The holidays are quickly approaching, which means delicious and large amounts of food are rapidly coming your way. While everyone struggles to maintain their diet during this time of year, it is especially important for seniors to keep nutrition in the back of their mind.
As we age, our diet restrictions change. It takes different types and quantities of nutrients to keep seniors healthy. In general it is important for seniors to watch their sodium intake and instead, eat lots of foods rich in calcium, fiber, potassium and other healthy vitamins and minerals.
However, if you know an elderly loved one is suffering from any medical conditions such as diabetes, anemia, high blood pressure or others, there may be even more dietary restrictions they need to follow.
In order to stay healthy during the holidays and still enjoy your meals, here are a few tips to help guide you:
Slash the fat. There are many baking options that can substitute fatty ingredients for more healthy options. There is minimal change in taste for many fat substitutions recipes, and you get the added benefit of feeling good about your diet choices. Here are a few fat substitutions to consider:
Look for foods with lower sodium options. One of the most concerning diet problems for seniors is their sodium intake. The Food and Nutrition Board suggests eating no more than 1,300 milligrams of sodium for people between the ages of 51-70, and around 1,200 milligrams if you are over 70. Some simple ways to cut sodium is to use less dressing, select fresh ingredients over processed ones and use a measuring spoon when salting food.
Moderate your alcohol intake. Alcohol in large quantities can have many negative health effects and large amounts of calories that can kill any diet. A general rule of thumb to lower your alcohol consumption is to follow every alcoholic drink with one full glass of water.
Eat until you’re almost full. Stuffing your face full of delicious food is tempting, but it can leave you feeling bloated, sleepy and full of regret. It also takes some time for your stomach to send signals to your brain telling you that you are full, making it easy to overeat. This holiday season try eating until you feel just slightly satisfied, and then wait 15 minutes. If you are still hungry afterwards you can always get more food later, but giving yourself a break allows your brain to process how much you’ve eaten so far.
Make time for exercise. The holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year, but don’t let that get in the way of your workout routine. Make sure you continue your exercise habits and consider adding in a few extra activities as well. Even just going for a 15 minute walk after dinner can provide many health benefits.
Don’t skip meals. This can be tempting when you know you’ll be eating large amounts of food later, but skipping meals can actually cause you to eat more overall. Stick to three solid meals a day, or even eat a small snack before a large meal. This will keep your stomach full and lower your chances of overeating during a holiday dinner.
If you have any specific diet questions for the holiday season, don’t hesitate to talk with your doctor. For a list of the most recommended vitamins for seniors, refer to our previous blog on nutrition for seniorshere.