Healthy diets can be difficult for seniors. Appetites change, medications have side effects, and access to food can be restricted in multiple ways. Follow these tips to make it easier for seniors and their caregivers to eat better.
1. Stay Hydrated
Focus on drinking water, 100% juice, and low-fat milk.
Do you find drinking water to be difficult? Try adding a non-sugar flavoring such as Mio or Crystal Light. These squeeze in flavorings add to water to create a tasty treat, without extra sugars or sodium.
Be careful about the juice you choose. Avoid those labeled as “drink” “beverage” or “cocktail”. These drinks contain extra sugars and have lower vitamin and mineral counts than real fruit juice.
When choosing milk, stick with one that is low-fat or fat-free, and vitamin D fortified. Vitamin D is necessary for calcium absorption, and the combination of vitamin D and calcium will help with bone strength.
2. Avoid Food-Borne Illness
As we age, it gets harder for us to fight off illnesses. Food poisoning can lead to sepsis or septic shock in anyone, but the elderly are at a higher risk.
Proper food storage and preparation will help you avoid sickness.
Seniors should avoid raw eggs, meats, poultry, and fish. Unpasteurized milk can contain Salmonella, E Coli, and Listeria.
Always wash fruits and vegetables before eating them.
If meat or poultry is bought in bulk, freeze the portions that will not be eaten immediately. Keep them in a separate drawer from other foods, as the juices could contaminate other foods and increase the risk of food poisoning.
Throw out food past its expiration dates. Taste buds, and sense of smell change over time, so when in doubt, throw it out!
3. Choose Easy, Non-Sugary Snacks
As your appetite changes, you may find it hard to eat large meals. Instead, try multiple small snacks throughout the day. These 100 calorie snacks are easy, delicious, and don’t contain processed sugars.
A 7-8 inch banana
2 ounces of skinless chicken breast
3 cups of low-fat popcorn
1 large scrambled egg
Handful of peanuts, pistachios, or sunflower seeds
If you are in need of a sweet treat, try a ½ cup of low-fat ice cream.
Eating smaller meals will help you get the calories and nutrients you need throughout the day without stuffing yourself. Try a variety of treats to keep it interesting!
4. Drop Sodium, Raise Potassium
High blood pressure is a common problem for Americans, and most of us have far too much sodium in our diets. Research has shown reducing sodium intake can cut heart disease 25-35%.
When buying food, review the food label – aim to eat food with 5% or less sodium, and be aware anything with over 20% is considered high sodium.
Raising potassium intake helps by relaxing the blood vessel walls, and passing sodium through your body. Bananas, raisins, potatoes with skin, prunes, lima beans, and spinach all have good amounts of potassium.
How do you reduce your sodium intake? Let’s talk about it next!
5. Flavor Your Food Without Salt
Part of our problem with sodium is the number of processed foods we eat. One way to lower sodium is to eat more fresh food and less processed or prepackaged meals. If you must eat convenience meals, focus on those with lower sodium.
Another option for lowering your sodium intake is to flavor your foods with something other than salt.
Lemon or orange juice can be used as a marinade.
A variety of herbs and spices can be used individually or together to create tastier dishes. Think about using dill and parsley, sage and thyme, chili powder, and chopped garlic.
Vinegar based dressings are another delicious way to change up your meals.
You will also want to choose unsalted butter when possible.
6. Choose Nutrient-Rich Foods
Include nutrient-rich foods to ensure you are getting all the vitamins and minerals your body needs.
Some of these superfoods are dark green veggies, beans, nuts and seeds, and some fruits.
Dark green vegetables offer fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, and calcium. They carry very little carbs, sodium, and cholesterol – overall these are foods you want to eat every day. Examples of dark green veggies are spinach, romaine lettuce, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and watercress.
Beans are another superfood – these little guys are so good for you, they are the only food included in two food groups (vegetable and proteins).
Other foods to add to your diet are sweet potatoes, peanuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, strawberries, and pineapple.
7. Choose Your Fats Wisely
The American Heart Association recommends limiting how much-saturated fats and trans fats you eat each day. Saturated fats mostly come from animal products like red meat and whole dairy products. Trans fats or partially hydrogenated oils, increase your bad cholesterol and decrease your good cholesterol. They are found in baked goods and fried food.
Limit fried food, fast food, and sweets as much as possible to avoid these unhealthy sources of fat. Instead, choose foods with unsaturated fats. These healthy fats are found in some fish, avocados, olives, walnuts, and vegetable oils.
Choose soft margarine instead of butter or harder stick forms of margarine, and look for 0g trans fats on the label.
Use canola, safflower, sunflower, or olive oil in your cooking.
Incorporate whole grains, skinless poultry, fish, nuts, and vegetables into your diet.
8. Make Eating Fruits and Vegetables Easier
Some people find it harder to eat fruits and vegetables as they age. Whether this is due to dental problems, changing taste buds, or preparation.
Look for pre-sliced fruits and vegetables for easier access.
If you have a hard time with chewing crunchy veggies, try steaming them slightly to make it easier to chew. Add spices to make them taste better too.
Make fruits and vegetables the main ingredient to your meals and snacks.
If you struggle with fresh produce going bad, frozen is a great option as well.
Add fruit to your morning breakfast. Berries over oatmeal is a delicious start to the day.
9. Plan Your Grocery List
Planning makes going to the grocery store easier.
Keep a running list of items for easier shopping and fewer trips to the store.
Plan your trip at a time of day when you are well rested and will have enough energy to get everything you need. Use an electric cart if you tire easily. Or find a bench near the pharmacy if you need to rest.
Try to avoid busy times so you don’t get stuck in line.
Your local grocers may offer a pick-up service. You order your groceries online, and your food will be delivered to your car.
If getting to the grocery store is an issue – AmazonFresh, Shipt, Instacar, and PeaPod offer grocery delivery to your home in some areas. And, local non-profits throughout the country that offer grocery and meal delivery to the elderly at a lower cost.
10. Talk to Your Doctor
Whether your health is great, or you are regularly being seen for health concerns, it is always important to discuss diet changes with your doctor.
Certain foods are known to interact with medications. Some of these are chocolate, licorice, alcohol, and grapefruit. Discuss with your doctor and pharmacist if you have any questions about food interactions.
Medications can have multiple side effects. When you are prescribed a new medication, review the possible side effects with your doctor so you know what to expect.
If you notice side effects like excessive dry mouth, or difficulty swallowing, see if there is another medication available.
Your healthcare profession cares about your well being, and will always steer you in the right direction.
Share These Tips
Everyone struggles with maintaining a healthy lifestyle. By sharing these tips with those around you, they can help you stay on the right track to maintain your health.