March is National Nutrition Month! So what does nutrition have to do with physical therapy? For starters, with downtime spent in rest and healing, calorie needs are lower for most people recovering from an injury. Not only are you less active when you’re recovering from an injury or dealing with pain; but with less to do, it’s especially tempting to snack on less nutritious foods.
How can you keep a healthy balance of rest and recovery, while taking in the nutrients you need to heal? Well, we can tell you what not to do. Here are six common mistakes that could be sabotaging your chance for a healthy recovery (and your chance for a healthy life in general).
MISTAKE # 1: Skipping Breakfast
Even if you aren’t hungry, a healthy breakfast is essential to recovery and overall health. Not only does a good breakfast start your metabolism early in the day, studies have shown that a breakfast high in fiber and carbohydrates can help you feel more energized throughout the day.1
MISTAKE # 2: Following the Three-Meals-a-Day Policy
You heard that right. Don’t eat three meals a day. Instead, try to eat 5-6 “mini-meals” to prevent excessive hunger and overeating. This is especially helpful if your recovery leaves you with a lot of time on your hands. Eating five or six mini-meals gives you more to do throughout the day and it can help you avoid constant snacking. Have a good source of protein at all meals (eggs, lean meats, beans or legumes, peanut butter, tofu or low fat cheese) and a complex carbohydrate (high fiber cereal, whole grain toast, or fruit) along with plenty of vegetables.
MISTAKE # 3: Depriving Yourself of Snacks
Yes, I know, we just talked about avoiding constant snacking. But if you’re intentional in your meal planning, you can make snacking a part of your healthy recovery routine. Just use several of your mini-meals as “snack times” and take advantage of some delicious substitutes for traditional unhealthy snacks. Try these, as a start:
|crackers||a handful of nuts|
|chips and dip||toasted pita chips and hummus|
|a candy bar||a bowl of fruit|
|soda||real fruit juice|
If you find yourself wanting to snack even between your mini-meals, try sugarless gum or sugar free mints. They can be a good way to keep your mouth busy without consuming calories. Brushing your teeth is another way to make snacking less pleasurable.
MISTAKE # 4 Choosing Refined Foods Over Whole Foods
Not all rice (or bread or potatoes or cereal or even sugar) is created equal. White rice, white bread, white potatoes, white pasta, sugary or low fiber cereals, juice, Kool Aid or boxed drinks, soft drinks, and refined sugar are all examples of unhealthy nutrition choices. However, most of these foods have healthy alternatives. You can find whole grain bread and pasta in any grocery store, along with brown and/or wild rice. You only have to spend ten seconds in the cereal aisle to see that there are plenty of healthy options to replace your Fruit Loops. Even refined white sugar has a healthy alternative – raw sugar. Avoid refined foods as much as possible and look for raw or whole food alternatives to keep your body healthy and on the road to recovery.
MISTAKE # 5: Ignoring Your Body’s Sleep Needs
We’ve all heard the magic number – eight hours. But that’s not necessarily the magic number for everyone. According to Dr. Christopher Winter, medical director of the Martha Jefferson Hospital Sleep Medicine Center in Charlottesville, VA, individual sleep needs vary greatly.2 Dr. Winter suggests paying attention to your daily routine to discover if you’re getting not enough (or too much) sleep. For instance, if you often wake up before your alarm goes off, you may be getting more sleep than you need. If you have a hard time staying awake during the day, you’re probably not getting enough.
When you’re recovering from an injury, you may have more difficulty maintaining a healthy sleep routine. If you are unable to take part in your normal activities, you may be tempted to fill that time by napping. However, be careful not to oversaturate your body with sleep. Following a healthy sleep routine that fits your individual needs can result in a healthy metabolism, good health and more rapid healing.
MISTAKE # 6: Leaving Your Doctor Out of the Loop
Your doctor can be one of your best resources for staying healthy while recovering from an injury. Not only is your doctor familiar with your injury and with your recovery process so far, he or she also knows your general medical history and understands any medical conditions you might have that could alter your nutritional or health needs. Communication with your doctor is especially important if you plan to make any major changes in your diet.
Above all, remember to give yourself time. When you’re recovering from an injury, the days can feel like weeks and the weeks like years. But if you’re willing to wait it out, and take of yourself in the meantime…well, let’s just say, your body will thank you.
Read this article at SERC Therapy
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