It’s January, which means almost everyone is thinking about the same thing: how to start eating healthier! It’s one of the most common New Year’s resolutions people set, but healthy eating is also one of the most important resolutions seniors can set for themselves as they meet another year.
How to Help Seniors with Proper Nutrition and Healthy Eating
As seniors age, they face increasingly difficult physical challenges, which means they need all of the vitamins, minerals, and nutritional value they can get. However, their age also means it’s more difficult for them to get that nutrition. Not only do seniors’ appetites start to shrink, but their bodies don’t absorb and use nutrients as efficiently as they once did.
This can be especially dangerous for seniors because it opens the doors for conditions caused by nutrient deficiency like osteoporosis, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, heart conditions, and more. That’s why it’s essential that seniors choose a well-balanced diet. MyPlate, put out by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, offers personalized nutrition plans and can be incredibly helpful.
In the meantime, seniors can focus on the following nutritional goals to get the most out of their eating habits:
Seniors are often most lacking in eating enough protein each day. Choosing to focus on lean proteins will help lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases while still keeping seniors strong.
Consider proteins like:
- Fish (fish like salmon also have the added benefit of Omega-3s, which are known to help memory)
- Broth based soups (especially bone broth)
2. Fruits and Vegetables:
Half of what seniors eat each meal should be either fruits or vegetables. Some people avoid these because they think they have to eat the veggies they grew up hating; however, there are many options out there! Look for fun ways to try new fruits and vegetables if this is an obstacle. Additionally, because seniors also become less and less thirsty over time, it can be difficult to help them take in enough fluids each day. Many fruits and vegetables have a high water content, which means that they are not only healthy and filling, but also hydrating!
3. Whole Grains:
It’s essential when eating healthy to avoid empty calories. Often, people choose sugary carbs to satisfy hunger cravings, but choosing whole grains will often satisfy those cravings and last much longer.
Try foods like:
- Steel cut oatmeal
- Whole-wheat bread
- Brown rice
Seniors also face other difficult barriers to healthy eating that younger people don’t face:
Driving to the grocery store can be a challenge, especially in bad weather; budgetary considerations may restrict what seniors can afford to buy, which means they may choose more processed, less expensive, but less healthy options; or—for many seniors who find themselves alone after many years of marriage and family life—meals may no longer seem appealing when seniors must eat alone.
However, there are some surefire ways to help seniors keep up their appetites:
1. Get Moving:
One reason seniors begin to lose their appetite is that they simply move less. Additionally, their metabolism slows over time. Helping seniors get moving regularly not only boosts appetite, so seniors want to eat more, it also helps boost their metabolism, which helps seniors absorb those nutrients their bodies need.
2. Eat Socially:
No one likes to eat alone regularly. Help the seniors in your life find different ways to eat socially: meal clubs, inviting friends over for a weekly dinner, or inviting them to your home regularly will provide them with options to eat socially, which should help them increase their appetites.
3. Meal Plan and Prep:
The old adage, “Those who fail to plan plan to fail,” is still so popular for a reason: it is true in almost every situation! Seniors who don’t have meal plans—especially seniors who typically had spouses cook for them for most of their lives—often have no idea how to plan meals. Take the time to sit down and help them think through meals they can easily cook on a regular basis. Additionally, take the time to help them prep what they need to make their meals during the week, and encourage them to wash and cut fresh fruits and vegetables ahead of time so they are quick and easy to snack on throughout the week.
4. Track Eating:
Although most people associate tracking their eating habits with weight loss goals, it can be equally as effective to track eating to make sure seniors are getting enough calories. Additionally, many food tracking apps categorize the types of foods they’re eating, so seniors know if they need to focus on getting more veggies or more protein.
Senior living communities can offer the perfect healthy eating solutions!
Taking all of the above steps will help your loved one begin to eat healthier; however, for many, this seems like an insurmountable challenge. Many people find senior living centers offer the perfect solution: with three healthy, home cooked meals a day available to eat with friends and family, not to mention healthy, filling snacks available throughout the day, seniors find it easy to eat healthy and maintain eating goals.
If you are looking for support, give us a call! Here at Morningside, we offer guided tours to showcase the many ways we keep our seniors healthy year round. Give us a call or visit us online to schedule a tour today. We would love to show you around!