5 Winter Nutrition Suggestions for Seniors
It’s always important for seniors to maintain a healthy diet, but in the winter it’s even more crucial. Cold and flu season is hard on everyone, but older people are much more vulnerable to life-threatening illness. Good nutrition helps boost the immune system, which makes a person less likely to become ill, and more likely to recover quickly if illness does strike. Paired with regular exercise, a good diet can help an elderly person stay healthy and fit, even during the winter months.
- Pack in the nutrients by filling up on produce. Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables, in a wide range of colors, especially dark orange, red, and green veggies, berries and dark-skinned fruit. The vitamins, fiber, antioxidants, and enzymes in fresh produce are extremely beneficial, not only for boosting the body’s ability to fight illness but also in preventing cognitive decline. Vegetables can be steamed and softened for those who have trouble chewing or digesting raw vegetables.
- Choose whole grains. When choosing bread, cereal or pasta, go for whole wheat, which is higher in fiber and can help with digestion. Brown rice is a healthy option, and so is quinoa, which is actually high in protein as well. A caveat: those with intestinal issues should consult a doctor before increasing fiber.
- Make sure to eat from all four food groups every day. Fruits and vegetables, grains, proteins, and milk or milk alternatives are all important parts of a healthy diet. The benefits of produce and whole grains have already been explained. Milk, cheese, and yogurt are important for bone and muscle health and help boost the vitamin D of those whose sun exposure is limited in winter. Fish, lean meats, lentils, chickpeas, nuts, and seeds are all good sources of protein, which helps with muscle repair and overall nourishment.
- Go for multiple small meals each day. Sometimes, it can be difficult for seniors to maintain weight and regulate blood sugar. Eating 5-6 small meals each day can boost caloric intake for those who have lower appetites, improve overall digestion, and keep insulin levels from shifting too drastically. It can also be helpful for those seniors who find it difficult or painful to eat larger meals.
- Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of fluids is always important, but especially in the winter. Proper hydration benefits all of our bodily systems, aiding digestion and circulation, improving the performance of joints and muscles, and even assisting concentration and cognitive function. Additionally, staying hydrated helps people recover more quickly from the cold and flu viruses so prevalent in winter. Drinking plenty of water is optimal, but you can also boost your intake of fluids by eating fruits, vegetables, and soup, and drinking fruit and vegetable juices, milk, and decaffeinated coffee and tea.
Trying to help a senior relative stay healthy in the winter can be a daunting task. Besides helping your loved one maintain a healthy diet, it’s important to sustain a healthy exercise routine as well, even when winter weather makes it hard to go outside. Adding the additional stresses of the winter months to an already challenging responsibility can be a lot to handle, but if you decide that you need some help, Elder Care Connection can help. Contact us for an in-home evaluation, or to learn about all we have to offer.