Good food and wellbeing: healthy eating for seniors
At this time of year, your fridge still probably contains little bowls of left-overs from festive season meals. Now is probably the time to say “That’s past it’s best” and add the food to our Green Cart for recycling. However, many seniors like you may struggle to “throw it away” or not “eat it up”. This can be as much to do with the physical effort of menu planning, food shopping and preparing meals for yourself rather than the cost or taste of the food itself.
Cooking for seniors: choice or chore?
As we age, cooking can become more of a chore rather than a pleasure. Once the need to feed a whole family has gone, we may initially eat out more. However, during the pandemic, that’s been neither practical nor advisable, so many of us have been eating at home much more.
Sadly, in our later years of retirement, some of us have lost our spouse or life partner. Suddenly we’re cooking just for one person, and some days the effort might be just too much.
Add in the effects of:
- Changes to our appetite due to medication
- Physical difficulty in preparing meals,
- Lack of incentive to cook a healthy meal
and as a result, the quality and/or quantity of our food intake may drop.
Healthy eating for a healthier life
If we are to age well, we all need a health, balanced diet. Eating well helps all of us to:
- Keep to a healthy weight and BMI
- Gain essential energy and nutrients our bodies need
- Maintain a strong immune system
- Prevent or lower the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes
- Maintain muscle and bone strength to reduce the risks of falls
Variety is key to nutrition
For seniors in particular, a healthy diet is a varied diet. Eating a variety of foods helps us get the nutrients we require, and makes meals more interesting and appetizing. As the Government Canada’s Food Guide suggests:
“Choose vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods and protein foods that you enjoy. Frozen and canned options can be just as healthy and easier to prepare.
If your sense of taste or smell has changed, try different spices and herbs to add more flavour, instead of salt. You can also switch up the texture and temperature of foods to make them more interesting.
If some foods have become more difficult to eat, try choosing and preparing foods differently. For example, for a softer texture, try cooking vegetables instead of eating them raw.”
During the winter, seniors will have the heating on almost constantly during the day, often resulting in a drier atmosphere in our homes. Couple this with a decreasing desire to drink as we age, and you can become dehydrated remarkably quickly. As the Comfort Keepers website says:
“As adults, we lose more than eighty ounces of water daily just through normal activity. Elderly adults are among the most at risk groups for dehydration, one of the most frequent causes of hospitalization after age 65 … Seniors and all adults should drink at least 64 ounces of fluids such as water or non-caffeinated beverages daily. Caffeinated beverages cause frequent urination and promote dehydration.”
So, drink water even if you’re not feeling thirsty, and avoid sugary fizzy drinks. Also include foods in your meal planning that give you water, such as soups, fruits, and lower fat milk.
Same old meals
If you’re living on your own, you may find it a challenge to cook nutritious meals for one person. Instead, cook for two (or four) and freeze the extra portions for a day when you’re feeling less inclined to venture into the kitchen.
Inspiration might be an issue too. As website A Place for Mom says:
“Another common reason seniors avoid the kitchen is burnout from decades of the same family recipes.”
So, try new recipes that are specifically designed for seniors, such as these nutritious recipes for seniors.
You could perhaps alternate cooking days with a friend or neighbour so they cook one day, you cook the next. This means you can have fun planning meals together, perhaps share ingredient shopping, and get to enjoy their favourite foods and family recipes.
I’m just not hungry
Sometimes, you may just not feel like eating or have no appetite. If so, try taking some exercise or a brisk walk before your meal. If you’re eating alone, make your mealtime more enjoyable. Set the table and use your best china (you deserve it!). Play some favourite music, and have a (small) glass of something special to drink too. If your medications is causing you to lose your appetite or sense of taste, consult your physician for a review. They may be able to change
Customize your diet to you
if you write down in a diary what you eat for each meal in your day, it’s much easier to spot the gaps in your nutrition, such as not eating enough fresh vegetables. You may also need to boost your protein intake, or maintain your healthy weight by avoiding weight loss due to low calorie intake. Unlockfood.ca have produced a free guide to healthy eating for older adults which contains lots of really good tips and ideas. As the guide says: “Remember, it is never too late to start eating well!”
Help from Vytality at Home
Our caregivers are always happy to help with planning and preparing meals, taking in grocery orders and putting food away at the right height in cupboards. They can also wipe down your fridge and help keep is clean and smelling fresh.
Our caregivers are also happy to help you do a freezer “stock check”, so you know what food you have to enjoy during the week, and rescue that last batch of your home-cooked meal from the bottom/back of the freezer!
To discuss your Calgary home care requirements,