With aging comes an increased risk for health conditions including cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. If you provide home care for a senior parent and are concerned about his or her health, rest assured there is a simple way to promote overall health: a diverse and healthy diet. Whether your loved one is living with a chronic condition or your goals revolve around prevention, food can be an important tool in maintaining quality of life.
Seniors experience physical changes that can affect appetite and eating patterns. For instance, the metabolism naturally slows down so the body doesn’t burn as many calories. The digestive system stops processing food the same way, making it more difficult for seniors to absorb certain nutrients. A prescribed medication or combination of medications can also leave a senior uninterested in meals. To ensure your loved one attains adequate amounts of vitamins and nutrients, our live-in caregivers share some important nutrition tips:
- Fruits and Vegetables
When serving dinner or a larger meal, about half the plate should contain fruits and vegetables. Raw vegetables more fiber, but other healthy preparations include steaming or boiling. Health care experts and dieticians often advise the more colorful the plate, the healthier it is!
Whole grains are a healthier alternative to white grains, so try to serve brown rice and whole grain pastas and breads. If your loved one has trouble transitioning to whole grain products, incorporate them in slowly. For instance, use half white rice and half brown rice per serving and gradually add more brown rice overtime.
Salt is one of the most common food additives to help preserve processed foods, like canned soup and frozen entrees. Try to eliminate these from your loved one’s diet as they can cause hypertension and increase the risk for stroke and other heart conditions. Opt for low-sodium options and add flavor to meals using herbs and spices instead of salt.
While seniors do not need a high caloric diet, they do still need nutrient dense foods. Try to minimize the amount of red meat in the diet and serve lean proteins such as chicken and turkey and fatty fish like tuna and salmon which are packed with omega-3s which studies show can reduce the risk for cognitive related conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Calcium is extremely important to protect bones and teeth. Low-fat dairy products are a tasty way to get calcium, but supplements may be recommended by your loved one’s doctor of he or she has trouble digesting dairy-based products. Vitamin D, also known as sunshine vitamin, can help the body absorb calcium so encourage your loved one to enjoy the outdoors when temperatures are safe.
Have other questions about senior dietary needs? Perhaps your loved one needs help preparing healthy meals? Whatever the reason, reach out to Home Care Assistance of Philadelphia today. Our trained live-in and hourly caregivers in Philadelphia are available 24/7 and can ensure your loved one eats regular meals, takes medications as prescribed, and has help with daily activities and personal care. Call 215-645-4663 and find out if an in-home caregiver is the right fit for your parent or loved one.