February 1st, 2020
Variety is the spice of life! And actually it may be the primary ingredient of a healthy life, especially for seniors whose nutritional needs change with their aging minds and bodies.
By eating a variety of foods from all food groups, seniors can get the nutrients they need most during their “golden years,” and these tips from Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that eating right doesn’t have to be complicated:
*Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. For the latter, emphasize dark green (such as leafy greens or broccoli) and orange (such as carrots or sweet potatoes).
*Mix things up with your protein choices, with more fish, beans and peas.
*Consume at least three ounces of whole-grain cereals, breads, crackers, rice or pasta every day.
*Enjoy three daily servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy (milk, yogurt, or cheese), ideally fortified with vitamin D, to keep your bones healthy.
*Switch from solid fats to healthy oils (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated) when preparing food.
SHOPPING FOR HEALTHY FOOD
You are what you eat – especially when it comes to cardiovascular health, of prime concern for seniors. Since February is Heart Health Month, it’s fitting to focus on some “heart healthy” shopping tips that are easy to follow:
*Fill your cart with color! We’re talking fruits and vegetables, and again variety is important when it comes to ensuring a proper balance of vitamins, minerals and fiber.
*Avoid high fat dairy or meat. With one exception: fatty fishes, such as salmon, trout or fresh tuna, all provide important Omega-3 oils.
*If you have high cholesterol, avoid buying butter (or use less of it). Or switch to more healthful spreads.
*Avoid extra sugar by replacing drinks like soda or fruit juice with herbal teas.
*Look out for high sodium content by reading labels.
As we age, our appetites may wane and our ability to chew and digest certain foods may be affected. By choosing snacks high in vitamins, minerals and fiber seniors can get all the calories and nutrients they need in a day – plus snack time can become a fun social “sharing time” when friends or family visit.
Here’s a list of healthy, easy-to-eat snacks that are perfect throughout the day:
Cooking Healthy Meals
Another consequence of aging is the decreased ability for our bodies to break down food and assimilate nutrients. Therefore, by preparing meals the correct way, we can ensure that foods are not only more pleasing to a senior’s diminished palate, but also more easily digestible.
*Cooking is better than raw. By steaming, roasting or sautéing fruits and veggies they’ll be softer, and therefore easier to chew and digest.
*Soak beans and grains. An over-night soaking in water will remove the coating called phytic acid, making them much easier on the stomach – and maximizing their health benefits.
*Marinate meats and fish. Acidic marinades made with lemon juice or vinegar plus plenty of herbs and spices will break down hard-to-digest proteins while adding lots of zestful flavor.
READING LABELS ON BOXES (AND WHAT TO AVOID)
Since eating well starts with selecting the right foods, you need to know how to use food labels when you’re shopping at the grocery store or market. Labels come with a wealth of information and act as a more accurate counter-balance to those sometimes misleading “Healthy” or “Low-Fat” starbursts which manufacturers plaster across the front of packages.
*Shorter is usually better. If the food item has a long list of ingredients containing complicated terms and scientific jargon, it may be a red flag.
*First means most. Remember that in processed foods, the ingredients are listed from the largest to the smallest, so if you are trying to avoid a particular ingredient and it’s first or second on the list, return the item to the shelf.
*Beware alternate names. Especially for sugars, which can be called everything from high-fructose corn syrup to glucose.
*The “low fat” or “low sodium” trap. If something is labeled either of those two ways, be sure to review the whole list of ingredients, because other unwanted additives may have replaced them.