Beyond just toast: healthy eating for seniors made easy
As we age, we are at greater risk of conditions such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. The good news is that these diseases can be managed or even prevented by eating a healthy diet and being active.
The issue is that many seniors do not eat a healthy, balanced diets as recommended in Canada’s food guide. Indeed, most Canadian adults of all ages don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables, as a study of Canadians showed:
“About 80% of women and 89% of men consume inadequate amounts of vegetables and fruit. We estimated this to result in an economic burden of $CAN3·3 billion per year, of which 30·5 % is direct health-care costs and 69·5 % is indirect costs due to productivity losses… An (annual) increase of one serving of vegetables and fruit per day would avoid approximately $CAN9·2 billion.”
How a healthy diet benefits seniors
As a senior, eating a healthy diet will:
- provide you with energy and nutrients important for your health
- maintain a good body weight
- prevent muscle and bone loss
- promote and protect your health and wellbeing overall
What is a healthy diet?
Canada’s food guide, the official government source on healthy eating, helps you by visualising what should be on your plate. The advice is simple, eat a variety of healthy foods a day, with
- 50% being vegetables and fruit (can be fresh, frozen or canned!)
- 25% quality protein (meat, fish, eggs, cheese, pulses, seeds)
- 25% wholegrain
- “Make water your drink of choice”
The reality of aging and appetite
One of the impacts of age is that we may not be as interested in food as much as we were, we might find it harder to shop, we may not always want to cook just for ourselves. What’s more, when we do eat, we may not be able to digest dinners as well as we used to.
However. as the Guide says “Cooking and eating healthy food does not have to be difficult, time consuming or expensive.”
Eating well doesn’t mean cutting back either. Seniors still need all the nutrients and vitamins they needed when younger, and in some cases, more of key diet-based nutrients than before. You can still eat regular meals, snack, and eat a wide variety of different foods. The secret is to cut back on processed foods that contain high levels of fat, sugar trans fats or sodium, and opt instead for vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish, calcium-rich foods, unsaturated fats and lean meats.
Sound like a lot of work compared to frozen dinners or a slice or two of toast? It really isn’t! By making the choice to create even the simplest of dishes, you’re already helping the nutrition content, getting yourself more mobile, and rediscovering the joy of home cooking again.
Top tips with toast
Let’s start with the bread. Go for 100% whole grain bread rather than starchy white bread. Pre-packaged sliced freezes really well, so you can buy it when it’s on sale, and toast one or two slices straight from the freezer. You can top toast with:
- poached eggs and a slice of smoked salmon
- scrambled eggs with vegetables, topped with a little cheese
- hummus, or cut the toast and dip in!
- mash up an avocado, spread and enjoy and top with a boiled egg if you wish
- top with canned fish – tuna, salmon, sardines in water (not brine)
- a poached chicken breast on a bed of crunch leaves
- peanut butter and sliced banana!
Vegetables solo are not always enticing. Colourful veggies contain many essential vitamins and minerals and disease-fighting phytochemicals, so make the most of this natural healthy boost. Jazz up your veg by adding extra flavours:
- squeeze lemon juice on spinach, kale and chard
- sprinkle cinnamon on roasted cauliflower or sweet potatoes
- sauteé mushrooms with fresh herbs
- bake an apple with juicy raisons
- add more crunch to celery with a little peanut butter
- shake a little parmesan cheese into soups instead of salt
- whizz up your own veggie smoothie, with added ginger for punch
Packing in the protein
Protein helps you build strong muscles, and is important for healthy hair, skin and nails. if you’re not a great meat eater, or want to avoid processed meats such as ham and bacon, you may struggle to make that 25% of your plate as quality protein. If so, just boost the protein levels with:
- a hard-boiled egg in a salad
- plain yoghurt with fruit
- snack on unsalted nuts
- add a slice of cheese to your regular sandwich
- sprinkle nuts and seeds in soup, on salads, wherever!
- cook a dish with lentils, beans or chickpeas (these will also help boost your fibre intake too)
Whole grain the easy way
Eating whole grain is so much easier than it used to be. Just look for whole grain versions of what you already eat and enjoy – pasta, rice, noodles, rye crackers, etc. Pop barley into soups, use porridge oats and seeds beyond breakfast to create your own low salt, low sugar snacks. Bake with wholegrain flour, from snack muffins with berries to your favourite cakes.
Make the most of traditional Canada foods
Canada is blessed with some of the tastiest, protein-rich, low fat foods available. So when you eat Canadian salmon, seafood and fish, you’re supporting your body and the country’s producers as well. Traditional game meats are lower in fat and usually unprocessed, including venison, elk, and moose. Choose our native berries when in season, plus all those great squashes and pumpkins.
Love traditional foods such as meatloaf? Look for healthy version of classic recipes using lean meat and low fat ingredients, and freeze what you don’t eat immediately. There’s a great collection of heart-healthy recipes at Canada Health.
Need help preparing meals?
Vytality at Home can help! Our caregivers know the importance of proper nutrition for seniors, and are happy to help you prepare meals, and prepare one for days you don’t feel able to. They can also help you shop for essential supplies either in person or online, and help pack away groceries too.
Is your kitchen accessible?
If your kitchen no longer meets your needs in terms of reach, mobility or safety, our partner tradespeople can help. From non-slip flooring to lower height counters and cupboards, our team can ensure you enjoy working in and using your home kitchen for longer.
Free in-home consultation
Enjoy eating healthily with a little help from Vytality at Home. Call us for your free home consultation to discuss your current and future home care needs for yourself, an aging parent or a loved one. We’re here to help.