After a stroke you may find that you need to make some changes to what you eat. You may have difficulty eating or drinking and may need to change the consistency of your food or drinks. You may be advised to change the types of foods you eat to be lower in cholesterol and/or salt to reduce your chances of having another stroke.
Eating a healthy diet can reduce your risk of having another stroke. Eating a diet low in fat and salt and high in fruits and vegetables reduces the risk factors for another stroke like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, being overweight and diabetes. There may also be foods that interact with new medications you are taking after a stroke requiring you to avoid them.
After a stroke, there is a higher risk of poor nutrition (not getting enough nutrients through eating or drinking). This can mean you lose weight which may slow down your recovery. Poor nutrition can be due to:
- Swallowing problems (called dysphagia).
- Problems with arm/hand movements (for example, using a knife and fork).
- Problems with memory and thinking (for example, forgetting to eat).
- Loss of appetite (not feeling hungry).
Because no one food can provide your body with all the nutrients you need for good health, it is important to eat a variety of healthy foods every day.
- Fruits and Vegetables. You should eat plenty of fruits and vegetable, between 5-7 servings per day.
- Grains. Whole grain breads and cereals contain fiber and vitamins. They may reduce the risk of stroke. It is recommended that 2-4 small servings of whole grain daily.
- Lean protein. Limiting the amount of cholesterol you eat is another important step in reducing the risk of another stroke. Choose low-fat meats or other protein sources for 2 small servings per day.
- Limit salt. Eating too much salt/sodium may cause you to retain water and raise your blood pressure. Cut down on sodium by: using herbs and spices for flavoring; limiting processed and snack foods; not adding extra salt at the table; and reading labels and avoiding foods with high sodium content.
No two people have the same nutritional needs. You can talk with a registered dietician to learn how to plan and prepare meals and snacks that will enhance your recovery. The following tips will help you get started:
- Don’t miss breakfast—you will feel healthier, be less hungry, and snack less.
- Move the salt shaker off the table. Try adding herbs like coriander and basil, or spices like paprika, chili, and black pepper to season your food. Many prepared meals and snack foods contain huge amounts of ‘hidden’ salt – so check the food labels.
- Eat high-fiber foods. To lower your cholesterol eat more high-fiber foods likes beans, peas, nuts and oily fish (salmon and mackerel), as well as whole grains, such as oats. Use olive oil-based spreads rather than butter and try grilling your food rather than frying it. Always drain away excess oil or fat.
- Make the switch. Switch white pasta and rice for whole grain equivalents. You’ll feel full for longer and lower your risk of stroke.
- Make it easy. Keep a bowl of fruit or cleaned vegetable snacks handy. That way, you'll always have healthy snacks to munch on.
- Keep a food diary. A food diary can be a great way to keep track of what you are eating. You can use it to see what adjustments you need to make and to motivate you.
- Trick your brain. Use smaller plates and bowls to stay in control of your portion sizes.