With chips, pop, ice cream, candy, and other delights calling our names, it’s not always easy to make healthy meal choices. As we age, it becomes more important than ever to eat a nutritious, balanced diet rich in protein, fibre, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. Healthy food fuels the body and mind and minimizes complications from conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis. Help Mom and Dad make healthy eating choices with these strategies:
Plan Healthy Meals
On a fixed budget, cheap but unhealthy foods suddenly have an appeal. With mobility limitations, it can be difficult to get to the market or grocery store for fresh produce, and Mom and Dad may begin to rely on fast foods or prepackaged dinners high in saturated fat, sodium, and sugar. If Mom or Dad has Alzheimer’s or another condition, they may be more likely to eat expired foods, or forget to eat at all. Help Mom and Dad by preparing meals week-by-week. You can batch cook meals in the crockpot to give a week’s worth of food, or freeze for a later date. A caregiver can help Mom and Dad shop for groceries, or assist with meal preparation to ensure a healthy, balanced diet. This is especially important if your parents have special nutrition requirements due to diabetes, lactose intolerance, or another condition.
Eat Your Veggies
When you were a kid, your parents used to make you eat every vegetable on your plate. Now is the time to return the favour. Vegetables are high in fibre, which helps Mom and Dad stay regular. Vegetables are rich sources of vitamins and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, obesity and cancer:
Vitamin A – carrots, tomato, leafy greens
Vitamin C – broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, leafy greens
Folate – peas, spinach, mustard greens
Potassium – Cooked spinach, tomatoes, beet greens
As a handy rule, at least half the plate should be filled with vegetables. Try to get at least three different colours of vegetables on the plate to get a variety of nutrients on the plate. For example, try the flag of Italy: spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes. Or the Canadian flag: beets, white asparagus, and red pepper.
Change It Up
If Mom or Dad has trouble with chewing, a nutritious smoothie with spinach, kale, banana, and yogurt is a tasty yet healthy way to get those essential nutrients. Especially in the winter months, soup is a great way to get nutrition and warm up, and it’s easier if your parent has trouble chewing. Plus, it’s simple for you to batch prepare soups, divide into individual containers, and freeze.
Tracking your calories or nutrients is not always easy. On the one hand, a day that starts with a Tim Hortons’ double double and ends with a burger, fries, and shake at a restaurant could amount to more than 3,000 calories, far more than most seniors need. On the other hand, if your parent forgets to eat, they could be well under their intake requirements. Help your parent keep track of their intake to ensure they get enough nutrients, but don’t overeat. You can track their meals with pen and paper, or there are many smartphone apps that will track calories, macros, and nutrients in full detail.
Talk to Your Parent’s Physician
If your parent is not getting the nutrition they need from their daily diet, talk to their doctor about the option of dietary supplements. It is important to ask your parent’s primary care physician as some dietary supplements may affect your parent’s medical conditions or interfere with medications.
For more advice on healthy meal choices or to learn more about how a caregiver can help Mom and Dad lead healthy, fulfilling lives as they age, contact Assurance Home Care.