Getting proper nutrition is vital for stroke recovery, but many stroke patients struggle with eating. This may be due to appetite loss, problems moving arms and hands, trouble remembering when to eat, and difficulty with chewing and swallowing. If your loved one has recently had a stroke, following these diet and nutrition tips may aid their recovery. This article tackles how to make sure your loved one eats, including recipe tips for soft foods that are easy to chew and swallow, diet pointers for stroke patients with diabetes, and supplements for stroke recovery.
Remember to consult your loved one’s doctor about their stroke recovery meal plan to ensure that it is safe. Advice read online will not apply to every patient.
Encouraging Eating Despite Low Appetite After a Stroke
In addition to difficulty chewing and swallowing, stroke patients may find eating difficult due to a lack of appetite. Here are a few ways family caregivers can make sure their loved ones eat:
- Pay attention to what foods the stroke patient finds most palatable. Your loved one recovering from a stroke will be most likely to eat their favorite foods as long as they can chew and swallow them. Try to serve the most nutrition-dense foods that are delicious to your loved one. More information about specific foods is covered in the next section.
- Set specific times for meals to form a routine. Sharing mealtime with your loved one will also help to make the activity more social and enjoyable. Be patient, and do not rush your loved one to finish eating.
- Serve food when your loved one has the most energy. This is typically earlier in the day.
- Encourage the patient to eat higher calorie and more substantial, nutrient-dense foods first.
Soft Foods That Are Easy for Stroke Patients to Eat:
- Pureed fruits and vegetables: Fruit and vegetables can be pureed with milk to both make them easier to eat and add nutritional value. Try experimenting with making smoothies in the blender!
- Yogurt: Yogurt is one of the best foods for stroke patients because it is very easy to eat and also a great source of protein and some yogurts contain probiotics which aid in digestive health.
- Custard or jello: These sweet treats have high palatability, which may make eating easier.
- Porridge with milk: Eating warm porridges like oatmeal is an easier way for stroke patients to get grains than bread or rice.
- Soft scrambled eggs: Eggs contain protein and a variety of beneficial nutrients including choline, biotin, and vitamin B12, and scrambled eggs should be easy to eat.
- Liquid meal substitutes: While nutrition from whole foods is ideal if possible, protein shakes and other meal supplements can be helpful for stroke patients who have difficulty preparing and chewing food.
Stay away from any foods that are either sticky or dry like peanut butter or rice, as these will be very difficult to swallow even if they can be chewed. If your loved one can eat but has trouble gripping utensils, look into specialized appliances for stroke patients like Liftware. These utensils may be designed with cushioned grips or straps that attach to the hand.
Food for Stroke Patients With Diabetes
Stroke survivors with diabetes have specific health concerns that should be addressed through their diet under guidance from a doctor. In general, the diet recommendations for stroke recovery are fairly similar to those for diabetics. Stroke patients are often instructed to focus on eating lean protein and nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables while limiting sugar, salt, and fats. Many liquid meal substitutes contain large amounts of added sugar, as do a lot of soft, palatable foods including most yogurts, puddings, and jellos. Make sure to be careful about these and choose sugar-free versions if caring for a stroke patient with diabetes.
Nutritional Supplements for Stroke Recovery
- Potassium: Potassium controls blood pressure and may result in a better outcome after a stroke. Bananas, which can be easily eaten when pureed, are rich in potassium.
- Omega-3: Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish and a variety of other natural sources, but they can also be consumed as a supplement. Omega-3 is linked to both stroke prevention and stroke recovery.
- Vitamin B3: Studies suggest that Vitamin B3, found in high levels in turkey and other natural sources, can help recover brain function after a stroke.
- Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): CoQ10 is an antioxidant that protects body tissues including brain tissues damaged by a stroke.
It is essential to check with a doctor about supplements used during stroke recovery. Certain vitamins and supplements may interfere with medications. For instance, if your loved one is taking a blood thinner, supplements with blood-thinning properties can cause complications. An example of this is ginkgo biloba, which is sometimes recommended for stroke patients due to its positive impact on cognitive function but must be used with caution along with medications.
Get Home Care and Meal Assistance for Stroke Recovery Patients
Does your loved one need extra help with getting nutrition in the aftermath of a stroke? Accessible Home Health Care’s in home caregivers can provide assistance with meal preparation and food shopping or just basic companionship. If you need respite care for a stroke patient, post-op care for a loved one in recovery, or simply want more assistance around the home, our caregivers are here to help! Contact us to learn more about our compassionate home care services.