As the body ages, the ingredients that we put into it become more and more critical to maintaining a functional, happy, and healthy lifestyle. Changes to a diet can affect how we feel, encourage a sense of well-being, and with the right additions can bring health benefits to older adults. At Landmark Senior Living, healthy nutrition is a part of everyday life. That’s why we provide helpful advice on how to incorporate fresh foods, nutrients, and healthy snacks into your senior’s life.
A well-balanced diet consisting of meals rich in fruits, vegetables, protein, and nuts is essential for aging well. Seniors should take care to avoid over-consuming red meat, processed foods, and sugary treats while focusing on getting foods that provide the body with the minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients needed to fight off diseases. Poor diet has been linked to outcomes such as high blood pressure, type II diabetes, heart disease, and some forms of cancer.
Nutrients are vital for the body to function at its best. Nutrients such as potassium, calcium, Vitamin B12, minerals, and dietary fiber are all critical for seniors to stay healthy. Seniors should look to add flavor to foods through spices and herbs instead of with salt. They can also add sliced fruits and vegetables to give any meal a needed boost in nutritional quality. If your senior has medications that affect their desire to eat, you can work with their doctor on finding a prescription alternative.
Seniors should also try and drink 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk throughout the day and choose water over any sugary drinks. For many seniors, eating two healthy snacks between meals per day will help to stabilize blood sugar and maintain energy levels. Store-bought snacks are typically less healthy than natural snacks because they are higher in sodium, fat, sugar, and preservatives. You can help your senior prepare their meals and keep them on hand with a more relaxed/lunch box when traveling.
Healthy Snack Ideas for Seniors:
- Cottage cheese and fruit
- Sunflower seeds
- Wheat or fruit muffins
- A glass of chocolate milk or buttermilk
- Oatmeal cookies
- Greek yogurt with peach slices or fresh berries
- Cheese and crackers
- Sandwiches made with deli meat like chicken breast
- Granola bars or breakfast bars
- A handful of roasted almonds or heart-healthy walnuts
- A glass of unsweetened almond or cashew milk
- Whole grain popcorn (skip the extra salt and butter!)
- Pudding or gelatin snack cups
- Fruit cups packed in their juice
- String cheese sticks
- Raisins, yogurt covered raisins, craisins
- Real fruit snacks
- Peanut butter and crackers
- Apple slices and almond butter or natural peanut butter
- Whole grain crackers topped with canned tuna
- Bowl of oatmeal topped with blueberries
- Avocado on whole wheat toast
- Sliced tomato with feta cheese and a drizzle of olive oil
- Mini pita bread with black beans
- Homemade baked sweet potato chips
- Fresh fruit or fruit/vegetable juice blend beverages
- Nuts or trail mix
- Vegetables and dip
- Smoothie or milkshake with fruit
- Celery with almond or peanut butter and raisins
- Salsa with baked tortilla chips
- Edamame seasoned with sesame oil
- Turkey slices
- Baked apple chips sprinkled with cinnamon
- Frozen grapes or a frozen banana
- Hummus with carrots and cucumber slices
- Homemade leftover dinner (small portion)
- Kale chips
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Stewed prunes, dried fruit such as apricots
- Fig Newtons
- Hummus and pita
- Unsweetened almond milk and fruit smoothie
- Bowl of cereal or oatmeal with berries
- Avocado on toast
- Pate on crackers
- Nutritional supplement
- Baked banana chips
- Orange slices dipped in dark chocolate
- Bell pepper with guacamole
- Cottage cheese sprinkled with flax seed and cinnamon
As we age, chronic diseases can impact health and how we eat. For example, difficulty with teeth and gums can make chewing a severe problem. Poorly fitting dentures, gum disease, mouth sores, dry mouth, and missing teeth can all make eating food a more painful and difficult experience than need be. Medications may also result in increased nutritional needs or changes in eating. Some medicines will inhibit appetite or increase appetite, sparking changes in dietary needs. Some of the most commonly under-consumed nutrients for seniors are calcium, B vitamins, and protein.
Older skin is not as productive at producing enough Vitamin D for seniors to keep bones healthy. When seniors decrease their dairy intake, the possibility of bone fractures increases. Likewise, seniors have a reduced ability to absorb B12 due to gastric acid secretion. For caregivers tasked with helping seniors, they must use caution and discretion when supplementing the meals their seniors choose to eat. Snacks should be tailored to their individual needs, such as if they have medical conditions like diabetes or gum disease. Any snacks that are high in salt, sugar, fat, and excess calories should be avoided in general.
Tips for Taking Care of Your Senior
If your loved one is currently within a facility and you are worried that they are not getting the adequate nutritional intake they require, then it may be worth consulting with management or bringing in a healthy snack for them. If you choose to bring in snacks, make sure your senior eats any perishables while you are there. You can sit with your senior while they eat and talk with them, providing an excellent opportunity for socialization and examining whether they may have a problem chewing food.
If your senior talks about problems with facility food, bring up your concerns with staff and see what can be done about providing nutritional, healthy food. After all, poor nutrition can lead to declines in physical and cognitive functioning, loss of muscle mass, weaker bones, and overall poorer quality of life for seniors which is why it is so important to provide the best foods for seniors for your loved one.
There’s nothing more important than keeping your loved one safe and happy while preserving their health and wellness. If you’re ready, have the conversation with your loved one about how senior living can drastically improve and enrich their lives.