February is American Heart Month, and March is National Nutrition Month, so it’s a good time for everyone to evaluate their diets, especially seniors. Between changing nutritional needs and high rates of cardiovascular disease, healthy eating for seniors is especially important. Whether you’re cooking for and/or meal planning for an elderly loved one, or helping them navigate healthy meal choices at a senior living community, these tips and recipe ideas will make it easier to make sure they get the heart-healthy meals they need.
Nutrient Needs of Older Adults
To lower the risks for heart disease and high blood pressure, seniors need more fiber and potassium, and they should have healthier fats in their diet, such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. For better bone health, they need more calcium and vitamin D. Most older adults don’t get enough vitamin B12, which promotes blood cell and nerve health.
That may sound complicated, but it’s easier than you think to accommodate these needs. Here are some recommendations for a more heart-healthy senior diet.
Foods to Eat Less of:
- Trans fats or saturated fats or partially hydrogenated fats, typically found in packaged snack foods, fast food and fried food
- Packaged and processed foods high in sugar and sodium
- White breads, refined pastas, white rice and sugary cereals
- Processed meats, such as lunch meats, salami, sausage and bacon
- Processed cheese
- High-fat dairy products, meats and organ meats
- Butter and lard
Packaged foods and premade meals can be convenient but be sure to check the nutrition labels for the types of fats and amounts of sugar and sodium. There are healthier options available, but you have to look for them.
Foods to Eat More of:
- For calcium and vitamin D, choose fortified cereals and fruit juices, dark green leafy vegetables, milk, non-sugary yogurt, and fortified plant-based beverages
- For vitamin B12, fortified cereals, lean meats and poultry (look for cuts with “loin” or “round” in the name), as well as fish and seafood
- To add fiber to their diet, switch to whole-grain breads, cereals and pastas, and add beans, peas, fruits and vegetables
- Potassium can come from fruits, vegetables and beans
Heart-Healthy Recipe Ideas
Here are some easy ways to add delicious nutrition to your loved one’s diet.
- Make a quick and easy trail mix by combining equal parts semisweet chocolate chips, dried cranberries and their favorite roasted nuts
- Top ½ cup Greek yogurt with ½ cup seasonal fruit, 2 teaspoons chopped roasted nuts, and a drizzle of honey or agave syrup
The American Heart Association has a lot of heart-healthy recipes and helpful recipe videos like these:
Cookbooks for Healthy Senior Diets
Here are just two of many cookbooks available from local libraries and online:
- The Healthy Seniors Cookbook
- Cooking for Seniors: Over 60 Delicious and Nutritious Easy-to-Prepare-and-Freeze Recipes Especially Designed for Senior Citizens
Cooking healthy meals for your loved one doesn’t just benefit them. If you make the same adjustments to your diet, you just might start feeling healthier, too.
If you’re curious about how senior living communities approach nutrition and wellness, check out these articles: