Keeping fit and healthy – Feel Good February

Tips to stay fit and healthy

apetito is a world leading name when it comes to nutrition and eating for health – the company is renowned for its work within the health and social care sectors including care homes, hospitals, and community care.  Here, apetito’s Dietitian, Emily Stuart, shares some easy hints and tips with care workers as to how they can stay fit and healthy whilst working in the toughest conditions, devoting extraordinary hours, and giving tireless support to the residents and patients that rely on their services during this unprecedented time…


“As I write, the statistics released by government each day, make grim reading.   And, here at apetito we know just how tough it is for care workers right now.   Amidst long shifts, staffing shortages (which may be due to illness or self-isolating, or sheer increased demand and need), it’s easy during these winter months for us all to ignore our own health, or simply forget how important it is to look after ourselves.

Ensuring we stay fit and healthy during these times of immense pressure is vital to enable us to continue to support and care for those who need help the most.  And this month is ‘Feel Good February’ and The Care Workers’ Charity has approached us as nutritional experts to share a few easy ways in which care workers can help themselves.

There are some straightforward wins during the day that will help your general health and wellness – indeed, some of this is common sense, but when under immense pressure, it’s easy to forget that little things can make a big difference.

For example, care workers traditionally spend a lot of time on their feet and if this the case, try to make time for some quick breaks during the day when you can take the weight off your feet.  Conversely, if you have been inside all day, pop out for some fresh air (if possible), setting aside some time for relaxation/winding down when you finish your shift.

Exercise is always important – you may like to consider walking to work (if it is within striking distance), especially as the nights get lighter and the days get longer.    Fresh air is a wonderful boost to the body!  Exercise is undoubtedly difficult when you are tired or working long shifts but even a short walk or a quick burst of Yoga (try YouTube) or some chair exercises discreetly whilst you are sitting at work.  You will find that exercise re-energises the mind and the body – it all helps.

Make sure you truly switch off from work once you are home and do the things you enjoy as far as you can under the rules of the pandemic.  Feeling happy inside, can help you feel better in every sense.

Try meditation for help with mental health and it may help you relax, aid sleep, and reduce anxiety. There are lots of apps offering free 10-minute meditations, e.g., Headspace or Insight Timer.

The old adage:  ‘It’s good to talk’ holds true.  Do talk to colleagues or your family if you are having a tough time and you will find this will help – it has been a truly extraordinary and difficult time for care homes and care workers, and there are many benefits to talking about those experiences.

Nutrition and hydration remain at the forefront of good health and drinking plenty of fluids is as crucial for workers as it is for residents.  The Eatwell Guide (Public Health England) says we should drink between 6 – 8 glasses of fluid a day.

This includes water, lower fat milk and sugar free drinks, including tea and coffee.  Yes, these do all count and don’t forget that care homes can often be warm, so you may need more fluid than you would if you were working in a cooler environment.   Good hydration will help you avoid headaches and can boost concentration.

We know that some care workers tend to load up on caffeine to get you through a night shift.  Easier said than done, but if you can avoid it, you will probably sleep better when it comes to clocking off.

Try and eat regular meals and aim for a balanced plate containing carbohydrate (slow release/wholegrain starchy carbs are best for sustained energy release e.g., brown bread, rice, pasta, other wholegrains), a good protein source and a variety of fruit and vegetables/salad (aiming for at least 5/day).  And, whilst writing, let’s dispel the myth that nutrition has to be expensive.  It genuinely doesn’t need to cost the earth – it just needs a bit of forethought, and don’t forget that frozen, canned and dried fruit and vegetables can all count toward your 5-a-day.

Good nutrition doesn’t have to come in the form of a full ‘meal’.  Enjoying a wholegrain bread sandwich with protein and salad, with some extra raw veg and dip and a yoghurt and piece of fruit ticks the ‘balance’ boxes too.  Do check out The Eatwell Guide which gives an excellent steer on how to create a balanced meal.

This is the tough one, as we all love to snack, but do try and avoid snacking on sugary foods between meals/during your shift.  These foods are fine to eat occasionally, but they shouldn’t make up the mainstay of your snacks as whilst they give a boost of energy, they offer fewer valuable nutrients than healthier foods such as fruit, veg, plain/lower sugar yoghurts or wholegrain starchy carb snacks and will not help you sustain good energy levels.  Fruit, low sugar energy bars, raw vegetables or protein can make a good replacement – look to choose foods that you personally enjoy.

If you enjoy an after-work drink to wind down (and many of us do!) – try to stick within the recommended healthy limits.  On a daily basis, that‘s 2 -3 units for women and 3 – 4 units for men.  Using alcohol to relax/sleep after difficult shifts can be tempting, but the after-effects can build up and leave you feeling tired, lethargic, or suffering with dehydration.

As a world leader in specialist nutrition, great food is our business!  We provide delicious food that we’re really proud to serve to care homes’ residents, hospital patients, and at home through community meals.   We know how important it is to you to continue to care for those who depend on you, and we also know how much they mean to you and that you don’t want to let people down.

So do take a few minutes to just consider your own health and wellness and may be make a few small changes to your daily routine and your diet that will really help make a difference to your well-being.  Remember, that small changes can make a BIG impact on keeping you well and healthy.

Author, Emily Stuart – Nutritionist at apetito