Stroke Rehab Diet

Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D.
Care

If you've suffered from a stroke, using a stroke rehab diet not only aids in your recovery, but helps prevent another stroke from happening in the future. The National Stroke Foundation reports that up to 34 percent of stroke survivors suffer from malnutrition. Following a few simple diet tips and using a stroke rehab menu is a good place to start on the road to recovery.

Basics

People who have suffered from strokes generally don't have very good appetites. They may find it difficult to feed themselves due to poor hand-eye coordination, have problems remembering to eat, and experience difficulty swallowing food. Because of this:

  • Eat smaller, frequent, regular meals throughout the day.
  • Allow plenty of time to eat meals at a slow pace.
  • Cut foods up into small pieces if necessary.
  • Choose soft, easy-to-chew foods when possible.
  • Pick moist foods when possible.
  • Choose thicker liquids, as they are easier to swallow.
  • Aim for 8 to 10 cups of fluid daily, advises the Stroke Foundation.

Sodium Recommendations

If you've suffered from a stroke, it's important to watch your intake of sodium, because too much sodium increases your risk for high blood pressure -- which boosts your risk for heart disease and another stroke. When recovering from a stroke, Cleveland Clinic suggests getting no more than 2,000 milligrams of sodium daily, and no more than 1,500 milligrams per day if you have high blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, you've fully recovered from your stroke, and you can easily chew normal foods again, consider the DASH diet to help lower blood pressure.

Saturated Fat Guidelines

Because getting too much saturated fat can increase blood cholesterol levels (and your risk for another stroke), limit saturated fat when following a a diet to rehabilitate from a stroke. The American Heart Association suggests eating no more than 13 grams of saturated fat daily when following a 2,000-calorie diet. Saturated fat is found in high-fat meats, butter, regular cheese, cream, ice cream, and whole milk.

What About Fiber?

Many Americans fall short of meeting dietary fiber needs, but getting plenty of fiber lowers your risk for heart disease and stroke. Cleveland Clinic suggests the following fiber recommendations for people recovering from stroke:

  • Men 50 and under: 38 grams
  • Women 50 and under: 25 grams
  • Men over 50: 30 grams
  • Women over 50: 21 grams

High-fiber foods appropriate for stroke patients include soft fruits, soft vegetables, legumes, and grains.

Following a Diet for Stroke Rehab

Using a stroke rehab meal plan helps you create heart-healthy menus appropriate for patients recovering from stroke. Aim for the following daily amounts from various food groups:

Vegetables

Aim for 2.5 cups of soft, cooked vegetables daily. Cook the vegetables well so they are easy to chew and swallow. Veggies that work well include:

  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Asparagus
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Squash

Fruits

Eat two cups of soft fruits daily. If needed, you can cook fruits to soften them, or puree them in a blender or food processor. Fruits to consider include:

  • Bananas
  • Applesauce (unsweetened)
  • Ripe melon
  • Canned pears (packed in 100 percent fruit juice)
  • Canned peaches (packed in 100 percent fruit juice)

Grains and Starches

Add six ounces of well-cooked grains and starches to your daily diet, including:

  • Potatoes
  • Oatmeal
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Couscous
  • Cream of wheat

Dairy

Include 2.5 cups of low-fat dairy foods daily, such as:

  • Low-fat milk
  • Reduced-fat cheese
  • Sugar-free yogurt
  • Low-fat cottage cheese
  • Soymilk
  • Protein-fortified almond milk

Lean Proteins

Daily, you'll need 6 ounces of lean protein foods, including

  • Fish
  • Chicken
  • Eggs and egg whites
  • Tofu

Healthy Fats

Include 5 teaspoons of healthy fats daily, such as:

  • Avocado
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Fish oil
  • Plant-based oils
  • Avocadoes
  • Olives

Foods to Avoid

Steer clear of the following foods if you've had a stroke:

  • High-sodium foods
  • Sweets, added sugars, and sugary drinks
  • Alcohol (in excess)
  • Foods high in saturated fat (high-fat meats like bacon, cream, whole milk, butter, regular cheese, ice cream, etc.)
  • Hard foods

1,800 Calorie Meal Plan

The following 1,800-calorie meal plan works for many adults, but your individualized calorie needs vary based on your age, gender, and activity level. The following meal plan is based on getting the following number of servings from each food group:

Breakfast

  • 2 grains
  • 1 protein
  • 1 fruit

Snack

  • 1 fruit
  • 1 dairy

Lunch

  • 3 protein
  • 2 grains
  • 1 vegetable
  • 1 healthy fats

Snack

  • 1.5 dairy dairy
  • 2 healthy fats

Dinner

  • 2 protein
  • 2 grains
  • 1.5 vegetables
  • 2 healthy fats

Portion Sizes

The following lists portion sizes for each food group:

  • 1 fruit = 1 cup of fruit, or 1 cup of 100-percent fruit juice
  • 1 vegetable = 1 cup of vegetables, or 1 cup of vegetable juice
  • 1 ounce of grains/starches = 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of ready-to-eat breakfast cereal, 1/2 English muffin, 1/2 cup of oatmeal, 1 mini bagel, 1 small tortilla, or 1/2 cup of cooked rice or pasta
  • 1 protein = 1 ounce of meat, poultry, seafood, or fish, 1 egg, 2 ounces of tofu, 1 tablespoon of nut butter, or 1/4 cup of cooked legumes
  • 1 low-fat dairy = 1 cup of low-fat milk, 1 cup of soymilk, 1 cup of high-protein almond milk, 1 cup of yogurt, 2 cups of low-fat cottage cheese, or 1/3 cup of reduced-fat shredded cheese
  • 1 oil = 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon of Italian salad dressing, 1/6th of an avocado, 1/2 tablespoon of nut butter, or 8 olive

Sample Menu

This stroke rehab menu contains about 1,800 calories. It's recommend for people recovering from a stroke because it contains soft, easy-to-chew foods, is well-balanced, is low in sodium, saturated fat, and added sugar, and provides a calorie allotment that works for many adults.

Breakfast (348 calories)

  • 1 cup of oatmeal
  • 1 large hard boiled egg
  • 1 cup of 100-percent orange juice

Snack (235 calories)

  • 1 small banana
  • 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt

Lunch (471 calories)

  • 3 ounces of salmon
  • 1 cup of cooked peas
  • 1 cup of cooked couscous
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil

Snack (282 calories)

Protein smoothie containing:

  • 1 cup of soymilk or high-protein almond milk
  • 1/2 cup of plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
  • Ice

Dinner (462 calories)

  • 4 ounces of cooked tofu
  • 1 cup of cooked quinoa
  • 1.5 cups of cooked carrots
  • 2 teaspoons of olive oil

Bottom Line

Recovering from a stroke is no easy task but getting proper nutrition will help you get there faster. Making simple dietary changes and using a stroke rehab menu is a good place to start for recovery and prevention of future strokes.

Stroke Rehab Diet