Promoting A Healthy Lifestyle For People With Developmental Disabilities

“You are what you eat”


This phrase simply tells us that if we want to stay healthy and fit we must eat nutritious food.

In 1826, the French lawyer Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote, in Physiologie du Gout, ou Meditations de Gastronomie Transcendante:

“Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es.”
Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.”

Promoting a healthy lifestyle is important in this pandemic outbreak. We must stay healthy all the time to boost our immune system from the virus. Senior citizens, people with underlying health conditions and immunocompromised patients are the people at higher risk to be infected with the virus. People with disabilities with an underlying condition such as chronic lung disease, a serious heart condition, or a weakened immune system are at risk, and as a direct support professional, it is our duty to protect the vulnerable and make sure that they maintain a healthy lifestyle.


Before the COVID-19 outbreak, most of us were guilty of indulging in junk food, ordering food from fast-food chains, drinking alcoholic beverages and soda and eating chocolates to satisfy our cravings. So, many of us were actually abusing our bodies by enjoying hamburgers every day, eating processed foods, or drinking sodas. If you change what you eat and monitor the intake of calories, you may be shocked to see how your body might respond.


It is important to set up meals for our clients to ensure that they will have all the nutrition required on a daily basis. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is not easy at first, most of us are accustomed to eating food that we crave and often neglect nutritious food. Setting up a meal plan for our clients individually should be a fun activity. This coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented and we cannot foretell when this crisis will really end. Almost everything happening around the world right now looks to be out of our control. Instead of worrying about things we can’t change, let’s focus on the things we can control.




We can slow down the spread of the virus by staying at home as much as possible. That may not be easy, but right now, it’s our responsibility. Most of us will be fine if we get the virus. It is not a time to think about yourself, but to think about the people you could be infecting. Be a part of the solution, and stay home when you can. Direct support professionals are doing what they are trained to do – supporting people with disabilities despite the outbreak while practicing protocols to ensure the safety of their clients. We can control how responsible we are right now.


For starters, fast food is delicious and cheap, and often the only way that many busy people can feed themselves. It is our guilty pleasure. Come to think of it, we don’t need to be told that organic grilled chicken and vegetable salad is healthier than a Double Whopper with cheese. Truth be told, it’s a bad habit that is hard to pay attention to when we are busy with our everyday activities. We can always prepare a hearty but healthy meal plan for our clients. As direct support professionals, it is their job to assist clients in preparing a meal. Cooking with them could be a fun bonding activity and DSPs can develop a set of meal plans for a week that allow them to enjoy healthy food.


If we have certain health goals, it would be much easier to focus on staying healthy than over indulge in junk foods and eating to subdue stress. Our lack of discipline can be our biggest rivalry when it comes to staying healthy. Direct support professionals help clients overcome these challenges by reminding them to eat healthy, take vitamins and engage in some basic physical activities like yoga, aerobics, dancing, or swimming to stay fit and active. It is not just the food that we eat that is important in staying healthy. There are a lot of factors that we must consider. It is also important for all of us to have enough sleep and maintain positive thoughts in this pandemic.


With the help of direct support professionals, the families of the people with disabilities can be at ease knowing that their loved ones are in good hands. We even monitor the food intake of our clients, since part of the job of a DSP is to make sure this is recorded for convenience and health. Direct support professionals create a variety of meal plans.


They include:


  • A variety of fruits and vegetables
  • A variety of protein including eggs, fish, chicken, meat
  • Dairy foods – (This includes a mix of yogurt, cheese and milk but if digestion is an issue, products like soy, rice or almond substitutes with calcium added are considered.)


Digging into a healthy diet is much more fun if you share it with your friends and family. And a very important thing to remember in keeping our lifestyle safe is to stay hydrated. It is a good idea to make sure there are bottles of water handy during activities and also monitoring water intake throughout the day.


Changes are a big step towards a better life. Staying healthy and fit requires a lot of discipline. We can get reach goals that are health related if we put effort into maintaining a balanced lifestyle. Change from “trying harder” to “trying differently.”