Nutrition plays a major role in keeping seniors healthy and improving overall well-being. A healthy diet can guard against numerous health challenges such as osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Ingredients, portions, and smart recipes are all elements of proper senior nutrition – and creating delicious, healthy meals doesn't have to be a hassle!
By following a few simple guidelines, there’s an endless variety of easy and nutritious meals that seniors can make on their own. Read on for some great tips and recipes to manage senior nutrition every day.
Basic Guidelines and Tips for Senior Nutrition
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), seniors will do best by choosing foods high in nutrients (lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals) and low in calories. A few options include:
- Lean poultry and meat
- Eggs, beans, and nuts (preferably unsalted)
- Whole grains
- Low-fat or nonfat dairy (milk, yogurt, kefir)
Other tips include:
- Prepare meatless entrees (or substitute plant-based options)
- Use whole wheat pasta
- Try ancient grains, quinoa, faro, barley, etc.
- Use low-sodium broth for soups
- Use fresh herbs whenever possible
What you don’t eat is just as important as what you do. It’s a good idea to limit or avoid foods that don’t provide much nutrition but add a lot of calories. Snacks and dessert foods such as chips, soda, cookies, cake, and pie are a few of the main culprits. Try to avoid saturated and trans fats, use salt sparingly, and limit alcohol.
Here are some ideas for putting together easy, nutritious meals. Mix, match, and add your own twists for variety!
- Scrambled eggs (or egg whites if you’re watching your cholesterol) with diced onions, mushrooms, or chives.
- Fruit, such as sliced apple or pineapple, orange or grapefruit sections, grapes, or melon balls. A dollop of yogurt (don't forget Greek yogurt!) adds freshness and zest.
- Whole grain toast. Try apple butter, naturally sweetened jam, or a drizzle of honey instead of butter!
- Homemade tuna salad. Try using canola mayo and adding pine nuts or chopped cashews for added texture. Add curry seasoning for extra flavor. Serve as an open-faced sandwich or as a salad.
- Green leafy salad with your favorite vegetables: tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, olives, and avocado.
- Homemade soup. Start with vegetarian or chicken stock, then add your favorite vegetables and seasonings. Potatoes add a nice thickening texture, and squash or fresh corn add a sweetening factor. Best if made the day before, but a large batch can be frozen into individual portions for anytime use.
- Baked or broiled chicken breast (skinless) or fish fillet (tilapia, salmon, and tuna are delicious choices). Season with a squeeze of lemon and herbs such as rosemary or thyme.
- Potato, yam, or squash, either baked or broiled with an entrée like fish or chicken. Baking them together in tinfoil will preserve the flavors and speed the cooking time.
- Steamed vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, asparagus, beets, spinach, or kale. Choose different combinations for variety and rounded nutrition.
- Mayo Clinic: The recipes featured on Mayo Clinic's website include appetizers, breads, beverages, main dishes, and desserts. Plus, they offer a free e-newsletter and other resources for healthy eating.
- Care.com: This website features 18 quick recipes for seniors that include breakfast, lunch, and dinner options.
- EatingWell: EatingWell has quick and easy heart-healthy dinner recipes including chicken or turkey, meals, hearty soups and salads, and even deconstructed lasagna.
- A Place for Mom: Known for its free service that helps families find senior care, A Place for Mom has some great resources, including 24 easy recipes specially designed for seniors. Heart-healthy, easy to prepare, and delicious, there’s something here for everyone. Recipes include breakfast choices, light lunches, soups, salads, and even vegetarian options.
- Delish: Delish features 15 heart-healthy recipes that can be prepared in under 30 minutes. Plus, they have 5 grams or less of saturated fat per serving. Choose from soups, tacos, salmon, tilapia, and pasta dishes.
- Sage Minder: With seniors specifically in mind, Sage Minder has a great list of soups, refreshing and nutritious drinks, dips, and more. All of their recipes are easy to prepare and feature smaller batches, typically 2-4 servings.
- My Recipes: My Recipes features full meals that can be prepared in about twenty minutes. Choices range from Shrimp and Broccoli Stir-Fry to Moroccan Chicken, Glazed Salmon, and BBQ Pork Chops. It also has some time-saving tips for heart-healthy meal preparation.
If you’re unsure, consult with your doctor for individual recommendations before trying new foods. Bon appétit!