Bon Appetit! Planning Healthy & Delicious Meals for Seniors
Are you afraid that getting older means giving up all the foods you love? If so, we’ve got great news!
The truth is there are many ways to indulge in your favorite flavors and get the nutrients you need to feel your best. The key is to choose an appealing variety of nutrient-dense foods that you enjoy.
Healthy eating gives you the energy you need to stay active and independent. It helps you prevent or manage a number of chronic conditions like osteoporosis, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It also helps you maintain a healthy weight. Let’s talk about how your nutritional needs change as you age, along with some of the best foods for supporting an active senior lifestyle!
How Our Dietary Needs Change
Because your metabolism slows down over time, you don’t need as many calories as you did when you were younger. However, you still need the same nutrients to stay healthy and active.
Older adults in particular need plenty of calcium and vitamin D to maintain strong bones, while dietary fiber supports a healthy heart. Other nutrients to seek out include lean protein, potassium and vitamin B12. Limit your intake of foods with so-called “empty calories,” such as chips, candy and sugary soft drinks.
You may need to adjust your diet if you’re managing a chronic condition or if you’re taking any medications. For example, some medications may affect your appetite, change your sense of taste or cause dry mouth. Some older folks may have difficulty chewing or swallowing, and limited mobility may make it harder to prepare healthy foods on your own. If you’re affected by any of these challenges, talk to your doctor about ways to meet your nutritional needs.
Load Up on Color with Fruits and Vegetables
When it comes to nutrition, think green…and red, yellow, orange and purple! Fruits and vegetables are packed with unique flavors and essential nutrients your body needs, like fiber and potassium. Dark green leafy vegetables give you a good plant-based source of calcium.
- Vegetables (aim for about five servings per day): You can enjoy vegetables fresh, canned, frozen or dried. Examples of a serving include one cup of raw leafy greens, ½ cup of cut vegetables or ½ cup of cooked vegetables.
- Fruits (about four servings per day): Choose fruits that are fresh, frozen, canned or dried. Examples include one medium whole fruit, ½ cup of cut fruit or ¼ cup of dried fruit.
Nourish Muscles with Lean Protein
Muscle mass naturally declines with age, but a high-protein diet can help you retain more muscle. Even better news? Many foods rich in protein also provide other great nutrients. Lean meat gives you vitamin B12, while salmon and eggs are good sources of calcium. Omega-3 fatty acids are another important nutrient found in many types of fish, including salmon and tuna.
- Poultry, meat and eggs (about 8-9 servings per week): Examples include three ounces of cooked meat or poultry, one whole egg or two egg whites.
- Fish and other seafood (about 2-3 servings per week): An example would be three ounces of cooked fish or seafood.
Get Essential Nutrients from Beans, Nuts and Seeds
Need a satisfying snack that also packs a nutritional punch? Reach for some nuts or seeds! These and other legumes, such as beans, are good sources of fiber, potassium and protein.
- Nuts, seeds, beans and other legumes (about 5 servings per week): Examples include ¼ cup of cooked beans or peas, two tablespoons or ½ ounce of nuts or seeds or one tablespoon of peanut butter.
Savor the Goodness of Whole Grains
Another great source of fiber, whole grains make a great addition to almost any meal. Enjoy a hearty bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, a delicious sandwich on whole grain bread for lunch or whole grain pasta with a salad for dinner.
- Whole grains (about 6 servings per day): Examples include one slice of bread or one tortilla, ½ cup of cooked rice or pasta or one cup of ready-to-eat cereal flakes.
Maintain Strong Bones with Dairy
While most people know that dairy helps kids build strong bones, it’s just as important for older folks, too! Calcium-rich dairy products fortified with vitamin D are also a good source of protein and potassium. They help you avoid osteoporosis, fractures and falls.
- Dairy (about three servings per day): Look for low-fat and fat-free dairy products to meet your needs. Good examples include one cup of milk, one cup of yogurt or 1 ½ ounces of cheese.
Make Friends with Healthy Fats
Believe it or not, fat is good for you! Fat gives you energy, keeps your cells healthy and protects your organs. On top of that, fat supports healthy brain function. The key is to know which fats to choose and which ones to avoid.
Look for foods rich in polyunsaturated and monosaturated fats, which are commonly found in nuts, seeds, avocado and fish. Avoid saturated fats that come from animal products and stay away from trans fats which are often used in processed baked goods and fried foods.
- Fats and oils (about three servings per day): Examples include one tablespoon of vegetable oil, one tablespoon of low-fat mayonnaise or one tablespoon of light salad dressing.
Stay Energized with Hydration
The risk of dehydration increases as we get older. Some people lose their sense of thirst, while others find that some medications cause dehydration as a side effect. Drink small amounts of water throughout the day, and choose foods with a high water content, such as cucumber or watermelon. Limit your intake of alcohol and soft drinks with a high sodium content, which can actually make you more dehydrated.
At the Terrace Retirement Community, we make it easy to eat healthy with delicious meals prepared by talented chefs in our three dining venues. Visit the Bistro for breakfast, lunch or dinner, or enjoy a formal dining experience in the Dining Room. Drop by the Pub for drinks and appetizers with your friends. And with flexible hours, you have the freedom to eat what you want, when you want!
If you have questions about your dining options at the Terrace, give us a call at 573-875-2538 or contact us online at any time.