Think you can buy the same foods you purchased for your loved one five, 10 or 15 years ago? Think again.
As we get older, our nutrition requirements and taste preferences change, so you might find yourself struggling to prepare dishes your loved one can chew, or trying to convince them to have ‘just a few more bites.'
Moreover, going grocery shopping, a task that was once fairly routine, might become difficult if your loved one has any dietary restrictions. If you're looking for an easy, fool-proof set of foods, take this elder-friendly shopping list with you the next time you go to the store:
Fruits and veggies
Of course I'm going to tell you to buy fruits and veggies for your loved one! Fruits and veggies are some of the most nutrient dense, antioxidant-rich foods money can buy, and now is one of the most important times for your senior to be getting plenty of vitamins and nutrients. If you're worried that your loved one might have trouble digesting or chewing these foods, look for soft items like bananas, peaches, mangos, and ripe pears. For vegetables, try to get them to eat tomatoes (if they can handle the acid), steamed squash/zucchini, and cooked spinach to start.
Your elder probably eats a moderate amount of carbohydrates. Many of these foods are soft, easy-to-digest, and offer cholesterol-reducing fiber. Try to find more whole grain options of their favorite foods. Whole grain pastas, breads, and hot cereals like oatmeal are a great start. If they're not on the whole grain bandwagon quite yet (many seniors aren't), try mixing refined and whole grain options together, gradually cutting back on the refined product until you're not using it anymore. This is as simple as cooking regular pasta and adding a few handfuls of a whole grain product in, each week.
Protein is one of the most overlooked components of senior nutrition. Many elders either don't like the taste of meat or have difficulty digesting it. Try finding tender, yet affordable, cuts of meat that offer high levels of protein at a relatively low cost. Chicken drumsticks are one of my personal favorites. They're usually on sale, and if you cook them in a slow braise, the meat becomes really tender—literally falling off the bone! Remember that you don't have to get protein solely from meat or animal products. Beans and legumes are another affordable and vegetarian option for seniors. Try making a three-bean salad with chickpeas, black beans, and kidney beans. Or you can try my super healthy, high-antioxidant sweet potato and black bean casserole.
Gone are the days of no-fat, low-fat and fat-free! Fat is an essential part of a senior's diet. Whether your elder needs to gain weight or even suffers from dry skin, nails, and hair, fat is definitely their friend. Gram for gram, fat has the most calories compared to the other macronutrients—protein and carbohydrates. Increasing monounsaturated fat sources (e.g. plant-based fats) is a savvy technique to help your senior gain weight, and it can be as simple as adding a few tablespoons of olive oil to a salad or pasta dish. Don't forget about chia seeds and flax seeds! They're great in cereal or a smoothie, providing a giant dose of omega-3s that many seniors need. Finally, avocados are another great alternative, as their creamy and soft texture makes them easy to eat. Can you say guacamole?
Low-fat diary products
Dairy can be a bit tricky for some seniors. If your loved one doesn't complain about an upset stomach after drinking some milk, by all means incorporate plenty of probiotic rich yogurt into their diet. If, however, you senior does have some indigestion after eating dairy (which many seniors do), it could be completely appropriate to eliminate dairy from his or her diet. If you're worried about calcium levels, there are plenty of other sources they can get the bone-building mineral from, including a supplement. And if they happen to really like milk with their morning cereal, there are a ton of dairy alternatives (e.g. almond milk, coconut milk, etc.) to try.
Your guide to the grocery store (Senior Style!)
To sum up all of the above points, we've put together an easy list of items that anyone can find at their local grocer. When shopping for your loved one, try to stock up on these foods:
- Frozen Berries
- Low Sodium Jarred Tomato Sauces
- Plain Oatmeal (season it on your own with cinnamon, stevia, and fresh fruit)
- Whole Grain Pasta
- Whole Grain Bread
- Brown Rice
- Sweet Potatoes/Potatoes
- Chicken Legs
- Lean Cuts of Ground Beef/Turkey (ideally with a 93/7 lean-to-fat ratio)
- Black Beans
- Milk (Dairy, Soy, or other alternative)
- Yogurt (plain or low sugar)
- Olive Oil
- Flax and/or Chia seeds
Grocery shopping and preparing healthy meals for your loved one isn't as difficult as you would think. With this arsenal of healthy foods, you can make dozens of different meals for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Learn not to rely completely on meal replacement shakes or other processed foods to get your senior to eat. If you prepare healthy, wholesome, and ultimately tasty foods, your senior is much more likely to try and enjoy them!