Humans have unique nutritional needs at different times of their lives. According to the National Council on Aging, as you age, your metabolism slows and your body needs more of certain nutrients. The best way to incorporate nutrients such as calcium and fiber is to eat a healthy variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy.
To help with healthy eating habits for seniors, many experts suggest planning your meals in advance, with specific foods in mind. If you live alone or have a spouse who is more a meat and potatoes eater, interacting socially with others interested in better nutrition can provide positive support.
Have you ever gone to the grocery store hungry? Most of us have, resulting in sweet, salty and savory treats in our carts that we would normally ignore. Besides making it a point to eat before you head out grocery shopping, planning ahead with exactly what you want to buy saves money and discourages impulse purchases.
One of the easiest ways to plan ahead is writing out the meals you want to make and the ingredients needed for each dish. Imagine being in the middle of trying a new recipe and actually having all of the ingredients because you had your list at the grocery store! Whether you are cooking your known-by-heart recipes or trying new ones from a friend, be sure the list includes the grocery items needed as well as the pounds, ounces, cans or tablespoons indicated in the directions.
TIP: After making a shopping list from your recipes, check to see what ingredients you already have on hand. The phrase “out of sight, out of mind” can often apply to chicken that is in the freezer or the extra can of diced tomatoes you bought weeks ago and haven’t used…yet. Don’t forget to check your spices – there is no need to have duplicate bottles of cardamom stealing space in your cabinet and money from the food budget.
With the fad diets and changing food pyramid, it can be tough to find easy-to-use information on the best combinations and quantity of food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has simplified the plate portions, food groups and nutritional needs by life stages on the website myplate.gov. They also provide a free, printable grocery list broken out by food categories – fruits, grains, dairy, vegetables, protein and other (spices, etc.). Just click on the “resources tab” and then click “printable materials.” The other advantage to this sort of list is saving time. With food categories like fruits and vegetables grouped together, your trip around the grocery store isles is more efficient.
With changes of age, medications and health issues, dietary needs and food quantity also shifts. An example of how nutritional needs change as we age, men 19-30 have 6 to 7 ounces of protein recommended for their daily intake. Men 60 and older should consume 6.5 to 5.5 ounces of protein daily. Also important is that the variety within the different food groups is varied. Protein can be eggs, beans, nuts, meat or seafood – all with differing amounts of key nutrients such as B vitamins and magnesium.
Fresh fruit and vegetables continue to be key in healthy living for all ages. The quantity and quality of vitamins, fiber and potassium found in fresh fruits and vegetables are a must-have for good digestion and healthy living for seniors. One thing to be aware of is dried fruit contains more sugar than fresh, so portion sizes are usually cut in half or less. The nutritional label on dried fruit will give calories and sugar amounts by ounces, so use that as a helpful guide. Dried apples are still a better substitute for a fruit serving.
If you find yourself substituting frozen dinners for cooking more than one or two days a week, you may benefit from more social interaction. If you live in a community with dining services, consider joining others at mealtime. Perhaps it is more about the prep work, clean up or leftovers that leave you less than excited to execute your meal plans.
One solution is to find like-minded people to share in the work and rewards. Maybe you love to chop broccoli but hate to deal with dishes. There may be neighbors, fellow crafters or pickleball enthusiasts who do not like the prep work but love to load the dishwasher. Agree ahead of time on tasks, food contribution and portioning. It may be a case of cooking with a couple of friends and the food gets divided up to go back home so you can each eat with your spouse.
Whatever your gameplan ends up being, the goal is to make grocery shopping work out for your best interests. Planning ahead and checking your pantry help save time and money. Proper nutrition is best achieved by deciding on meals with the best combination of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy. If you go the social route in cooking groups or meal sharing, check ahead with everyone for any food allergies or restrictions due to medications or health issues.
At Advent Christian Village, there are multiple options for optimizing your health through better nutrition. Our grocery store is well stocked with fresh ingredients for your favorite recipes as well as a wide variety of canned, bottled and boxed food. If you want the social aspect, but not the cooking duties, join friends seven days a week in one of our dining rooms or deli. An article on how eating together improves senior nutrition is available here.
Interested in learning more about the lifestyle options available at Advent Christian Village?
Give us a call today at 1-800-647-3353 or click here to schedule a tour!