Tips on Eating Healthy and Managing Groceries
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7 Nutrition Tips for Older Adults
Maintaining a nutritious diet is no easy task. And for many, eating well becomes even trickier with age. Add in medications that require dietary changes or chronic health conditions, and it’s no wonder some older adults struggle with sticking to a healthy eating routine or experience fluctuations in weight.
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Shannon Muhs and Dr. Lakelyn Hogan Eichenberger, Ph.D., gerontologist and caregiver advocate, offer the following tips for helping to ensure you’re getting the good nutrition you need:
1. Create a personalized meal plan.
You’re more likely to eat well if your menu includes foods that are not only nutritious but delicious. Creating a plan every week can help maintain a schedule of preparing and eating good food you like. Two easy ways to ensure that you have the groceries you need are through delivery or curbside pickup. If you prefer picking out produce yourself, consider ordering just the heavier items and staples for delivery.
2. Create a balanced menu.
The USDA MyPlate is a tool designed to show food group targets at each meal. Older adults need more protein than adults under the age of 65. Proteins—lean meats, poultry, fish and eggs—should form the center of a meal. And the rest of your plate should be fruits, veggies, and one portion of whole grain. Muhs notes, “You can personalize the portions by considering the size of your fist; a fist-sized portion of a whole grain, and a palm-sized portion of a meat/seafood/protein are appropriate.”
3. Encourage healthy snacks.
Eating three full meals a day can sometimes be a struggle for older adults who experience a loss of appetite or find cooking time-consuming. Supplement meals with healthy snacks such as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, fresh or canned fruit chunks, veggie sticks with a light ranch dip, cheese and crackers, or a wheat tortilla roll-up with turkey, lettuce and cheese.
4. Avoid the extreme.
Oftentimes we may think too extreme for older adults with health issues, such as diabetes. Muhs notes, “Sometimes a caregiver thinks their loved one needs to avoid all grains and carbohydrates when, in reality, they need to limit grains and carbohydrates. Total elimination can lead to low blood sugars and digestive problems.” If you have heart disease or are overweight, 700 milligrams or less of sodium per larger meal is a good gauge. And some carbs are fine for diabetics. Include as many food groups as possible, and check with your doctor for the most suitable plan. You can also work with a dietician to help you navigate dietary restrictions.
5. Adapt healthy alternatives.
“A lot of the foods your generation grew up with, for example apple pie, may not be ‘allowed’ in an aging adult’s meal plan due to a diagnosis or ailment,” Muhs noted. “Consider cutting some calories in the recipe by slicing an apple and putting just a dab of butter and sugar and cinnamon on top. Wrap in foil and put in the oven for a few minutes. You get all the yumminess that happens on the inside of the pie without the high-calorie crust.”
6. Enhance the flavor of foods.
While access to nutritious foods is important, so too is flavoring food, such as veggies, to improve taste. Despite popular beliefs, a low-fat diet or low-sodium diet isn’t always the best. Unless you have certain health conditions, such as high blood pressure, eliminating salt can make food unappetizing and lead to missed meals. While many individuals may be watching their weight or have dietary restrictions, Muhs advises that it’s OK to put butter or a light tub margarine on vegetables to make them taste good. A light tub margarine provides less saturated fats, which is helpful for those with heart disease, she added. Why not experiment with herbs as well? Check out this guide to matching herbs and spices with the right veggies.
7. Eat with others.
Research from Home Instead, the world’s largest home care franchise network, found that older adults who eat alone tend to consume 157 fewer servings of fruit and vegetables per year than those who regularly share mealtime with others. Try preparing meals and eating together with family and friends. A professional caregiver can also help with grocery shopping and cooking, and be a great mealtime companion.