This post has been open on my laptop for weeks now as I try to put together a succinct post about the changes we’ve made and the challenges we’ve faced since my husband had a stroke 4 months ago. This is the three months progress post and I want to talk about how we’re managing healthy eating after a stroke and how our diet has changed in three months.
I can safely say that our diet has changed beyond all recognition and our food choices are day and night different from what they were before.
As you know, I felt a lot of fear and overwhelm surrounding food and diet when my husband came back from hospital. My husband’s stroke was caused by high blood pressure and high cholesterol, so reducing these through food was my focus. I got such a lot of support from my amazing friend who shared many resources including this guide to Healthy Eating After a Stroke by the UK Stroke Association. But still, how to eat in a way that was both healthy and great tasting was the thing I really struggled with at first and it was also the thing that inspired me to write this blog.
Looking back, at the past four months I am allowing myself to take a deep breath in acknowledgment that I am managing to do the thing that scared me most in the beginning. We are eating well and healthily and bar a couple of weird meals, it’s all tasted pretty good too. Apart from the beginning when Nico thought he would waste away, nobody has actually starved, I’ve not poisoned anyone, and there have been no major complaints, not to my face anyway!
The accountability of writing this blog and sharing our weekly meals has really helped keep me going and for this post, I’m going to do a round-up of what healthy eating after a stroke looks like for us and how our diet is different three months on.
Things are the same, yet completely different
As I stood in tears in my kitchen the day we got back from the hospital looking at all the food we couldn’t eat, I knew things had to change and I was terrified. I didn’t know where to start or how it would affect us.
There have been ups and downs, mistakes and successes, and yes, what we eat is a far cry from what it was, but we’re still the same people and life is still more or less the same as it was too. However, the fear and overwhelm I experienced four months ago have almost completely gone but I still get the odd moment of panic, usually if I’ve forgotten to soak something! Overall, I think we’ve adapted really well and are settling into a routine that for now, is working quite nicely.
Without further ado, and in no particular order, here is what we’ve been eating, the changes, and the things that have stayed the same (not much is the same, to be honest!)
Overnight oats saved us and yes we still have them for breakfast every day and still enjoy the chopping, slicing, drizzling, and sprinkling as we add different toppings. And to think breakfast was usually a boring affair of something on toast.
I’ve not had a chip in 3 months.
Nico had chicken wings and chips last night and I cooked them together in a little frying pan like my Gran used to do. He said it was the best dinner ever! When the family was here, one of the meals my mother-in-law’s partner made was squid rings and chips. It wasn’t great, to be honest, because without drowning them in vinegar and coupled with a load of salt, the chips just weren’t the same.
That dinner reminded me how important it is to learn new dishes, include as much variety as possible, and be creative with herbs and spices, as I am still practicing. I think our health and taste buds deserve more than just the same food as before minus the salt.
I am still eating chocolate most nights but it’s now dark chocolate now and only a couple of squares. I do know that nothing bad will happen if I don’t have chocolate after dinner and it is something I am working on as I realise it’s not the best way to end the evening, not every day anyway.
On the after-dinner theme, we still have a little treat after dinner which is a habit we got into when we quit drinking. It was tea and cake for the longest time, then tea and chocolate. Over lockdown, it was cake again but now it’s fruit and yoghurt (for Mac and Nico anyway.) See above for what my treat is. Sometimes it is just fruit and we have been enjoying flapjack lately too. I don’t know, it is a nice way to end the day.
My hob has not needed to be cleaned as much unless the black beans bubble over, then it’s a total disaster. My gas bottle is lasting longer too which is just as well since it’s almost 20 Euros a bottle.
Dinner takes far less time to cook.
It’s quite surprising how many meals a jar of chickpeas produces.
Being prepared and organised is important if nobody wants to starve. I am neither of these things. However soaking beans and pulses are now a regular part of my daily routine, as is preparing the oats for the next day, and on the whole, I’m getting better at this.
‘My heart sank when I saw beans again’
Nico is doing really well only complained once when I gave him beans on toast for breakfast. ‘My heart sank when I saw beans again’ were his exact words – oh well!
We buy eggs every couple of weeks now whereas we used to go through about 15 eggs a week
I used to buy and eat a big packet of crisps almost every day. I’ve bought crisps maybe 5 times since coming out of hospital mostly for Nico although I will pinch one or two – I’ve not had a full bag of crisps to myself for ages and I am somehow managing to survive.
Instead of making a cake every few days, I alternate between flapjack and granola once a week or granola that was flapjack, depending on how it turns out.
Lunches are still a challenge
Chia seeds stick in your teeth
I am still not adding salt to anything
My 20 year old le Creuset pans are now stained with the juices of beans. Any tips on how to get them nice and clean again would be very much appreciated.
I am really happy with the way things are going and try to take it in my stride but it can be fucking exhausting sometimes.
All the thinking, planning, looking up of recipes, shopping, chopping, soaking, remembering, draining, rinsing, following recipes, negotiating long lists of ingredients, the actual cooking of food, tidying up, doing the dishes, and putting leftovers into Tupperware is incredibly time-consuming. It is tedious, never-ending, and has to be done three times a day, every day!
However, it is also soothing, calming, immensely satisfying, and the thing I held onto when we came home from hospital. Meal planning and cooking stopped me from falling apart and gave me something to focus on and ground myself in. I felt useful and like I was helping and doing something good.
How I feel about cooking depends on the kind of day I’m having.
Lately, cooking has felt a little bit like a chore which is why we’ve been eating more or less the same things most days (pan con tomate). What I’d really love is for someone to bring us food already cooked so all we have to do is sit down and eat it and not worry or think about it at all, better still a whole day like this would be wonderful.
Sometimes I eat bad things
Like the supermarket pasties, the chocolate, and the out-of-date, crappy instant noodles the other day. They were delicious and salty and really nice, but not in an ‘oh this tastes amazing’ kind of way but more of an ‘I don’t have to think or chop or soak or plan and they are ready in 4 minutes’ kind of way.
I had to have a couple of kiwis afterward though to make up for the guilt! Maybe I should learn how to make my own healthy super noodles.
Actually, there is no such thing as eating ‘bad things’ and I don’t ever want to vilify any food or food group, but since my husband’s stroke, there are certain foods I can no longer look in the eye.
We still eat meat but I find that it is lasting much longer because of all the bulking out with beans! We went from buying meat three or four times a week to twice a week and recently only once a week. If you’d asked me (or Mac) if we could cut our meat right down we would have said no.
The strange thing is that it has not been that hard once I got over the initial panic and we don’t really miss it like we thought we would.
Our out-in-the-woods breakfasts are now oats or granola and fruit whereas before it would have been a bacon sandwich.
We’ve not had a bacon sandwich in four months.
Two kiwis a day, do indeed keep you regular (thanks Kate)
Our coffee is decaffeinated, and our bread and rice wholegrain.
Snacks and nibbles are no longer crisps, salted peanuts, or nutella on toast, but are frozen grapes or oranges slices, flapjack, chopped-up fruit, nuts, or granola.
The effects of our diet on us
I think that pretty much sums us up where we are three months on, in terms of healthy eating after a stroke. But what of the difference it has made to us?
Well, my husband hasn’t been weighed yet but I can tell he has lost weight, you can see the difference and his clothes are feeling looser.
We both feel fitter and healthier than we have in a long time. I think my husband notices more than me since I am still eating chocolate!
Despite my afternoon naps and the going to bed at 8 pm, we both have more energy than we have in a long time.
There is no more horrible bloated feeling at the end of the day.
My husband’s blood pressure has gone way down. It was 116/79 this morning compared to the awful 228/124 when he went into hospital and even 139/85 on his first Sunday morning home. I know this is partly due to medication, but I’m pretty sure it’s the focus on healthy eating after a stroke too.
I am sure more things will pop into my head as soon as I hit publish so look out for those as they come to me! Otherwise, thanks for sticking with me this far, and as always, your support and encouragement are very much appreciated.