Handy food guide: Keeping an invalid happy

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I’ve had my fair share of spills and trips over the years, but I’ve never actually been an invalid. Until now. The very word for me spells it out – I’m invalid. As in, not valid. For anything. Anything that’s remotely useful, that is.

On February 18th, 2017, I was unfortunate enough to be riding a horse who spooked. I took the fall, expecting I’d end up with a few bruises. What I didn’t predict is that she’d reverse into another horse, causing her to rear again, so badly that this time she fell backwards completely – onto my femur.

Before I go on, please be assured – Dream is fine (left). She got a slightly grazed hock, but after an apple and her feed, she went right back to being the same old wonderful, if slightly nervy, horse that I have ridden hundreds of time, happily and without incident. (Thus proving that comfort food isn’t just for us humans.)

Unfortunately, I’m less fine. I’m incredibly lucky that this 560kg animal only fell on my femur – not my knee or pelvis – and she rolled left, off me, as opposed to right, which would have meant…well you can guess. I wouldn’t be here. But she has done a good job of breaking my femur in 7 places, which means I am now what’s going to be an airport nightmare. My left leg is now a complex maze of metal plates, screws and whatever else they needed to stick together the various bits of bone. So, I’m stuck with absolutely no weight bearing, at the moment, for 9 weeks. That’s no weight at all. Not even resting on toes. After this, I’ve still got a long road.

But I love my food, and I love my kitchen. Not even this can kick me out of my favourite room! So I thought I’d come up with a guide to being a food-loving invalid. Whether you do this yourself, or you ask others to help – these are a few ways I’ve found of making cooking, and eating, just a little easier when you’re a patient. Because this way, all I need to be is patient. Not invalid.

Guide to Patient cooking and eating

  • Get a good flask. Not a hip flask (although that might help at times too!) but a good, metal flask that keeps things hot (or cold) for up to 12 hours. At the beginning of the day, fill it with whatever you want most of – tea, coffee, soup, even casserole. Then it’s next to you, and it’ll last all day.
  • Get the slow cooker going. As long as you have a slow cooker, you’re good for hot meals. It’s a bit torturous, but, using a bag (or the basket on your walker), pick up everything you need to make your dish and put it on the side in front of you, along with a knife, chopping board and a bowl of water. Simply chuck everything for your dish in the slow cooker and turn it on. Make a decent amount – anything you don’t eat can be saved into individual portions for you for another day. I tend to make up my slow cooker meals as I go along, but Allyson Gofton’s latest book, (Penguin Random House, $50.00) has loads of simple recipes that need very little extra work.
  • Keep healthy snacks on hand. It’s far too much like hard work to cook every meal, so try to avoid the temptation of devouring a packet of biscuits by making sure you’ve always got other options. Making a bunch of
    crudites – raw broccoli, cabbage, carrots, even thin beetroot sticks – and keeping them in individual pots in the fridge means you’ll always have something on hand that won’t see you piling on the weight while you’re immobile.
  • Avoid the grill. Chances are that a grill is at least chest-height, and it’s very hard indeed to pull a red-hot tray out of a grill while standing on one leg! If you want a toastie or panini, use a sandwich maker.
  • Utilise your freezer. If friends offer to make food, take them up on it – then divvy it up, and pop it in the freezer. Fish pie, lasagne, leftover roast meat – whatever it is, stick it in the freezer, and just take one out every night.

Putting the good back in

What you eat can significantly affect how fast a wound heals.

1: Protein is vital – eat at least 2-3 servings of protein a day. Meat, eggs, peanut butter and beans are all great sources of protein – one boiled egg contains 13g of protein.

2: Fats are also essential to heal cell membranes – avocado, milk and cheese are all good fat sources, as are healthy cooking oils, like avocado, olive and peanut oil.

3: Don’t cut the carbs – just eat good ones. Brown rice, bananas and low-sugar cereals like Weet-Bix are good sources of carbohydrate that are also rich in fibre – a good idea if you’re on severalmedications.

4: Vitamin A is crucial for wound healing as it helps fight infection and can help control inflammation. Kumara, capsicum, carrots, dark leafy greens (check with your doctor if you’re on blood thinners), fish and liver are all high in Vitamin A. Quick note: don’t overdo Vita min A, and always eat with fats to help absorption.

Finally, find something to smile about! There’s increasing evidence that fatty fish like tuna, salmon and sardines can boost your mood, as can carbs (the right ones). So if you’re sad, treat yourself to a toasted muffin with blueberry jam. It’s for medicinal purposes!

  • Sara


    Read your article in NZ Herald wanted to send good wishes on your recovery! 7 places, that’s impressive 😛 I broke my femur 2.5 years ago, and back on my feet feeling strong. Hope you’re managing good rest, and keeping busy as best you can. For now, hope those nurses are good to you when you visit the dr, and if all is going well, you are in physio, no matter how slow you go, keep going!

    • Catherine Milford

      Hi Sara – thanks very much for your message! Yep I did a bit of damage – but that’s what you get when a 700kg horse lands on you! I was lucky it was just my leg. Getting better every day thank you – and I’ve learned to cook very well on one leg!

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