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Senior Nutrition: Tips for Healthy Eating Over the Holidays
Elizabeth Bemis

By: Elizabeth Bemis on November 17th, 2020

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Senior Nutrition: Tips for Healthy Eating Over the Holidays

Independent Senior Living  |  senior living nutrition  |  senior living homes  |  Aging & Caregiving  |  dependent senior living

Some of the first images that come to mind when thinking about the holidays are those so-called sugar plums dancing in our heads. From stuffed turkeys and sweet potato pies to rich side dishes and sweet treats, there’s a seemingly endless array of festive delights to tempt the taste buds. While it’s fine to indulge in seasonal savories from time to time, it’s also important for seniors to keep their health and nutrition in check.

 

Of course, this is no easy challenge as the holidays unfold and offer an assortment of food delights. It can certainly be difficult to stay focused on adhering to a specific diet amid the tastes and smells of holiday cheer. But eating healthy is particularly critical for seniors. As we age, the risks of experiencing nutrition-related health conditions increases. Therefore, it’s vital to make smart choices that support prevention and proper management of issues like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and dehydration. 

 

With some of the following helpful tips and tricks for maintaining balanced nutrition, you or the senior in your life can stay health-conscious while reveling in the joy and excitement of the holiday season. Fun and enjoyment are still on the table!

 

Plan to partake mindfully.

 

For many of us, the holidays are a time of honoring traditions, especially when it comes to yearly dishes and delectables. It’s easy to get carried away with these provisions and indulge whenever the temptation strikes. One of the best ways to moderate cravings and choose indulgences wisely is to plan ahead. 

 

Try to account for the options beforehand, and make decisions about which holiday treats you (or your aging loved one) would really enjoy the most. Decide that those will be your picks, and then plan healthy meals and snacks around them. Pay particular attention to how much extra salt and sugar these choices contain so you can alter the rest of your diet accordingly.

 

Support smaller portions with smaller plates.

 

Sometimes the simplest approaches are most effective. Whether you’re sitting down for a holiday dinner or snacking on some seasonal treats, consider utilizing a smaller plate than you’re used to. Seeing a full plate can help your brain register that you’re eating a satisfactory amount of food, even if it’s in smaller quantities. It can also deter you from loading up on bigger serving sizes or more options than are actually necessary for you to feel full. 

 

Fill up on the good stuff first.

 

It may seem obvious, but if you fill your belly with nutritious foods (think: fruits, vegetables and lean protein), you’re less likely to overindulge on some of the other holiday offerings that contain greater amounts of fat, sugar and salt. Therefore, a good strategy is to work these staple foods into your daily diet and be sure to consume them fully before treating yourself to less nutritious holiday refreshments. Doing so can help curb the cravings and cut back on how much you ultimately indulge in festive fare.

 

Don’t get carried away with salt.

 

Many seniors have lost about two thirds of their overall taste buds by age 70, impacting their sensitivity to tastes like salty. When this happens, it’s common for people to sprinkle extra salt on their selections or opt for high-salt dishes. But this can be dangerous for seniors, who are already at higher risk of experiencing health conditions like high blood pressure, obesity and cardiovascular disease.


The CDC’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. In the midst of holiday celebration, keeping tabs on your sodium intake may escape you (or the senior in your life), but it’s important to stay focused. Get creative by utilizing powerful herbs and spices instead of excess sodium, and be sure to read labels on packaged foods. 


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Mind your H2O.


As you bask in the joy of the season, make sure hydration is a cornerstone of your nutritional approach. It may not sound appealing, but consuming proper amounts of water and hydrating liquids can positively affect your sense of satisfaction. 


Seniors sometimes experience a decrease in saliva production, which can lead to dry mouth and additional issues with taste—which are only worsened by a lack of hydration. Beat this palate-busting plight by drinking proper amounts of water and other fluids throughout the day. Staying hydrated can help your body counteract some of the negative impacts of salt and sugar in your system, as well as prevent the salt cravings that sometimes accompany dehydration.


Leave room for satisfying your sweet tooth.


There’s no shortage of confectionaries available during the holidays, and if you have a sweet tooth, this is a common time to indulge. The good news is it’s entirely possible to enjoy sweets this time of year without going overboard. 


A smart way to approach your consumption is to plan for them ahead of time. Actually leave room for a few of your favorite festive treats. Perhaps you can cut out extra helpings of appetizers, breads or cocktails to account for a special dessert you’ve got your eye on. 


Alternatively, consider swapping out some options that are high in added sugar with ones that contain sugar naturally. Fresh fruit and low-calorie delights like angel food cake can help satisfy your sugar cravings so you don’t overdo it with the desserts.


Be cautious about cocktails.


Alcohol is no stranger to the holiday season, and many seniors enjoy partaking in the merriment with a cocktail in hand. It’s fine to have a drink or two on special occasions, but be sure to avoid getting carried away. Not only are wine, beer and liquor (and the additives that accompany them in cocktails) high in calories and sugar, they can also have a dehydrating effect and lead to joint inflammation for seniors. So limit your intake of alcoholic beverages and be sure you’re eating properly as well as drinking plenty of water.


Find stress busters that don’t involve food.


With the spirit of the season also comes the stress. For many, escaping that stress means finding comfort in food—especially varieties that are highly processed or high in fat, sugar and salt. One of the best things you (or the senior in your life) can do to overcome these habits is to replace them with stress-busting activities that are not food related.


Consider various forms of physical exercise, meditation or centering practices, fun hobbies or holiday crafts and even self-care activities like bubble baths or massage therapy. Take your mind off the hustle of the holidays with healthy alternatives to the overeating than often accompanies stress.


For additional tips on senior health and lifestyle issues, check out our blog. If you’re interested in learning more about United Methodist Homes senior living community, contact us today.

 

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About Elizabeth Bemis

In 1998, I drove past an assisted living community construction site, learned that it was part of United Methodist Homes and realized the next stop on my professional journey was to work for a mission driven organization. Soon after, I joined the team as Executive Director of our Middlewoods of Farmington community and later served as Regional Manager for the Middlewoods properties before accepting my current role as Vice President of Marketing, Promotions, and Assisted Living Operations. I enjoy spending time with my family, cooking, reading, walking, and love working alongside our staff, residents, and families to build strong communities that reflect the mission, vision, and values of United Methodist Homes.

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.