Food and Special Needs

Each of us is unique in our food and nutrition needs and this is no less true for those of us with various disabilities. I’ve begun to discover some of the special challenges and solutions to be encountered while I’ve been working with a heart warming non-profit society in Abbotsford called the HOME Society.

Food has often been used as a way of placating, distracting or rewarding people receiving special care. This can be particularly true for those with poor impulse control. The foods often chosen are high in fat, sugar, and salt but low in nutrition. Fast food is everywhere and can be hard to avoid. Also, immediately fulfilling a particular food craving can be tremendously important for people whose blood sugar plummets. Hypoglycemia, addictions, and diabetes tend to run in families. Certain medications, such as psychotropic drugs, can often lead to substantial weight gain, especially in the first three months of use.

People in wheelchairs or those who already have gained excess weight may have little inclination or opportunity to exercise. And it’s not only the people supported who are overweight; many caregivers also carry far more weight than they want to. Reversing the process can be a companionable activity.

A nutritious solution for some situations is a fruit tray, or a platter heaped with colourful raw vegetables. These can provide a low-calorie, healthy snack to serve when returning from an outing or while watching TV as well as an artistic accompaniment to festive meals, meetings, and special events. Fruit and veggie platters are also a great way to get vitamins, antioxidants, protective phytochemicals, and fibre.

If a platter is set out before a meal when people come by to check out what’s for dinner, they’ll nibble so many before dinner is served that you won’t need to worry that they won’t eat their veggies.


Raw Vegetable Platter
Choose from the following veggies, served on their own or with a dip such as hummus:

asparagus tips
broccoli florets
carrot sticks
cauliflower florets
celery sticks
cherry tomatoes
cucumber discs
green onions
green or snow pea pods
jicama sticks
mushrooms, sliced or whole
parsnip sticks
red, yellow, orange, or green pepper strips
snow peas or peas in the pod
sweet potato strips (dipped in water with a little lemon juice to prevent browning)
turnip strips
yam strips
zucchini strips
Hummus
This nourishing spread is high in protein, iron, magnesium, zinc, vitamin C, folate, and thiamin. One half cup provides 10 grams of protein. Also look for a variety of flavours of seasoned hummus in supermarket coolers, natural foods stores, and local markets.
The following recipe makes 2-1/2 cups:

2 cups cooked or canned chick-peas
1/3 cup tahini
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup water or the cooking water from the chick-peas
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
1-1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt (less if using canned beans)
Pinch cayenne pepper
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (optional)
1-2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (optional)

In the bowl of a food processor, combine chick-peas, tahini, lemon juice, water, garlic, cumin, salt and cayenne. Puree until smooth, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add parsley and olive oil and blend for 30 seconds. Add seasoning.

Vesanto Melina is a dietitian and author based in Langley, BC. Call            604-882-6782       for a personal consultation or visit www.nutrispeak.com
Also see www.healthyschoolfood.org to get a year’s worth of daily Wakeup Wellness Messages for for schools for a $50 donation.

 

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