A well-balanced diet maintains cognitive awareness, a strong immune system, and a healthy heart. At-home caregivers recognize that taking care of a loved one’s diet is a major priority.
What comprises a “well-balanced” diet changes as you age. Coupled with diseases, such as diabetes or Alzheimer’s, maintaining a healthy diet becomes even more complicated. However, you are not alone in your dietary concerns. Whether you are confused about setting up a proper diet for your loved one or worried about maintaining their diet when they transition to Assisted Care, you can use these tips to help guide you.
Maintaining a Balanced Diet for Seniors
According to the National Council on Aging, a healthy meal should consist of:
- Lean protein such as seafood, eggs, beans, and lean meat
- Fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors
- Whole grains
- Low-fat dairy products
Senior diets need to emphasize high fiber, low sodium, low cholesterol, and minimal sugar. Protein plays another important dietary role. According to a study published in the journal Neurology, people with the most protein in their diets are 20 percent less likely to have a stroke than people who have the least amount of protein in their diets. In addition, a twenty-gram increase of protein in a daily diet reduced the risk of stroke by 26 percent.
Seniors should drink plenty of liquids, preferably water, and limit beverages with high amounts of added sugars or salt. While eating food is the best way to receive the vitamins that you need, seniors should consider taking dietary supplements. Before making that decision, you or your loved one should contact a physician.
If your loved one prefers specialized yet healthy food plans, consider a Mediterranean-based diet. This way of eating emphasizes a primarily plant-based diet, replacing butter with healthy fats while consuming less red meat and more fish and whole grains. According to Harvard Health Publications, adopting a Mediterranean diet can reduce the risks of heart attacks, strokes, and premature death.
Helping a Loved One Maintain Their Diet in Assisted Care
As you prepare to move your loved one to Assisted Living, naturally, you will worry about the quality of the diet they will receive. Before choosing an Assisted Living community, ask:
- What meal options are available?
- Do the menus change daily?
- How often does the community offer meals to residents?
- Can residents order anytime they choose?
- What types of snacks are available in the community?
- Are the meals nutritionally balanced?
- Can residents request specific foods or meals?
- Can residents of this community keep food in their homes?
- Are families and guests allowed to bring food into their homes?
- Do you offer meals to accommodate particular dietary restrictions and needs?
These questions can help you select the Assisted Living community that will provide the best fit for your loved one. Make sure you discuss these dietary plans and restrictions with your loved one before moving forward.
After a loved one settles into their community, they will still need you to inform the staff of their dietary needs to maintain the same diet they enjoyed at home.
Try getting your loved one to catalog every meal throughout the day. Writing down daily intake encourages your parent to keep track of macronutrients, such as carbohydrates, protein, sugar, and other nutrients, and it allows you to review their diet as a whole.
If a vending machine provides the only snacks available, bring healthy foods for your loved one that supplement their diet. When choosing some delicious daily snacks, stick to proven superfoods that can help maintain cognition. Diets rich in foods such as blueberries, nuts, avocados, and dark chocolate encourage increased focus, concentration, and learning capacity.
Keeping up with a loved one’s diet is difficult yet rewarding. Your loved one will need your help and support maintaining their diet when they move into Assisted Living. For more information regarding general diet tips for seniors, visit Nutrition.gov.