When planning meals for elderly adults, some seniors might prefer a vegetarian diet due to health restrictions, religious beliefs or ethical reasons. Plant-based diets have been shown to increase longevity, boost the immune system and even slow the aging process. Avoiding meat products can also decrease the incidence of heart disease and certain cancers by reducing the intake of saturated fat and cholesterol while increasing healthy fiber.
If you’re concerned your elderly loved one may not be getting all the nutrition they need – for example, inadequate protein or eating too many carbs – this post will help you plan balanced meals to maintain good health throughout the golden years.
Seek Out Alternative Sources of Nutrients
A well-balanced vegetarian diet that meets all of a senior’s needs for vitamins and nutrients comes down to eating a wide variety of foods. At every meal include food choices that offer nutrients typically found in meat products, like protein, calcium, omega-3 fats and vitamin D.
For example, plan a side dish at lunch or dinner that includes beans, nuts, legumes, seeds or quinoa as a source of protein – excellent for maintaining muscle and bone mass. As a substitute for seafood high in omega-3 fats, add a few teaspoons of walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds or hemp seeds in a salad. You can also bake some healthy wheat germ bran muffins with a cup of blueberries high in antioxidants for an anytime snack.
Calcium-rich foods are especially important for aging women in order to maintain optimum bone health. Seniors who consume dairy should enjoy several servings of milk, yogurt and dairy products each day, taking care to choose calcium and vitamin-D fortified products when possible. Other calcium-rich foods for non-dairy vegetarians include leafy greens like kale, bok choy and collards.
Avoid Refined Sugars and Carbohydrates
Vegetarians may be tempted to turn to unhealthy carbohydrate “fillers” to ward off hunger – an imperfect solution as our bodies metabolize crackers, cookies and sweets quickly leading to additional sugar cravings and snacking.
Always keep a variety of fresh and dried fruits on hand, as well as cut up veggies stored in sealed plastic containers filled with water to maintain freshness. Fill the cupboards with whole grain snacks and avoid choosing processed food products made with white flour, sugar or corn syrup.
Some vitamins and minerals are important to maintain health but don’t naturally occur in plant-based food sources. Vitamin B12, for instance, is important for maintaining metabolism and forming healthy red blood cells. When seniors don’t get enough of vitamin B12 they can experience memory loss, disorientation, and arm numbness as a result of megaloblastic anemia.
Although B12 is available in certain fortified foods, it’s recommended that seniors on a vegan diet (who don’t eat eggs or dairy) speak to their caregivers about taking a daily supplement to maintain optimal health.
At Grove Menus, we’re proud of the role we play helping seniors get the nutrition they need for a long, healthy life through our meal planning solutions. To learn more about what we do, call us at (208) 528-0690 or email our head office at email@example.com.