Nutritional Advice for Parents

How to care for yourself while you are caring for your child.

Written by Nicole James - 
Clinical Nutritionist (BSc, BHSc Nutritional Medicine)
  Fundamental Nutrition 

Caring for yourself while you are caring for your child is so important, and these simple tips can really help make a difference in your overall well being.

When a child is diagnosed with a serious, rare or chronic illness, daily routines can often fall by the wayside, as you take on the additional responsibilities that come with caring for your child.

Unsurprisingly, stress can be at its highest, with fatigue and sleepless nights likely to be a problem. All of your time and energy being used to provide support and care for you child, not to mention the additional stress of trying to juggle the demands of keeping the household running, especially if you have other children to keep in a 'normal' routine.

It is during this time that being there physically and in good health yourself is an absolute must. Although it may seem that putting yourself last is the only way, the truth is that this can lead to an increase in your own health challenges. One of the things you can do differently is choose different food to nourish and support YOU.

When we are tired we often reach for quick and easy meals that are high in carbohydrates, sugar and bad fats. Often these can give us instant energy and a pick me up, however as fast as you pick up, the downward slope is just as fast. These foods are often devoid of vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy, sharp and pull you through the ‘fight flight’ rollercoaster.

When you are stressed your body releases a hormone called cortisol from your adrenal glands. Cortisol helps us deal with situations by increasing adrenaline, increasing blood pressure, releasing sugars into our blood stream and switching off our immune system so we can go into ‘fight flight’. The problem is when we stay in this stressed state, these functions are happening all the time. This is where health issues can start to occur.  It is easier said than done to just get out of your stressed state when you have a sick child, however you can support your adrenal glands nutritionally to be able to cope better throughout your family's journey with serious illness.

Below are some tips to help support you and your family:

Try to have some protein and good fats in the morning – this will help stabilise blood sugar levels throughout the day e.g. eggs, avocados, protein powder smoothies.

Cut up some veggie sticks on the weekend and keep dip or nut butters with you so you have a good nutritious snack e.g. carrot sticks with hummus dip.

Make dinners in big batches so you have enough left over for lunches or dinners when you get home late. Stews, casseroles, and curries are a few examples of foods that can be made in larger portions. I also recommend buying a slow cooker if possible, so that dinner is ready when you get home. You can add lots of veggies to these as well.

Coffee can be a great pick me up, but too much can put added stress on the adrenal glands. Where possible, try to limit your coffee to just 2 cups a day (max) and if you can, substitute some for decaf. Herbal teas are also a good option.

Drink plenty of water – 2 litres/day is recommended for most adults.

Download the free app called 'Headspace'. This is a great meditation app which you can do everyday (it’s only 10 minutes) to help give your mind a small break from the daily stresses you may be experiencing.

Foods rich in Vitamin C, B Vitamins and Magnesium help with stress. You can obtain these in foods such as green, leafy vegetables, colourful vegetables and fruit, nuts, and eggs. Some people will benefit in great times of stress to supplement these nutrients. Be sure to ask at your health food store for good brands of these supplements.

•     Eat plenty of fish. The omega-3 fats from fish may help you think clearly and reduce anxiety/depression, reduce inflammation in the body and help lower blood pressure.


Below is an example of a basic, nutritious diet for a day:


Eggs (scrambled, poached or fried) with some cooked vegetables – tomato, mushroom, avocado


Oats with full fat yoghurt and blueberries

Morning tea/Snack

Full fat Greek or coconut yoghurt (avoid sweetened) with a handful of almonds

- OR-

A piece of fruit


Left overs from dinner

- OR -

Chicken or salmon/tuna wrap with lots of salad such as baby spinach, cucumber, tomato, lettuce, capsicum

Afternoon Tea/Snack      

Carrot/celery sticks with a dip or a 100% nut butter
- OR -

A piece of fruit


Meat, chicken or fish with spinach, broccoli, cauliflower and carrots drizzled with lemon and olive oil

- OR -

Chicken curry with vegetables and ‘cauliflower rice’


Want to learn more?

Little Heroes Foundation is excited to be supported by Nicole James, an Adelaide-based Clinical Nutritionist, who works with corporate businesses, not-for-profit organisations, Aboriginal women going through drug and alcohol rehabilitation, local government, and individuals. She is committed and passionate about making a difference to the lives of all individuals educating the importance of using Food as Medicine.  With 18 years experience in the medical industry, Nicole is aware of the physical and emotional benefits that can be gained from a balanced, nutrient-rich diet. Her experience in these two worlds also enables her to provide a balanced approached in both her education and treatment of all her clients.

"If you would like more specific dietary advice for anyone in your family, I would love to help you.  Please call 0478 295 595 to make an appointment!"

Nicole James
(BSc, BHSc Nutritional Medicine)

Clinical Nutritionist

M: 0478 295 595