I’m still making revisions in my diet for Parkinson’s

Hungry for a change? So am I.

Christine Scheer avatar

by Christine Scheer |

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I’ve been thinking about food a lot lately. This makes sense because I worked as a chef, a farmers market manager, a food columnist, and a community food adviser for most of my adult life. Food was my job, my entertainment, and my passion. Then my Parkinson’s came along in 2015, and slowly my interest in food waned.

By the time my husband, John, had a heart attack and quadruple bypass in 2019, I was darn near apathetic about our meals. When he came home from the hospital after surgery, suddenly I had to care about what he ate. The cookbooks came out, and low fat, low salt, and the Mediterranean diet became our default. Keeping him healthy was my priority.

In the meantime, I wasn’t hungry anymore. We never snacked, we stopped eating ice cream, we rarely had dessert, and we didn’t go out for breakfast anymore because what’s breakfast without bacon and eggs? We both lost quite a bit of weight. John was happy with his weight loss, but I felt like I was disappearing.

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Food and Parkinson’s: Relearning How to Eat

New eating habits

In 2021, I had deep brain stimulation surgery, which changed things for me dramatically. I was hungry. I was interested in food again.

At first, I had some difficulty regulating the speed at which I ate. I gobbled my food; I couldn’t get it into me fast enough. Often, I’d choke on it, much to John’s dismay. These days, I’ve calmed down a lot, chew my food properly, and don’t try to talk and eat at the same time. I’ve also gained 20 pounds, which I’m pleased about.

There’s a connection between Parkinson’s disease and our gut health. I can’t pretend to understand it, but I do believe it. I think our diet is crucial to our health.

My boxing class is right at lunchtime, so I often don’t eat anything but my breakfast and a coffee before I go. By the time the class is over, I’m famished! Often, I’ll race home, eat whatever is available (if I’m being honest, usually it’s toast with jam), and try to avoid protein because I take my levodopa and carbidopa combo around that time. Then, I’ll nap until it’s time to make supper.

I’ve got to make some changes to this routine.

The best diets for Parkinson’s, some sources say, are supposed to be the MIND and the Mediterranean. They both emphasize fruit and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and olive oil. The MIND diet goes the extra mile, saying that berries, in particular blueberries, are the best kind of fruit and that in terms of vegetables, greens are the top choice, with kale and spinach being the best option.

Armed with this knowledge, I bought a lot of frozen fruit and vegetables, and I plan to make smoothies. That’ll solve a few problems. First, it’ll increase my fruit and vegetable intake. Did you know that we should eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables daily? I can whip up a smoothie in five minutes and drink at least three servings of the required five. Also, it’ll be high in fiber but low in protein. This smoothie is going to change my life!

My expectations may be high, but I believe that small, manageable changes to our diet are the way to go. I’ve often felt overwhelmed with dietary information and then do nothing to improve my diet. Although this step is a small one, I do have big hopes.

Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.


Bastien Atterbury avatar

Bastien Atterbury

Thank you for this great post! I hope you get a lot of helpful feedback from the community.
I too have a lot of trouble now with meal planning and preparing food. Post Covid I developed a long list of food intolerances, so it's a real puzzle to figure out healthy substitutes for legumes, grains, dairy etc.. I will admit that like you I often grab the 'easy bite' of whatever is right there. Plus I am now having trouble with slow gut motility which makes me feel very bloated.
I did want to share that 'smoothies' can be a TOO fast sugar and fiber hit to the gut- where normally your pancreas would respond to a slow % of sugars and carbs - regular smoothies can be too much ? Just something to monitor
Here's my recipe for a afternoon protein smoothie - and I'm only going to drink 1/2 and but rest in frig for later
In a blender: 8 oz cold water, 1/2 banana, flaxseed meal 1oz, soy flour 1oz, tablespoon organic jam or organic cane sugar , cinnamon optional. This is my 'milkshake fix' and I trying to sip it vs gulp- but you know how that goes!

Christine Scheer avatar

Christine Scheer

Hi! Thanks for your comment. Good idea to put flax seed meal in your smoothie! Wouldn't it be nice if there was a menu planner for us that we could just print out?

Diane Florczyk avatar

Diane Florczyk

Yes, Yes, 1,000 times Yes to a meal planner need!! Thank you for your post, Christine. I feel validated!

Brenda lipson avatar

Brenda lipson

Your current column makes me so happy! I assumed with your foodie background,that I’m the only one who feels bad that I’m not interested in fussing about meal prep (while I feel guilty about not approaching my PD husbands diet scientifically.) Thanks for reminding me about smoothies- let the experiments begin!!
Ps- why are green smoothies not appealing?

Christine Scheer avatar

Christine Scheer

HAHA! The smoothies I've been making are BROWN! They look ghastly. I think because I've got equal parts kale and berries? They taste pretty good, though!

Chris Hershey avatar

Chris Hershey

Thank you for your insight, Christine. My wife was diagnosed in October, 2020 with Parkinson's after she fell due to changes in her gait. She was 52 at the time. She was never active in the kitchen and our dietary choices were left up to me, and still are. In the last few years, I have read and studied everything I can find to try and improve my wifes' lifestyle. I truly believe that diet and exercise are the key. My wife cannot gain weight. She has lost 25 to 30 pounds and hovers around 96 to 98 pounds. All her providers are aware of this, (dietition, neurologist, primary care) and she has undergone several tests to eliminate causes. Finally, it has just been attributed to the PD. Any information to help her gain and maintain a healthy weight, would be greatly appreciated.

Chris Hershey

Maria Riga avatar

Maria Riga

Well the mediterranean diet has some fat too.Chickpeas for protein.The gut is very important in all diseases and in Parkinsons

Alireza Ghaemi avatar

Alireza Ghaemi

More or less I agree with all above points,because during last about ten years which my Parkinson’s start to show
The signs ,and I start known medication ,by trial and errors ,I am convinced aboves described details on food, excersises,reading ,writing ,keep busy by working and moving ….,sometimes assist me to feel I am doing normal
Standard life ….,then by arriving to next time interval medicine for tremor,….it remind me to take my medicines
( MADOPAR ,AZILECT 1mg, ONGENTYS)as prescribed by My Dr,…..

Priscila Kalevar avatar

Priscila Kalevar

Hi Christine,

Where can I read your column ‘living your best life’. Thank you!

Christine Scheer avatar

Christine Scheer

Hi! So, "Living My Best Life" is not just one column, it is the name of all my columns as a whole, then each column has it's own heading. Thanks for reading!


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