Healthy Eating Tips for People with Spinal Cord Injury

We all know that eating healthy and exercising is important, there is no denying that. However, healthy eating is even more important for those who have had a spinal cord injury.

Healthy eating doesn't have to be boring or tasteless.
Healthy eating doesn’t have to be boring or tasteless.

Spinal cord Injuries can impact a person’s ability to retain muscle within the body. The muscle that was once there is being replaced by fat which is detrimental for the person’s health. When your body loses muscle, it also loses certain metabolism levels needed to keep weight off. Metabolism is the chemical reaction that takes place within the body that turns the food and beverages we drink into energy. In weight loss, the higher the metabolism, the more quickly excess calories can be burned off, therein lies the problem.

People who have endured a spinal cord injury could be at greater risk for heart disease and diabetes because of their lower metabolism level. 19-year-old Dominique Harris, a C5-6 Quadriplegic, changed his lifestyle of bad eating habits and exercise after his accident.  “I now eat a lot more fiber foods like multigrain cereals, multigrain bars,” he explains.

According to Dr. Sandeep Simlote, “Reduction in calorie intake is the key here, but maintaining enough nutrient intake. For example, protein intake is extremely important in the spinal cord injury population.”

Dominique Harris explains more in this video:


A high protein/low fat diet is extremely important in maintaining the appropriate levels of nutrition and metabolism. Additionally, there also foods you can eat to keep your skin healthy. Look for foods that are high in protein, zinc, Vitamin A and C. Below are a list of some foods to avoid if you have a spinal cord injury.

The Do’s

  • Exercise– If you can, try to exercise for up to 30 minutes per day. Check out the post we have on wheelchair exercise techniques.
  • Water intake– Most people forget that they need to consume at least 8 glasses of water per day. ( 90 to 125 ounces)
  • Proper Diet– Try not to eat close to the time you are going to bed. Make sure you have enough protein intake daily. Attempt to avoid pre-made foods or TV dinners. Make sure you consult your physician for the appropriate diet specific to you.
  • Positivity– Have a positive attitude will be critical to keeping on track and staying focused.

The Don’ts

  • Fast Foods– Too many excess calories in one sitting is not ideal for SCI patients. Also, most fast foods are jam packed with excess sodium, fat, and cholesterol.
  • Any High Sodium Foods– Just like fast food, any food that is overloaded with sodium would not be a good pick. Besides salt, you can find sodium in pasta sauces, TV dinners, and other condiments.
  • Sugars– Foods or beverages with higher amounts of sugar should also be avoided. Candy, Soda, Cookies, etc. Most overloaded high sugar foods have quite a few empty calories that the body does not need.
  • Alcohol– Another beverage that is stacked with empty calories. Limit yourself to as little alcoholic beverages as possible.
Healthy eating can be a bright spot in your day!
Healthy eating can be a bright spot in your day!

* It should be noted that before beginning any health program, it is imperative to check with a doctor or health care provider. Wheel:Life articles are for informational use only and should not be construed as medical advice.

Justin1 About the Author: Justin Racine, from Boston, serves as a Category Manager for Invacare Supply Group. He graduated from Western New England University with a B.S.B.A in Marketing Communication/Advertising. When he’s not busy with Marketing, Justin enjoys competing in 10K races, Boston sports, and spending time with friends and family.


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