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Healthy Eating Tips for Seniors

By Edited Apr 27, 2015 1 0

The need for wholesome, nutritious food is something that is necessary for our entire lives. This includes the senior years. However, it can be a challenge to maintain a good diet as people begin to age.  Some potential problems include lack of appetite, not having the energy to cook, or not enjoying eating alone. Of course, health issues can play an important role as well.  

This article will discuss healthy eating for seniors.  It includes  practical tips to make it easier for anyone to consume wholesome foods. I have worked with seniors for many years, so I have quite a bit of experience in this area.

As we age, we become much more likely to develop health problems, and the food we consume can have a direct impact on our health. Some foods are particularly good for heart health.  Others help to reduce inflammation.  These are common health problems for seniors.  Diet can  go a long way towards preventing or alleviating a lot of health issues.  

Seniors having coffee

There are many good reasons to consume fruit and vegetables.  In addition to providing necessary vitamins and minerals, they all contain fiber.   This is important for everyone's digestive health, but  particularly seniors.  Constipation is a frequent problem. Eating a diet rich in fiber can prevent the need for taking laxatives or stool softeners.  It is also necessary to drink adequate water.  Other liquids won't do the same job to help our digestive system and kidneys.  

Fruit and vegetables also offer antioxidant protection, with darker colored fruit and vegetables being the best sources. Antioxidants fight diseases, including cancer. The one fruit that seniors may need to avoid is grapefruit, because it can interact with certain medications.   A pharmacist can offer advice about any other foods that may be contraindicated with prescription meds.  In most cases it will only be grapefruit.  

The best way to eat fruit and vegetables is raw and unpeeled if possible. A lot of the nutritional content is located just below the skin. Also, they contain enzymes, which assist with digestion. The enzymes are lost when they are cooked.

However, it can be difficult for some seniors to eat some vegetables raw, because it may be hard to chew. If this is the case, the best cooking method is steaming.  The vitamin loss is minimal if the vegetables have been steamed and are not overcooked.

The other way to get vegetables into the diet is to make home made soups or stews. I always cook them right in the broth I am using.   This saves using another pot and ensures the vitamins and minerals remain in the soup. Any vegetable is good in soups, but I particularly like adding carrots, cabbage, green or yellow beans, turnip, squash, and lots of onions for flavor. It is also an inexpensive way to eat healthy. The soup will be more filling if you add a protein source, such as skinless chicken, barley, or beans.

Healthy Stew

Tips For Those Who Eat Alone

Eating tends to be strongly associated with social activities. We seldom attend a gathering at someone's home without food being served, even if it is just snacks or appetizers.

People who live alone may find it difficult to have the motivation to make a healthy meal, or to eat it once it is prepared. It can increase feelings of loneliness and make some people dread meal time.

One of the ways to avoid this is to invite someone over to enjoy a meal with you. Almost everyone appreciates being invited over for dinner. Another option is to eat out with a friend.

Many restaurants today have heart healthy food options, as well as gluten free, as well as meals for people with diabetes. In most cases, it's probably not a good idea to eat out alone, as this can increase feelings of isolation.

If eating alone is necessary, it may help to have the radio on, or to listen to nice music. Some people eat their meals while listening to the news. If you have a window with a nice view, eating in that location can make eating more enjoyable.

Why Omega 3 and 6 Foods are Important

We all need Omega 3 and 6 for the health benefits they provide, and particularly as we age. This is important for heart health and circulation.  Omega 3 and 6 are a natural anti-inflammatory. There are many sources of Omega 3, so it is easy to get it in the diet.  Supplements are not necessary.  Sources include salmon, sardines, shrimp, scallops, flax and hemp seeds, and many types of nuts.

Omega 6 sources include olives and olive oil, avocado, and many nuts. The best nuts to eat are almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and cashews. These also contain protein, so they are healthy and filling snack foods. Flax seeds are very healthy, but must be ground before eating, as they are not digestible otherwise.

If nuts such as walnuts and cashews are hard for the senior to chew, hemp or flax seeds can be used instead.  

Crepe

We never outgrow our need for  calcium. It is not only necessary for bone health, but for the nervous system and our muscles.

Some seniors may have trouble digesting dairy. If the individual can't consume milk, cottage cheese, and other dairy sources, there are other ways to get enough calcium in the diet.  Salmon is a great source. Calcium is also present in broccoli, collard or mustard greens, almonds or almond butter,  and navy beans. Some brands of orange juice have calcium added. Cooking the broccoli or vegetable greens will not destroy the calcium content.

There are plenty of food sources that contain fiber besides fruit and vegetables.  All varieties of beans are rich in  fiber. They can be used as an inexpensive meat substitute as well due to the protein content. Other fiber sources include barley, quinoa, and whole grains.

Seniors should drink plenty of water.  Many of them prefer other beverages such as juices or tea.  However, that does not eliminate the need for water.  It may help to add a bit of lemon if the individual does not like drinking plain water.

It is also important to know what foods may cause constipation.  Any food that is high in fat, such as fried food,  can cause constipation.  Fats, particularly trans fats should  be avoided anyway because of the link to heart disease and other conditions.   

Coconut and grapeseed oils are healthy fats.  Extra virgin olive oil is too, although it is not suitable for cooking.  

If lack of appetite is a problem, try eating several small meals during the day, instead of three larger ones.    This is easier on the digestive system too.  

Some medications can affect taste, or cause dry mouth.  That makes food less appealing.   A meal can be more appetizing by adding healthy flavor such as herbs and sodium free seasonings. 

Yogurt that is low in fat and sugar, combined with fresh fruit, makes a healthy breakfast or lunch.  Omelettes are also a great choice and even healthier if tomatoes, avocado, peppers and other vegetables are added.  Eggs are not just for breakfast.  Since eggs provide protein they also can be eaten at lunch or dinner time.  

Make enough food for more than one meal and freeze leftovers. It can be eaten another day when you don't feel like cooking.

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