Eating a healthy, well-balanced mix of foods has a variety of benefits for seniors. According to the National Institutes of Health, proper nutrition can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, bone loss, and even some types of cancer. A healthy senior diet can also lower cholesterol, reduce high blood pressure, and can build up your body’s ability to manage some of the chronic conditions or illnesses you may already have. Plus, some foods have even been associated with increased mental capacity and better memory retention.
However, as we age, our metabolisms slow down and our activity levels tend to drop off. This means your body needs fewer calories to function, and your appetite may not be what it used to be. However, when seniors begin skipping meals or making poor food choices, your overall health can begin to suffer.
There’s no time like the present to start implementing healthy changes in your eating habits that can improve your overall health. An improper senior diet will cause undesired weight loss or weight gain, as well as weaken your immune system. Older adults who neglect to eat healthy meals are often more susceptible to illnesses like the flu and common cold. However, there are a few ways to stimulate your appetite to ensure you are getting the proper nutrition. For example:
Don’t skip breakfast. Contrary to popular belief, the biggest meal of the day should not be eaten at dinnertime. Studies show that breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day, and this is when you should eat the most food. A large, healthy breakfast packed with protein provides your body fuel for the entire day. Plus, eating less at lunch and dinner will help you avoid dozing off after you have consumed the majority of your daily calories.
Stick to a routine. Humans thrive on routine, and setting a schedule for eating every day can help increase your appetite. Designate times not only for meals, but also for snacking to get your body used to a daily routine.
Plan ahead. When you go grocery shopping for the week ahead, try to avoid splurging on prepackaged cookies or chips that are full of empty calories. Instead, choose fresh veggies to chop up and portion out into containers or baggies that you can easily reach for when you’re craving a snack. Take the same approach with fruits, nuts and whole grain crackers.
Increase nutrients, not portions. Remember, your appetite has probably decreased a bit, so it’s easy to get overwhelmed by large portion sizes. Instead, keep the portions on the small side but increase the amount of nutrients. For example, adding milk to hot cereal instead of water, or cheese to your scrambled eggs.
Incorporate new flavors. It’s easy for seniors to get stuck in a food rut. Try adding different herbs and spices, marinades or sauces to your tried and true recipes.
Enjoy a meal with others. Studies have shown that seniors who eat in a social setting tend to have larger appetites than those who dine alone. It can be easy to skip meals when there is no one there to remind you that it’s lunch or dinner time. Whenever possible, enjoy a meal with your friends or family members.
At Advent Christian Village, members are presented with many different dining options to ensure optimal senior nutrition levels. Enjoy daily meals and gather with your friends seven days a week at the Lopin’ Gopher Deli or the Village Café along Main Street. Contact us today for more information.