If you’ve resolved to lose weight and eat a healthier diet this year, you are not alone. But what’s the best way? And when it comes to seniors, especially those receiving occasional, or even regular in home care, how can you be sure that they are getting the right kind of calories, not just the right amount? Pennsylvania Agency of Nurses takes a look at one way to bring more health to the table this coming year.
Much has been published and talked about regarding what’s called “the Mediterranean diet.” Perhaps you’ve wondered how these suggestions for healthy eating can be applied to the seniors in your life, and whether it is something you should prioritize.
The answer is definitely yes! A Mediterranean Diet does for those in senior care what it does for everyone else...which is to offer foods that increase mental acuity and energy levels, lower the risk of heart disease and stroke, support a healthy immune response, and help the lucky Med Diet follower lose weight. The best news? It’s easier than you might think! Here’s what you (or your skilled caretaker) will want to load in the cart at the grocery store:
Olive Oil. If you change nothing else in your senior’s kitchen, help them to incorporate olive oil, the poster product of Mediterranean meals, as a cooking fat and reduce the use of butter or margarine.
Produce. The Mediterranean Diet calls for two more servings of vegetables every day, and at least one should be fresh in a salad. The problem for some seniors is access to fresh produce, but that doesn’t have to be a barrier (especially with quality in home care services). For the non salad servings, frozen is just as nutritious and even easier to keep handy for seniors or their caregivers. Buy frozen vegetables in bags and use in smaller portions as needed. Toss them in soups or mix in with pasta or rice. And for fresh salads, all that’s really needed is some variety of lettuce or spinach greens, topped with cherry tomatoes (which do not need refrigeration) and any other easily stored salad ingredient, like carrots and red pepper. Add a healthy dressing made with olive oil and you’re done.
What’s right next to veggies? Fruits, of course...at least two or three servings a day. This can include natural juices for one serving, but it’s always better to have the fiber from the whole fruit instead of only juice. Again, frozen fruit to the rescue when buying and storing fresh is a problem.Legumes. There’s always confusion around this star of the Med Diet plan. These can include beans, peas, and lentils. If the lentils are not a regular stop on your route, you can do plenty with the multiple variety of beans available, both dried and canned. Three or more servings per week!
Fish or seafood. Easy. That’s a good frozen option, too. Three or more servings per week of fish. Try to make at least one of these a fatty fish like salmon to get the omega-3s that some research suggests can help protect against Alzheimer's disease.
Cook twice weekly with a sauce made from tomatoes, garlic and onion. Make in batches and freeze in small portions. Put it on anything from fish, to eggs to pasta or chicken.
At least one serving per week of nuts.
Wine! Especially red wine, if alcohol is favored...as a partner with the meal, not a stand alone beverage.
Eat the meals seated, at a table, taking 20 minutes at least. This last direction may be more for the caretaker than the senior! Don’t forget to sit down and enjoy your food. Supplement these staples any time with herbs, eggs, low fat cheese, whole grain cereals and dark chocolate.
Here’s a toast to the Mediterraneans! May we all eat well and be healthy with their advice!