There is a lot of information on eating healthy and a lot of confusion to go along with it. What is certain is that we all know we are supposed to eat healthy. But we need to understand what this means.
Breastcancer.org gives an excellent definition, one that’s applicable to all people, not just cancer patients, of what eating healthy means:
“Healthy eating means eating a variety of foods that give you the nutrients you need to maintain your health, feel good, and have energy. These nutrients include protein, carbohydrates, fat, water, vitamins, and minerals.”
While this definition is simple, putting it into practice is a difficult task for many people. For seniors, it may be particularly difficult for two reasons: they may have physical limitations and they may believe they cannot afford to. However, the same strategies that can be applied by a working mother or a busy father to get healthy food quickly, easily and inexpensively on the table can be applied by a senior with budget limitations.
Tackling time and physical limitations
Planning is the secret to a healthy lifestyle. When not feeling well, it is very easy to resort to fast, processed, convenience foods, and these foods rarely match the definition of healthy eating. A better approach to avoid resorting to unhealthy foods and snacks is to take some time one day a week to plan meals. This takes the guesswork out of daily meal preparation.
Making a large quantity of food at one time easily cuts down on the amount of work involved in meal preparation; this can then be portioned into individual serving containers to freeze for later consumption. One-pot meals, such as soups and stews, are easy to prepare, do not dirty many dishes, so cleanup is easy, and freeze extremely well. Alternatively, when preparing a meal, always make extra servings and freeze the rest for later.
Another strategy is to be sure items that do not require cooking are on hand. Have a stock of whole-grain, no-added-sugar cereals available. Honey or fruit can add sweetness if the senior does not have any medical history that precludes the use of sugars. Make sure that ready-to-eat fresh fruits and vegetables are available for snacking.
Staying within a budget
Many seniors are on a fixed budget and need to watch their overall expenses. When you are shopping for foods with your senior, shop the perimeter of the store where the fresh foods are displayed and buy fruits and vegetables in season. You can buy nearly everything you need in the fresh food departments around the perimeter of the store.
Keep in mind that while a processed food choice may seem cheaper than fresh, you generally need to eat greater quantities of these to feel full, and you tend to feel hungrier sooner after eating foods high in fats, refined sugars and carbohydrates. While some fresh products may seem too expensive, by needing to eat smaller quantities, you actually spend less overall.
Information provided by Clint Rogers, Comfort Keepers, 1300 Metro East Drive, Suite 128, Pleasant Hill, 515-243-0011.