University of Southern California Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Eating Healthy and Weight What is Healthy Eating? What Does Eating Have to Do with Pressure Ulcers? Eating, Exercise and Weight What Are Good Foods for People with Spinal Cord Injuries? Do You Need to Eat High Protein? If You Use the Internet...

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Eating Healthy and Weight

Eating rice

Eating right is a big part of staying healthy

We all hear about eating right. We all hear about having the right weight. It is on TV. It is in magazines.

What is the right weight? What is healthy to eat? There are many ideas about this. The truth is, each person has his or her own answer. You have to find what is right for you. (Your doctor or therapist can help you.)

What is Healthy Eating?

The government's ChooseMyPlate system tries to help people eat right

Ask your doctor to help you choose the best foods to eat. Your doctor will know which foods are best for you.

There are books with diets. Each diet is different! These books might not help people who have health problems. It is better to ask your doctor about eating.

The government wants to help people eat right. They have made a guide for eating healthy. It is called ChooseMyPlate. (They also say to exercise for health.) You can learn about good foods from the government's website. It is called

Other experts have made a healthy eating plate. They are from the Harvard School of Public Health. Theirs is healthy, too. They also have useful tips in a book called Eat, Drink, & Be Healthy, by Dr. Walter C. Willett.

These websites can help you learn about food. The book can help you learn, too. Who has the best eating tips for you? Your doctor.

What Does Eating Have to Do with Pressure Ulcers?

Man eating apple

Eating healthily keeps your weight down and helps your skin stay strong

People with a spinal cord injury need to do healthy things. It helps them stay healthy. It helps prevent pressure ulcers (which is what a doctor or nurse calls pressure sores or bedsores). Did you know:

Eating, Exercise and Weight

Ice cream

Brenda ate a lot of ice cream. She gained weight and had trouble breathing

It can be hard to exercise when you have a spinal cord injury. That can make it easy to gain weight. You have to eat right so you won't gain weight.

  • Brenda moved in with her boyfriend.
    • Her friends did not visit a lot.
    • Brenda missed seeing her friends.
    • Brenda got depressed.
    • Brenda ate ice cream when she felt depressed.
    • Brenda gained weight.
    • Brenda had trouble breathing because of her weight.
    • Brenda needed a tracheostomy.
  • Dave liked sweets.
    • Dave also liked scuba diving and fishing.
      • Doing these things helped his weight stay healthy.
    • Dave had a rod in his spine.
      • The rod broke.
      • Dave needed surgery.
    • Dave couldn't dive or fish after surgery.
    • Dave gained weight.
    • Dave chose to have surgery to help lose weight.
      • It is called gastric bypass. Many people call this "stomach stapling."

What Are Good Foods for People with Spinal Cord Injuries?

Protein food

Meat, fish, eggs and milk have protein. Bread has carbs

  • Low-fat protein (PROH-teen).
    • Protein foods are meats, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, beans, soy, lentils, Ensure® and so on.
      • Nuts have protein, but they also have fat.
        • The best nut is almonds.
          • Almonds have less fat.
          • They have Vitamin E.
          • Eat just a few almonds at a time.
          • Eight or ten almonds a day are good.
      • Low-fat proteins include chicken without the skin, turkey without the skin, fish, lean hamburger, beans, soy, low-fat cheese (like cottage cheese and mozzarella) and low-fat or fat-free yogurt.
    • Protein helps to build muscles.
    • Protein keeps your blood healthy and moving well.
    • Protein helps your skin heal.
    • Low fat helps you stay a good weight.
Assorted fruits

Fruit has carbs and fibre

  • Carbohydrates.
    • Starchy foods have carbohydrates.
      • Examples: side dishes like rice, potatoes, bread, grits, millet or corn.
      • The healthiest are brown rice and baked potatoes.
        • Whole grain breads are better than white bread.
        • Don't add butter! It has a lot of fat.
        • Try lemon, chopped green onions, low-fat margarine, soy margarine or low-fat sour cream instead.
    • Fruit and vegetables have carbohydrates.
      • They also have fiber.
        • Fiber helps bowel movements.
        • Fiber makes bowel movements easier.
    • Baked goodies have carbohydrates.
      • Many baked goodies have too much sugar.
        • Examples: cookies, cakes, brownies, pies.
        • Don't eat too much sugar! You can gain weight.
  • Vitamins and minerals.
    • Vitamins include Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin C and Vitamin D.
    • Minerals include calcium, iron and zinc.
      • Pressure ulcers hurt skin, muscles and bones.
      • Vitamins and minerals help to heal skin.
      • Vitamins and minerals help keep skin strong.
      • Vitamins and minerals help to heal muscles.
      • Vitamins and minerals help to heal bones.
    • Vitamins and minerals are in vitamin pills.
      • Your doctor might tell you to take a vitamin pill.
    • Vitamins and minerals are also in good food.
      • Vitamins are in protein, fruit and vegetables.
      • Minerals are in protein and vegetables.
        • The most minerals are in dark green, leafy vegetables.
      • Frying food hurts the vitamins and minerals in it.
        • Grilling food without oil helps keep the vitamins and minerals.
        • Fresh, raw fruits and vegetables have the most vitamins and minerals.
    • The best way to get vitamins and minerals is eating good food.
Bottle of water

You should drink lots of water

  • Water is very good for your body.
    • Coffee and tea are not good to drink.
      • They can make you more thirsty.
      • They can make it hard to fall asleep.
    • Sodas, like Sprite and Pepsi, are not good to drink.
      • They have too much sugar.
      • They can make you more thirsty.
      • They can make it hard to fall asleep.
    • Juice has a lot of sugar.
    • Ask your doctor how much water to drink.
      • Eight glasses is right for a lot of people.
      • Do you like lemon in your water? Do you like lime? Do you like orange? Those all taste good!
  • Good food gives your body energy!

Here is a good example. Alma eats very healthy foods.

  • Alma likes to eat chicken.
  • Alma likes to eat salads.
  • Alma likes to eat vegetables.
  • Alma is very healthy.

Do You Need to Eat High Protein?

Some people need to eat more when they are sick. They need food to help them heal. People with pressure ulcers need a lot of protein.

Here are two stories of people who helped with this project. They had to eat more protein. They each had their own feelings.

  • Alley got a pressure ulcer.
    • Alley had to have surgery.
    • The doctor told Alley to eat more protein in the hospital.
    • Alley had to drink protein drinks and eat meals.
    • Alley felt full all the time.
    • It was hard for Alley to eat more protein.
  • Frank likes to eat a lot of protein.
    • Frank sees that protein helps his skin.
    • Eating protein makes Frank's skin stronger.
    • Eating protein helps Frank's skin heal faster when there is a red spot.

What foods are best for you? What weight is best for you? Your doctor will help you decide!

If You Use the Internet...

Using the Internet

If you like to use your computer to learn more about things, try these websites with information about "Eating Healthy and Weight":