Healthy Meal Planning Tips for Seniors

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Reuters recently reported that nearly 54 million people in America are over the age of 65, and by 2030, this number will rise to 74 million. The number of people in the country over the age of 85, who need the most care, is rising even faster.

Aging does not necessarily mean ill health, but you should know how to keep your body in good shape. This can be done by eating right and exercising regularly. This can be helped by planning out your meals ahead of time so that you don’t end up making unhealthy choices or skipping meals altogether. 

The importance of meal planning should not be underestimated, and that’s why we wrote a compilation of the best meal delivery kits if you don’t have enough time.

Here are some tips for healthy meal planning for seniors:

Consume More Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Fresh fruits and vegetables are a good source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They’re also low in fat and calories. In addition to being filling, they can be prepared in many different ways to add variety to your meals. For example:

  • Fresh fruit can be eaten fresh or frozen for later use.
  • Vegetables can be steamed, boiled, or baked.

According to The Guardian, those who eat more fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of dementia, cognitive decline, and diabetes. They even experience decreased stress levels.

Avoid Processed Foods

It’s important to avoid highly processed foods as much as possible. These types of foods are often high in sodium, sugar, and additives like preservatives. They can also be low in nutrients and calories, which makes it easy to eat too much without feeling full. If you have any questions about whether a food is processed, check for ingredients that don’t sound familiar or healthy to you.

Don’t Drink Your Calories

It’s important not to drink your calories. While it might seem like you’re getting some vitamins in your diet, the truth is that consuming calorie-rich drinks can be just as bad for you as eating junk food. That’s because many drinks have more calories than food, and they don’t provide the same nutrients or satiety as solid food.

Consider:

  • Calories from drinks contain no fiber and little or no protein, so they’re digested quickly and sent straight into the bloodstream as blood sugar (glucose).
  • Many juices contain added sugars such as high fructose corn syrup or sucrose, increasing blood sugar levels even more quickly than plain fruit juice. 

Look For Hidden Sugar in Packaged Goods

If you’re one of the many seniors who like to eat packaged goods, it’s important to know that sugar is hiding in just about everything, even foods that don’t seem very sweet.

According to MedicineNet, packaged foods have higher amounts of sugar, salt, refined grains, and unhealthy oils. The CDC has noted that high cholesterol and high blood pressure caused by consuming too much salt are the leading causes of stroke and heart disease.

To avoid getting more than you need, scan ingredient lists for words ending in “-ose” such as glucose or sucrose. Sugar goes by many other names as well, like corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, and molasses are all forms of sugar.

Lean Protein Sources Are Essential

Protein sources are essential for seniors. Protein helps your body to rebuild and repair tissues, such as muscle. It also allows you to maintain your weight, which may be an issue for some seniors.

Lean protein sources include fish, poultry, and meat. Fish is a great source of essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein that you need to stay healthy), as well as iron and zinc. Two minerals many seniors tend to have trouble getting enough of while they age. 

Poultry also contains iron and zinc but less than fish. However, it’s still an excellent lean protein choice because it has fewer calories per serving than most other animal proteins do.

Get Help If Needed

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone, and there are a lot of resources available if you need help planning healthy meals on your own.

Several professionals can help you with meal planning. You can seek help from an Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP ). 

These nurses are well-trained in nutrition and food preparation, so they may be able to offer advice on healthy cooking techniques or suggest new recipes based on your dietary preferences. 

An online AGACNP program allows RNs with an associate’s degree or higher in nursing (ADN) to earn their AGACNP certification over two years while working full-time as registered nurses at any hospital or clinic throughout the country.

These nurses are primary care providers for adults across the continuum of care. In addition to ordering tests, screening patients, and providing treatment plans, AGPCNPs also provide patient and caregiver education.

Stay Hydrated

Drinking water is a great way to stay hydrated and healthy. Water helps you digest food, flush out toxins, maintain body temperature, and keep your skin looking young.

To ensure you’re drinking enough water each day, check the color of your urine. If it’s dark or yellowish-brown, you’re dehydrated. To avoid dehydration during hot months or any time, here are some tips for staying hydrated:

  • Drink plenty of fluids. Water is best because it’s calorie-free. Try adding lemon slices to your glass for extra flavor and vitamin C benefits.
  • Eat foods that contain lots of water, like fresh fruit juices (not soda) and soups with broth rather than a cream base (chicken noodle soup instead beef stew).
  • Don’t drink too much coffee or tea since caffeine acts as a diuretic. It increases urine output by increasing fluid flow through the kidneys into the bladder & out of the body.

Conclusion

Meal planning can be a daunting task, especially for seniors. It’s important to take into consideration your nutritional needs as well as your taste preferences. The key is to find healthy recipes that you enjoy eating and that fit within your budget. There are so many online resources available today that make it easier than ever before to plan meals at home. It just takes some time and dedication on your part.

About the Author

Jared Levenson is a former binge eating wrestler turned Zen Buddhist Monk, Internal Family Systems counselor and nutrition wellness coach. He's helped hundreds of people through universal meal principles and internal family systems to make peace with food, stop binge eating, and find true health and wholeness.

@jared_levenson

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