Nutrition Bulletin, vol.48, no.1, pp.74-90, 2023 (Scopus)
© 2023 The Authors. Nutrition Bulletin published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Nutrition Foundation.People with intellectual disabilities generally have poorer health outcomes compared with those who do not, including outcomes related to nutrition-related non-communicable diseases. Carers support people with intellectual disabilities in many aspects including habitual shopping and preparation of food, but their own nutrition knowledge and the influence this may have on dietary intakes of clients is unknown. We explored the nutrition knowledge of carers of people with intellectual disabilities in residential care settings, their dietary habits and their influence on clients' food shopping and preparation and therefore the diet consumed by their clients. Ninety-seven carers belonging to a large independent care sector organisation specialising in the care of people with an intellectual disability completed a validated general nutrition knowledge and behaviour questionnaire. Seventeen carers from the residential care settings were interviewed to contextualise practice. Knowledge about key dietary recommendations scored highly. Carers who had more work experience were found to have higher scores in ‘making everyday food choices’ (p = 0.034). Daily consumption of fruit and vegetables (at least one portion per day) was observed (for fruit by 46% of the carers and for vegetables by 60% of the carers), whilst most carers reported avoiding consuming full-fat dairy products, sugary foods and fried foods. The concept of a healthy diet; typical dietary habits of clients; role in food acquisition; and training in nutrition emerged as themes from the interviews. Carers discussed various topics including the importance of a balanced diet, cooking fresh foods and control of food portion sizes for clients relative to the care philosophy of a client-centred approach, which encapsulates client autonomy. Gaps in knowledge around specific nutrients, making healthy choices and cooking skills remain. Carers have an influence on clients' dietary choices; they are able to provide healthy meals and share good dietary habits with clients. Further training in nutrition is recommended for impact on clients' health.