information, read the fact sheets titled, Caring and stressManaging stressHealthy food for busy people and Find time to exercise