Your guide to care and support

Meals, nutrition and feeding

Good nutrition is vital for the health and wellbeing of someone receiving care. It’s particularly important for someone who is recovering from an illness. Eating only a limited diet or not getting enough food can lead to malnutrition.

Malnutrition can be caused by:

If someone isn’t getting enough nutrients they may not respond well to medical treatment.

If you are a carer try to encourage good nutrition and hydration, and make meal times enjoyable for the person you care for. Basing meals and snacks on foods that are high in energy and protein may help. These include: meat, oily fish, eggs, nuts, full fat dairy, such as yoghurt or cheese. Offer small frequent meals and snacks every two to three hours. Warm milky drinks can also help to bump up nutrients and calories.

Avoiding dehydration

It’s recommended that adults drink the equivalent of six to eight glasses of fluid every day. It’s important to have access to water and other drinks throughout the day. But if your appetite is poor, avoid too many drinks just before meals. Read more about water and drinks.

Plan your mealtimes

Try to include favourite types of food in a weekly meal plan. If you’re a carer, make meal times a fun and social occasion by sitting down at the table and eating together. Get more tips on food and diet.

Specific nutritional needs

Carers also need to be aware of any difficulties the person you care for may have that will affect the type of food they can eat. For example, they may have food allergies or have diabetes. Do speak to their GP if you are not sure what their nutritional needs are.

Support with eating and drinking

If someone struggles with cups or cutlery there is specialist equipment, such as no-spill cups and easy-to-handle knives and forks, available to help. Mention this difficulty at the community care assessment to see if any help is available from social services. The website Living made easy, run by the Disabled Living Foundation, has information about the different types of eating and drinking aids available.

Swallowing difficulties

Anyone who has difficulty swallowing their food should contact their GP, who may refer to a specialist for help.

For some conditions, this specialist help may include nutritional supplements or alternative feeding methods, such as a nasogastric tube or percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) tube, which is surgically implanted into the stomach. Read more about malnutrition treatment.

‘Meals on wheels’

If you can’t shop for, prepare or cook a meal, then the council may be able to help you by delivering ready meals to you at home. This is commonly known as ‘meals on wheels’, but local authorities often refer to ‘meals at home’ services.

Usually a meals on wheels service will provide a hot meal with dessert. Some local authorities provide frozen meals which can then be heated in a microwave, giving you more control over when you eat.

There is usually a charge for the meals on wheels service, and the service is usually only offered after the council has looked at whether you need it. The council will give you a 'service agreement' with details of when you will receive meals, how much they will cost and contact details for the person managing the meals on wheels service.

Meals on wheels services generally cater for all types of meal, including:

  • vegetarian
  • soft and puréed meals
  • meals for diabetics
  • low-fat meals
  • gluten-free meals
  • culturally-appropriate menus, such as kosher or halal

Page last reviewed: 15/01/2015

Next review due: 15/01/2017

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Next review due: 27/04/2017