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Senior Nutrition: Healthy Snacking for Older Adults
Elizabeth Bemis

By: Elizabeth Bemis on September 10th, 2020

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Senior Nutrition: Healthy Snacking for Older Adults

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

Nutritional needs are finicky things. As we age, our bodies change, our appetites transform and our health requirements evolve. In response to these adjustments, some seniors face unintentional weight loss or experience other dietary realities that put their overall health at risk. Therefore, seniors must be extra vigilant about what and how often they eat.

 

In order to stay strong—both physically and mentally—it’s essential to pay close attention to diet. Doing so can certainly be a challenge, particularly for those battling a loss of appetite, a change in taste buds, difficulty chewing or other specific health conditions that demand restrictions on ingredients like salt, sugar or fat. 


In many cases, healthy snacking can be quite beneficial for seniors. By consuming smart, healthy snacks between meals, you or the senior in your life can maintain proper caloric intake and sustain greater energy throughout the day. But snacking should be done strategically, taking great care to avoid choices that are high in fat, salt and refined sugars, opting instead for ones with maximum protein and whole grains.


The good news is there is a wide variety of healthy, delicious snacks that can fuel the body and feed its cravings without compromising health. To help you or the senior in your life make good dietary decisions, we’re providing some expert insight on how to approach healthy snacking successfully.

 

Know Your Nutrients

 

Half the battle of incorporating healthy snacks into your day is understanding the nutritional elements critical to senior health. Here’s a helpful list of the food factors that are particularly  vital to focus on.   

 

  • Calcium: This nutrient helps the body build and maintain healthy bones and has been known to lower blood pressure. Without proper calcium intake, your body may begin to reabsorb it from your bones, which can make them fragile and brittle, a particular concern for older adults. Calcium-rich foods include dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, as well as leafy green vegetables and fortified cereals. 

 

  • Fiber: Supporting proper digestion, fiber helps move food through the digestive tract and prevent constipation. Also shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, it can be found in foods like nuts, whole grain cereal, whole grain bread and pasta, brown rice, fruits and vegetables.

 

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These help prevent inflammation (a significant contributor to cancer, arthritis and heart disease) and have been found to slow the progression of Macular Degeneration (which causes vision loss), reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and keep the brain alert. You can find them in options like sardines, tuna, mackerel, salmon, flaxseed, soybeans, canola oil and walnuts.

 

  • Water: Dehydration causes drowsiness and confusion, among other side effects, which makes water essential to senior nutrition. Especially if you’re following a high-fiber diet, it’s important to consume plenty of water. Aside from the obvious option to drink several glasses of plain water throughout the day, you can incorporate hydration-rich foods like soups and broths, skim milk, melons and other fruits, cucumbers, lettuce and tea.

 

  • Iron: This nutrient produces hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood from the lungs to the rest of the body. Without enough of it, the oxygen supply is interrupted, which can result in fatigue and lethargy. Great options for consuming iron include beans and lentils, tofu, baked potatoes, cashews, dark green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals and whole-grain, enriched breads.

 

  • Potassium: Potassium aids in cell function, reduces blood pressure and lowers the risk of kidney stones. It is also believed to strengthen bones and can be found in such fruit and vegetables as bananas, prunes and potatoes. Keep in mind, though, that lack of potassium AND an excess of it can both be dangerous for seniors. 

 

  • Magnesium: Magnesium plays a major role in hundreds of physiological functions, including those related to your heart, immune system and bones. As you age, your body’s ability to absorb magnesium decreases. This nutrient is mainly found in whole grains, nuts, fresh fruit and vegetables.

 

  • Vitamin C: This vitamin’s antioxidant properties are believed to prevent cancer and heart disease. It also helps produce collagen, which promotes skin elasticity, and can aid in repairing bones and teeth. It can be found in fruits and vegetables. 

 

  • Vitamin D: This vitamin helps absorb calcium in the body and aids in maintaining bone density to prevent osteoporosis. New evidence shows it may also protect against chronic conditions like multiple sclerosis, type 2 diabetes, cancer and rheumatoid osteoporosis. Some foods fortified with Vitamin D include certain cereals, milk, yogurt and juices, and it can be found naturally in eggs and some fish (salmon and tuna). 

 

  • Vitamin B12: Responsible for maintaining nerve function, production of red blood cells and DNA, this vitamin is found in dairy products like milk, as well as meat and poultry.

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Expand Your Snacking Horizons

 

Of course, the more enjoyable your food options are, the more likely you are to incorporate them into your diet. That’s why it makes sense to find healthy, nutritious snacks that also appeal to your tastes. Doing so may require you to think outside the box and open up your range of food selections. To help get you moving in the right direction, consider some of these palate-pleasing choices for optimal senior snacking. 

 

  • Tuna on whole-grain crackers or veggies
  • String, sliced or cubed cheeses
  • Hard-boiled and/or deviled eggs
  • Yogurt with berries, peaches or pears
  • Homemade granola baked with oats, nuts, seeds and real maple syrup 
  • Raisins and prunes
  • Orange slices dipped in dark chocolate
  • Green tea
  • Unsweetened almond or cashew milk
  • Smoothies blended with spinach or kale, Greek yogurt, chia seeds and frozen fruit 
  • Edamame
  • Low-sodium beef, pork or turkey jerky (that are free of nitrates and added sugar)
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Hummus with pita bread
  • Sliced avocado on toast
  • Homemade guacamole with fresh onions, tomatoes, garlic and spices
  • Baked apple chips sprinkled with cinnamon
  • Frozen grapes or banana
  • Handful of roasted almonds or heart-healthy walnuts
  • Whole grain popcorn 
  • Apple slices with natural peanut butter
  • Bowl of oatmeal with blueberries
  • Sliced tomato with feta cheese and a drizzle of olive oil
  • Baked sweet potato chips
  • Celery with almond butter and raisins
  • Salsa with baked tortilla chips
  • Kale chips
  • Cottage cheese sprinkled with flaxseed and cinnamon
  • Fruit leathers or dried mango slices
  • Cup of pudding or gelatin
  • Serving of sunflower or pumpkin seeds

 

These are just some of the many creative options available to seniors for healthy snacking. For more ideas and guidance, be sure to check with your doctor or nutritionist and lean on expert resources. In the end, optimal snacking is all about understanding senior health, creating variety and choosing options that meet your unique tastes and dietary needs.

 

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. If you're ready to visit a community, schedule your tour here

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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.