Eating well should be a lifelong habit that starts in childhood and continues throughout our senior years. Since older adults are more vulnerable to health problems, senior nutrition should focus on foods that give us the best chance of living a long, disease-free life.
“As we get older, we are more susceptible to diseases such as cardiovascular problems, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, and osteopenia,” says certified nutritionist Maria Dello of Dellonutritionals in Manhasset, NY, who understands the significance of senior nutrition. “The key is to go back to the fundamentals and think preventatively.”
Nutritious Foods for Seniors
Nutritional eating is part of a healthy lifestyle that entails avoiding all of the things that are bad for us—i.e., cigarettes, sugar, simple carbohydrates, too much alcohol—while gravitating toward what is good. Thus, it’s important for seniors, especially, to get regular exercise, drink plenty of water and eat foods with health-related benefits.
We all know that oranges have vitamin C, but Dello identified these other excellent choices for a healthy senior diet and should be ones you consider adding to your shopping list when preparing meals for the elderly:
Senior Nutrition Must Have’s:
- Asparagus and kale—high in vitamin B6, excellent for your nervous system
- Cucumbers—rehydrates the body and is excellent for your skin
- Avocado—contributes to healthy blood flow, making it a great brain food
- Olive oil—raises good cholesterol levels
- Beets—gives an energy boost while also lowering blood pressure
- Turmeric—a culinary spice with anti-inflammatory properties
- Cinnamon—stir a bit into your tea to control blood sugar
- Green tea—a great drink for boosting your metabolism
- Red wine—in moderation, serves as a great antioxidant
- Fish oil and coconut oil—healthy for the heart and the brain
- Sauerkraut—a fermented food that aids in absorption
Even if you’ve eaten poorly for decades, adding such foods for seniors to your diet can still have a dramatic effect on your health. “The body is going to react to these changes in a very positive way,” says Dello.
In addition to eating healthy, Dello recommends that seniors take a high-powered multivitamin everyday to make sure they’re getting the vital nutrients they need. “It’s like an insurance policy,” she explains. A multivitamin will ensure that seniors are getting sufficient quantities of vitamin D, for example, which is important for maintaining healthy bones and teeth while lowering the risk of disease and obesity.
Additionally, while calcium is found naturally in such foods as broccoli, kale, and collard greens, Dello explains that calcium can be especially beneficial when taken in a multi-vitamin that also contains magnesium and other minerals to aid in absorption. All are important things to keep in mind when preparing meals for the elderly and educating yourself on the best foods for seniors.
Soft Foods Recipes
One eating difficulty that afflicts many aging adults is a diminishing ability to chew and swallow, which may be caused by dental problems or by motor skill loss associated with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Seniors with this difficulty can include such soft foods in their diet as soups, omelettes, soft-cooked vegetables and puddings.
For healthy blended drinks, Dello swears by the Nutribullet as a great way to extract nutrients from such foods as kale, blueberries, oatmeal, beets and spinach.
For additional soft foods recipes, the National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders provides several senior diet recommendations, including the Soft Foods for Easier Eating Cookbook by Sandra Woodruff and Leah Gilbert-Henderson.
Easy Meals for Seniors
Creating nutritional meals for seniors doesn’t have to be difficult. Dello’s website features several easy recipes for seniors. One is posted here with her permission:
Baked Wild Salmon in Parchment Paper with Olive Oil and Garlic
4 oz. wild salmon
1 Tablespoon olive oil or coconut oil
2 Cloves roasted garlic
1 Tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon
1 Teaspoon white cooking wine
1 Teaspoon chicken stock
Finely chopped parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Plum tomato
Place salmon* on parchment paper.
In a separate sauté pan, heat olive oil. Sauté garlic until golden brown. Add lemon juice, cooking wine, chicken stock, salt and pepper to salmon.
Fold neatly, like a rectangular pocket. Scratch top of pocket with a knife in an “X” design.
Bake salmon at 350 degrees for 12 minutes. Place on platter. Place olive oil and garlic on top. Garnish with parsley and finely chopped tomatoes on the side.
What is your favorite soft foods recipe when preparing meals for the elderly? Please share below!