Talking about eating better can seem easy in theory, but it’s usually more challenging in practice. However, embracing healthier eating habits with your aging loved one is not impossible. In honor of March’s National Nutrition Month, consider these five simple steps toward better nutrition.
1. Understand MyPlate
It’s impossible to make healthier food choices if you don’t know what they are. The USDA has launched the useful MyPlate program to help people clearly understand what they should be eating every day. (This replaces the food pyramid.) The MyWins document, meanwhile, gathers all of the information you need into one handy document. Print it out and keep it handy during shopping, cooking and meal prep.
2. Eat the Rainbow
While keeping track of protein, fruits and veggies, whole grains, and low-fat dairy can be tricky for aging minds, there’s a different yet effective way to look at it: Eating the rainbow. By encouraging seniors to fill up their plates with vibrant, brightly colored foods, you naturally steer them toward healthier choices and away from less healthy, processed foods.
3. Serving Size Matters
If you’ve never taken the time to look at a serving size, you may be in for a surprise. Healthy eating isn’t just a matter of eating the right foods, but also of eating the right amount of food. Guidelines vary depending on your age and body, but the American Heart Association has compiled a handy serving size cheat sheet to help you get a handle on how much of each food group is the right amount for your aging loved one's individual needs.
4. Water, Water, Everywhere
Looking for one of the simplest ways to improve your nutrition, boost your health, and feel great in the process? Drink more water! Aging adults are prone to dehydration which can cause urinary tract infections and wreak havoc on the body. A few easy hydration tactics? Drink plenty of water throughout the day; minimize caffeine and alcohol intake; and avoid sugary drinks like soda.
5. Plan and Prep
While anyone can fall victim to the unhealthy “grab and go” snack, seniors may be particularly limited by a lack of mobility, waning stamina in the kitchen, and difficulties with meal preparation. Caregivers can ensure their loved ones always have access to healthy options by stocking the fridge and pantry with smart snacks like crudite and fruit salad, low-fat cheeses, nuts and nut butters, yogurt, and pre-cooked grilled chicken, When reaching for something to eat, mom or dad is more likely to choose something healthy when it requires little effort on their part. Take advantage of pre-portioned, pre-packaged produce to help in this area.
While helping seniors eat healthier may take a bit more time and effort, it’s an investment that’s well worth the time. These five tips can help get your aging loved one on track to nutritious, delicious eating.
Find an informative tool that will serve as a guide in making healthy choices, such as MyPlate.
Focusing on factors like “eating the rainbow,” reading nutrition labels, and maintaining awareness about serving size adds up to optimal nutrition.
Stay hydrated! Adequate nutrition is not just about what you eat, but about what you drink as well.
Caregivers can help aging loved ones make healthier choices by assisting with meal planning and preparation.
About Marissa Salvesen
My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!
Connect with Marissa Salvesen
Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.