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Video Series: Nutrition Tips

Benefits of Good Nutrition

You know the benefits of regular exercise and good nutrition include lowering health risks like high blood pressure and heart disease, while improving muscle strength and endurance. But did you know that it can also decrease the risk of other complications that are common for wheelchair users, like certain types of cancers, UTIs, respiratory complications and pressure ulcers – all of which can be serious, and even life threatening?

Nutrition Labels

Most Americans understand the nutritional labels on food, but do not have a clear understanding of what the serving size really means. If you are counting calories, or trying to watch what you eat, don’t let portion control sabotage your weight loss! Did you know that it only takes 100 too many calories each day to gain 10 pounds in a year?

There is ongoing research about ideal body weights and calorie requirements for people with spinal injuries, however you have to take your daily activity level into account. If you use a power wheelchair for mobility, you are expending fewer calories than a manual wheelchair user. Understanding correct portion size is important for every one!

Simple Cooking Solutions

There are challenges to preparing your own food sometimes, whether your kitchen is not easy to maneuver around in a wheelchair, or if you have limited control of your hands or arms and rely on others to cook for you.

But there are some simple solutions to make your diet healthier. Most grocery stores are catering to people’s busy schedules, so you can buy pre-cut fresh fruits and vegetables to snack on or cook with. There are pre-cooked and even pre-cut meats.

Beverage Choices

Water should be your #1 beverage choice! In general, water helps regulate the body’s temperature and the digestion of food. For people with spinal injuries, water helps prevent urinary tract infections as well as kidney and bladder stones. Water is also important in managing your bowel program. It is recommended that individuals with spinal injuries drink 8 cups (64 ounces) of water per day. Of course it is important that you balance this with your bladder management.

About Kristin McNealus

Kristin McNealus, PT, DPT, ATP has worked as a physical therapist on inpatient rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injuries at a number of hospitals in Southern California, as well as Director of a community adaptive gym for people with neurological injuries. She has presented at conferences about SCI to other health care professionals, and taught students at a local physical therapy program about spinal cord injury evaluation and treatment. She enjoys training for endurance sports, and has completed 3 marathons, and over 20 triathlons, including the Ironman. She uses this passion for exercise and knowledge of what the body is capable of performing when pushed to its limits to empower each client to reach his/her personal goals. She will motivate you to work as hard as you can, stay committed to your fitness goals and be the best you can be! Learn more at


If you are looking for more information or have a specific question, our Information Specialists are available business weekdays, Monday through Friday, toll-free at 800-539-7309 from 9am to 8pm ET.

Additionally, the Reeve Foundation maintains a fact sheet on fitness and exercise with additional resources from trusted Reeve Foundation sources. Check out our repository of fact sheets on hundreds of topics ranging from state resources to secondary complications of paralysis.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $9,447,037 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.