Most people know eating healthy can lead to long and nutritious lives.
However, several factors stand in the way for seniors when it comes to maintaining a healthy, adequate and nutritious lifestyle — especially around the holidays.
With the extra tasty calories consumed during the holidays, it is very easy to get nutritionally off track. Too much fat, sodium and sugar can lead to overindulging.
Make sure to check your recipes and don’t be afraid to use substitutions for fats, salts and sugars. According to the Mayo Clinic, using skim milk or reduced fat milk in place of whole milk for holiday recipes can help avoid excess fat. Salts used to season holiday meals can be substituted with fresh, herb-only seasonings like garlic powder and citrus juices or herb blends.
And when it comes to sodium-heavy condiments, like mustards, try celery seed, onion flakes or finely copped celery or onions. Sugar can be reduced by half of what the regular recipe calls for and using vanilla, cinnamon or nutmeg, honey, or molasses can intensify the sweetness. Fresh or unsweetened frozen fruit can also help supplement the sweetness in a natural way.
Even though seniors need fewer calories, it is vital for them to consume nutrient-dense foods. Every calorie counts, so dietitians emphasize the importance of whole-grain foods, varied-colored fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products and lean meats, fish and poultry.
Other than food, drinks can play a major role in the season’s indulgences. However, not having enough or drinking improper types of fluids may increase dehydration which can prove to be fatal in the senior population. In general, seniors tend to eat and drink less than their younger counterparts and there is a lower percentage of water in the body in older people, which can speed up dehydration.
Taking multiple medications can also increase the risk of dehydration as well, and certain conditions — like a stroke or Alzheimer’s disease — make it difficult to communicate needs or thirst.
The Sheboygan County Activity and Nutrition Coalition wants to remind everyone that the nutrients we feed our bodies keep us strong and help us fight disease. While a healthy diet is most important in the elderly, a lifetime of good eating habits is the best protection from conditions such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, gastrointestinal disease, osteoporosis, heart disease and others.
Family members and seniors, please be aware this holiday season of the particular nutritional needs of your neighbors. The right diet can make a big difference in the health and well being of a loved one.
Happy Holidays from our table to yours.
-Erica Gollhardt is the admissions/marketing director for Golden Living Center-Sheboygan and is a member of the Sheboygan County Activity and Nutrition Coalition.