Yuletide is just around the corner. They say it’s the most wonderful time of the year. However, you should take care of yourself during the holiday, especially if you are a senior.
Proper nutrition is key to maintaining good health. This is especially true during the holiday when there are many temptations to indulge in unhealthy foods and drinks.
Fret not. Here you will find some healthy holiday nutrition tips for seniors. Keep reading to see how you can enjoy the season while promoting good health and overall well-being.
How Older People Can Stay Healthy During the Holiday
Holidays could mean devouring processed foods and drinking carbonated and alcoholic beverages. The temptation to indulge is strong, but doing so can lead to weight gain and other health problems.
That said, seniors should maintain healthy eating habits, whether at home or in an assisted living facility. Follow these five nutrition tips to enjoy the season without compromising health:
1. Eat healthy foods
Proper nutrition begins with a balanced diet vital during the holiday season. It means eating healthy foods from all the different food groups. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends maintaining a healthy diet for proper nutrition by eating:
- Whole fruits and green, leafy vegetables
- Foods from animal sources (lean meat, fish, eggs, and milk)
- Staples like cereals or starchy tubers
- Legumes (lentils and beans)
Rich in nutrients, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins can help you feel fuller for longer, reducing the temptation to snack on unhealthy foods.
2. Always stay hydrated
Hydration is vital for overall health, and seniors are particularly vulnerable to dehydration. Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Likewise, avoid sugary and alcoholic beverages, which further contribute to dehydration.
According to the Mayo Clinic Organization, your daily fluid intake (DFI) should be:
- 3.7 liters for men (15.5 cups)
- 2.7 liters for women (11.5 cups)
Drinking plenty of water keeps you feeling full and prevents you from overeating. It also helps flush out all the toxins in your body, so make sure to meet the required DFI every day. Consider keeping a water bottle on hand to ensure staying hydrated is even more convenient.
3. Limit salt, sugar, and fat intake
Another vital tip is to watch your intake of salty, sugary, and high-fat foods. They are often abundant during the holiday season, which can be very tempting.
Try to limit your intake of these high-calorie choices and look for low-sugar, low-salt, and low-fat options. Be mindful of the number of these ingredients in the foods and drinks you consume. Choose healthier options, such as fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins.
For your reference, take the WHO’s health recommendations on this:
- Limit added sugar to less than 10 percent of your total energy intake. (Energy intake refers to calories, which should be balanced with energy use.) Less than 5 percent proves extremely beneficial to one’s health.
- Keep the salt that you add to your food at less than 5 grams per day. On nutrition labels, look for a sodium count of less than 2 grams.
- Reduce your total fat intake to less than 30 percent of the total energy intake. Reduce saturated fats to less than 10 percent, and trans-fats to less than 1 percent. Better yet, replace both saturated fats and trans-fats with unsaturated fats.
4. Resort to portion control
Overeating is prevalent during the holiday season. It can be easy to overindulge, especially when surrounded by delicious foods. So, in addition to eating a balanced diet, pay attention to portion sizes.
To avoid consuming too many calories, consider using smaller plates. Those who use smaller ones will likely eat less than those with larger ones. You can also try filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables and the other half with lean proteins and whole grains.
According to Nancy Mitchell, RN at Assisted Living, portion control is an effective way to maintain a healthy weight. “We are wary of what we put on our patients’ plates,” she says. “Not only do we use smaller plates, but we also track their food consumption. We want to ensure our residents avoid consuming too many calories and increasing their risk of chronic diseases.”
5. Stay physically active
This part is a bonus because physical activity isn’t necessarily a nutrition tip. However, it indirectly affects seniors’ nutrition and overall health. You will probably eat and drink more during the holiday. So, being physically active during this time of the year is even more necessary.
Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine. Of course, you don’t necessarily have to hit the gym or attend a dance class. Whether it is doing household chores or taking brisk walks around the neighborhood, any form of physical activity will do.
The Bottom Line
The holidays can be challenging when it comes to maintaining a healthy diet. This is especially true for seniors, who should be wary of what to eat and drink.
That said, follow the healthy holiday nutrition tips discussed above:
- Eat a balanced diet
- Drink plenty of water
- Restrict your salt, sugar, and fat consumption
- Regulate your portion sizes
- Engage in a regular physical activity
With deliberate planning and conscious effort, it's possible to have a happy and healthy holiday season.