The Importance of Winter Nutrition for Seniors
With November halfway over, it’s not hard to forget how soon the holidays will arrive. It’s a busy time of year, but it’s important to remember the importance of winter nutrition for seniors.
So before the holidays get too close, take time to reassess yours or your loved one’s diet to meet their nutritional needs.
Even with the temptation of holiday food, it’s essential to focus on maintaining healthy eating habits, especially for older adults.
For seniors, healthy winter nutrition means more than getting plenty of vitamins and minerals to prevent illness.
It also means supplementing with nutrients that support other aspects of your health. Those include emotional wellbeing, inflammation, cholesterol, heart disease, and mobility.
Tips for Healthy Nutrition for Older Adults
During the winter months, our energy levels decline, but a healthy lifestyle can change that, beginning with the right food choices.
A good rule of thumb when thinking about winter nutrition for seniors is the 4 x 3 rule. That means eating from the four food groups three times a day.
These groups include gruits and vegetables, grains, milk or dairy alternatives, and meat and its options.
Healthy snacking is also an important part of healthy eating. In between meals, seniors should snack on high-fiber foods. Besides supporting a healthy digestive system, fiber also helps promote feelings of fullness.
Rye, apples, nuts, bananas, and prunes are just a few ideas of fiber-full foods that can help you or your loved one feeling your best all winter long.
Of course, in addition to eating well, seniors also need to aim to stay active, even during the winter. There are many indoor exercises for seniors that can improve balance, mobility, mood, and more.
Don’t forget to drink plenty of water! It’s easy to forget to stay hydrated when it isn’t hot outside, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less important to drink at least 64 ounces of water a day.
The shortened days and cold weather might make it difficult for older adults to get enough sunlight.
Sunlight is a good source of vitamin D, which is necessary for physical and emotional health. This vitamin supports bone health by regulating calcium and phosphorus levels in the blood.
Additionally, vitamin D promotes easier calcium absorption in the intestines. Otherwise, it passes through the kidneys and is excreted, leaving all of the calcium’s benefits behind.
When you don’t get enough sunlight, your body’s serotonin levels naturally drop, and so does your mood. You can counteract the winter blues by eating foods that contain it or taking a supplement pill.
Good sources of vitamin D include egg yolks and low-fat dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt. Whole grains and healthy carbs, including oats, quinoa, and rice, can also help improve serotonin levels.
Some of the most healthy winter foods for seniors are yams, pumpkin, and squash. These contain lots of vitamins A, C, B6, potassium, and folate, which also boost your mood.
Experts believe that up to 20% of older adults 50 and older have diets that are low in B12, which can lead to series health issues.
Vitamin B12 helps the body produce more red blood cells and make sure nerve cells properly function. If you are low in this vitamin, these functions become and impaired and can cause several health concerns.
Since B12 is responsible for nerve cell functioning, low levels can affect the brain and impair memory, irritability, or dementia.
Seniors can try a B12 supplement to make sure they meet the daily intake of this important vitamin.
Vision and Bone Health
No talk about winter nutrition for seniors would be complete without stressing the importance of getting enough dark leafy greens.
Take advantage of seasonal greens, such as kale, chard, escarole, and collards. These leafy green vegetables are rich in vitamins A, C, and K.
You may already know that vitamin C supports a healthy immune system, which is especially important for older adults in the winter.
But vitamins A and K are equally crucial. Vitamin A can prevent age-related visual degeneration, lowers the risk of some cancers, promotes bone health, and even helps protect immunity.
Vitamin K helps blood clot easier, supports bone metabolism, and manages calcium levels in the blood.
Immune System Support
Getting plenty of vitamin C is the first step to staying healthy this winter. This vitamin is best known for its immune system properties, but it can also help lower cholesterol levels.
Many citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and grapefruit are go-to sources of vitamin C. Still, they also have plenty of fiber, which is a necessary component of many bodily functions.
B6 is another immune system booster, but it also has a wealth of other health benefits that are important to winter nutrition for seniors.
It can help improve your mood and ease symptoms of depression and prevent clogged arteries and lower your chance for heart disease.
B6 is also believed to improve cognitive health and reduce the development of Alzheimer’s.
Besides oranges and other citrus fruits, root vegetables like potatoes are high in vitamin C and B6. A medium-sized potato has 25% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C and 29% of B6.
Muscle Health and Strength
For aging adults, the risk of injury, especially from a fall, becomes higher. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet can help lower the risk of injury in the event of an accident, and also speed up recovery.
Eating foods that are high in protein can help protect muscle health and slow down their degeneration. Sticking to lean proteins like chicken and fish will offer many other nutrition benefits as well as plenty of protein.
The cold temperatures can make inflammation worsen. Seniors can counter this by eating purple and red fruits and vegetables like blueberries and beets.
These types of veggies contain high levels of anthocyanins. These are antioxidants, which are necessary for combating free radicals that cause cellular damage.
Antioxidants have been shown to lower the risk of cancer and heart disease, improve skin, hair, and eye health, and ease inflammation.
Winter Recipes for Seniors
Proper winter nutrition for seniors doesn’t have to be boring! Check out these nutritious and delicious recipe ideas for older adults.
- Baked potatoes with low-fat cheese, yogurt, steamed broccoli, or your preferred leafy greens. Try it with yams for even more antioxidants.
- For a warm meal perfect for cold winter nights, try a legume soup made with chicken stock. Add those leafy greens, diced squash, and a little lemon juice. For a more filling option, try it with brown rice or quinoa.
- Try a fruit smoothie with low-fat yogurt, frozen fruits, lime juice, and cooked pumpkin or squash. It’s surprisingly filling and has everything you need for a healthy start to your day.
When Cooking is Not an Option
Sometimes, there comes a point where cooking is no longer an option. Look for signs that indicate a need for additional help:
- An empty refrigerator, or one full of spoiled food
- Decreased energy and strength
- Burner lights or the oven left on
- Difficulty or shakiness when cutting
- Dishes that appear burned or were on the stove for too long
If you or your loved one are unable to prepare healthy meals, there are still ways to ensure a healthy diet.
If you live far away from your loved one or otherwise are unable to assist with cooking, hiring a caregiver can make a big difference.
An in-home care worker can help with meal prep, meal planning, grocery shopping, or any other needs.
You can also consider a delivery service or subscription box. Food delivery services are on the rise, and older adults now have a variety of choices for ordering delicious, healthy meals.
- Meals on Wheels: Plans and delivers more than one million meals to older adults daily.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): Seniors who struggle to afford fresh produce and other food can apply.
- Silver Cuisine: Focused on delivering fresh meals to seniors, they accommodate numerous dietary limitations and provide healthy snacks.
- Netgrocer/Peapod.com: An online grocery store that can offer both perishable and frozen goods and more in three to seven business days.
Don’t overlook winter nutrition for seniors. If you or your loved one needs a little extra help around the kitchen, MeetCaregivers can help.
An in-home care worker can help with a variety of needs, from routine care to transportation. The right care can go a long way to improve the quality of life for both you and your parents.
Call us at (888) 541-1136. For general inquiries, message us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, be sure to check the blog for resources and tips for happy, healthy senior living.