It can become increasingly difficult for elderly adults to maintain healthy diets during the aging process. Medications and physical impairments can cause complications with the digestion system or prevent seniors from eating enough throughout the day. Get a jump start on your spring cleaning and stock up on some of these healthy foods to improve senior diets.
When considering which foods to eat, seniors should focus on getting nutrient-dense foods that are also low in calories. So try to avoid “empty calories” found in soft drinks, junk snacks, fast food, candies, baked goods, and alcohol.
Fruits & Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are great sources of required vitamins and minerals. They contain a great source of fiber which promotes gut health and can reduce the risk of bowel cancer. Beans and legumes are excellent sources of plant protein and are rich in fiber, B vitamins, iron, folate, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and zinc.
It’s important to eat more whole grains rather than refined grains (which lose many of their nutrients and fibers). So choosing whole-wheat bread, and brown rice is a great start to incorporating more whole grains in your diet. Because whole grains can lower cholesterol, triglycerides, and insulin levels they can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Calcium plays an important role in muscle function, bone health, nerve transmission, and mental health. Seniors should look for fat-free or low-fat options for milk, and cheese when it comes to consuming dairy. Because our bodies age, we have a more difficult time synthesizing vitamin D and tend to spend less time outside. Seniors should look for dairy and dairy-alternative products that have vitamin D added.
Lean meats, such as poultry and seafood, are rich sources of protein that help repair tissue and strengthen immune systems. Seniors who are looking to reduce meat consumption can snack on nuts, fat-free Greek yogurt, and hummus throughout the day. If you’re looking for an easy way to incorporate more protein into your diet consider pairing an egg with your meals.
Issues with Eating
There are a number of issues that can prevent seniors from practicing a healthy diet. If you have difficulty eating enough at mealtime, incorporate more healthy snacks throughout the day. If you have a decreased appetite due to trouble tasting or smelling your food, try to add color or textures to your meal to keep them interesting.
If you have issues chewing or swallowing, try to drink more liquids around mealtime or use a food processor. However, if issues persist consult with your doctor or health care provider who may recommend an occupational therapist or a visit to the dentist.
Many seniors are unable to share a meal with friends or family on a daily basis. If eating alone prevents you from eating enough or enjoying your mealtime, schedule a lunch date with a friend. Community potlucks at nearby senior centers, community centers, or religious facilities are also great ways to socialize and enjoy a great meal.
For more tips on nutrition and a full list of healthy foods to improve senior diets, visit the National Library of Medicine at nlm.nih.gov
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