Adequate nutrition can help older adults maintain muscle mass, increase their energy levels, reach an appropriate weight and much more. Make it easier for your older loved one to eat well and be well: Try out these simple meal ideas that follow the guidelines of MyPlate.gov and the National Council on Aging. Be sure to talk to your loved one’s dietitian or doctor before they start a new diet or new foods.
Oatmeal With Fruit
Oatmeal and fruits such as apples, bananas and strawberries, are great sources of fiber, which is filling and good for digestion. Oatmeal can also lower LDL levels (the bad cholesterol). When choosing your oatmeal, look for whole grains with at least .75 grams of soluble fiber per serving. As for fixings, fruit adds a natural sweetness, so you won’t need to add sugar or other sweeteners. If your loved one likes milk in their oatmeal, opt for fat-free or low-fat milk.
Eggs and Toast
Eggs are an easy-to-prepare source of protein. Eggs can be cooked scrambled, over easy, poached or hard boiled. Toss in fresh vegetables to the eggs to add even more vitamins, protein, minerals and fiber. For extra flavor, ditch the salt and use low sodium or sodium-free seasoning blends or fresh herbs. Toast should be 100 percent whole grain to obtain the highest nutritional value.
Grilled Chicken Greek Salad
Older adults need five servings of vegetables every day, according to the American Heart Association. A salad is a great low-calorie option; a Greek salad, in particular, is nutrient-loaded. Romaine lettuce is rich in vitamins, such as vitamins K and A, and minerals, such as phosphorous. Add in cucumbers, tomatoes and beets for more vitamins and minerals. The grilled chicken provides lean protein and a portion of iron. Be sure to remove any skin before eating or purchase boneless, skinless chicken breasts as the skin contains fats. When dressing your salad, it’s best to make your own olive oil and vinegar dressing. If your loved one wants a store-bought dressing, read the ingredients on the back of the bottle and look for the amounts of sugar, calories, sodium and fats.
Is your loved one tired of sandwiches? Protein wraps are an exciting twist on a basic sandwich. Protein wraps can be made using a whole wheat flatbread: tortilla, naan, pita or roti. When shopping for flat breads, read the nutrition label and look out for excess sodium, calories, sugar and fat. Stuff your wrap with your loved one’s favorite vegetables and a protein, for instance, hard boiled eggs, lean beef, turkey or fish. Avoid deli meats, which can be high in salt. You can even include a portion of the day’s calcium and protein by adding a slice or a few crumbles of cheese; again, just be careful of sodium and fat. Wraps can be seasoned with different vinegars or mashed avocado to add moisture and flavor.
Lentil and Vegetable Soup
Soup is a good choice if your loved one has weak teeth or trouble swallowing whole foods. Lentils are soft in texture and are a part of the legume family, so they’re cousins of peas and beans. Lentils also are loaded with protein, minerals and fiber. Joining the lentils are carrots, tomatoes, onion and garlic. Carrots and tomatoes are vitamin-rich, especially in vitamin C. Onion and garlic are low-calorie vegetables that give a punch of flavor and nutrients; both have high levels of vitamin B6. This is a hearty soup you can prepare in many ways that reflect different cuisine styles.
Salmon is a popular fish option, especially for people who like a mild-flavored fish. It’s also swimming in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, such as selenium for thyroid health. Salmon is a versatile because it can be flavored with lemon juice, mango salsa, pesto or mustard. Depending on what your loved one likes, you can serve a side of their favorite steamed vegetables and brown or wild rice, just review the levels for sodium, carbohydrates and calories on the rice’s label.
When older adults eat healthy foods, they receive all the vitamins, nutrients, good fats and calories they need. However, some “healthy foods” can have negative interactions with medications commonly taken by older adults. Read our post, “The Dark Secret of Healthy Foods” and learn four food items that are potentially dangerous.