It’s National Nutrition Month – a great time to make sure your senior loved one has healthy eating habits and is getting the nutrients they need.
A healthy, well-balanced diet can help your senior maintain a healthy weight, stay energized and lower the risk of developing chronic health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes. Below are five tips from the National Council on Aging to help your senior choose the best food for their diet and their budget.
Know what a healthy plate looks like.
You might remember the food pyramid, but the USDA recently unveiled a simpler way to help people see what they should eat each day. It’s called MyPlate. The simple graphic shows exactly how the five food groups should stack up on your senior’s plate. These are the building blocks for a healthy diet.
Look for important nutrients.
Make sure your senior eats a variety of foods to get all the nutrients they need. Their plate should look like a rainbow; bright, colored foods are always the best choice. A healthy meal should include:
Lean protein (lean meats, seafood, eggs, beans)
Fruits and vegetables (think orange, red, green, and purple)
Whole grains (brown rice, whole-wheat pasta)
Low-fat dairy (milk and its alternatives)
They should choose foods that are high in fiber and low in sodium or salt – and include Vitamin D, an important mineral as we age.
Read the Nutrition Facts label.
The healthiest foods are whole foods. These are often found on the perimeter of the grocery store in the produce, meat, and dairy sections. If your senior wants to eat a few packaged foods, help them be a smart shopper. Read the labels to find items that are lower in fat, added sugars, and sodium.
Use recommended servings.
To maintain a healthy weight, older adults must eat the right amount of food for their age and body. The American Heart Association provides recommended daily servings for adults aged 60+.
Water is an important nutrient too! Don’t let your senior get dehydrated – encourage them to drink small amounts of fluids consistently throughout the day. Tea, coffee, and water are the best choices. It’s best to keep fluids with sugar and salt at a minimum, unless their doctor has suggested otherwise.