As kids, we all learned the importance of a healthy diet, and even though some of our nutritional needs may have changed over the years, we still know that proper nutrition is one of the keys to staying active and independent. Unfortunately, eating healthy can sometimes be a bit of a challenge for seniors, even if they are active and independent. Buying fresh fruit and vegetables at the grocery store can often be inconvenient and prohibitively expensive when you are on a fixed income, and with so many different options out there to choose from it can sometimes get overwhelming just figuring out where to begin. At Village Park Senior Living, we believe that maintaining good health and fitness are part of living your best life, so here are a few helpful tips that can help you eat right, even if you’re on a budget.
When you are planning meals, allocate about half of the space on the plate for a combination of fresh fruits and vegetables. You can often determine the nutritional benefit of a specific fruit or vegetable by its color, so aiming for a wide assortment of colors on the plate, including greens, reds, oranges, and yellows, can be a great way to make sure you are getting all the different nutrients you need. One fourth of your plate should be composed of lean proteins, like chicken or fish, which tend to have less fat and salt. Here one serving size is about three ounces, or roughly the size of a deck of playing cards. Finally, the remaining fourth of the plate should be reserved for whole grains. Take the time to look for whole, unprocessed grains, as these are usually lower in sugar and still contain the important fiber, vitamins, and minerals that your body needs.
Even though high quality restaurant-style dining is one of the many amenities we offer at Village Park, many of our residents also like to shop for their own groceries. When you are touring the aisles of the local grocery store, take some time to read the nutritional labels. These will give you a better idea of healthy portion sizes and help you to make choices that minimize fat and salt content. Although the closer vegetables are to their natural, unprocessed, uncooked state, the higher their nutritional value, frozen vegetables can still be extremely healthy, and are also generally more cost effective and convenient. They are usually far superior to canned vegetables, which have been heavily processed and usually have significant amounts of salt added. Remember to choose foods that are high in fiber (like whole grain oats, legumes, and certain vegetables) and low in sodium or salt. Additionally, try to look for Vitamin D, an important mineral as we age. Finally, don’t forget that water is an important nutrient too. Drinking small amounts of fluids consistently throughout the day will help keep you feeling good and keep your appetite in check. However, try to keep fluids with sugar, salt, and caffeine at a minimum, unless your doctor has suggested otherwise.
Many people think that healthy food is expensive, but even though adding fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet does increase your overall grocery bill, the long-term savings could be significant. According to the National Council on Aging, seniors who make an effort to eat healthy generally experience fewer medical complaints, and so often actually end up spending less on prescription drugs and doctor visits. Moreover, there are also a number of different government programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP), that are specifically designed to help seniors afford healthy food when they need it. Over 4 million older Americans use SNAP to buy food, and if you’re comfortable going on line you can visit BenefitsCheckUp.org/getSNAP to see if the program can help you.
Getting older usually means that we need to start paying more attention to our health, and even though it can sometimes be a bit of a bother, healthy eating improves energy levels, making it easier to engage in healthy exercise and other activities. The increase in physical activity can also help seniors suffering from sleep problems as well. In short, taking a little extra time to plan economical, nutritious meals will not only save you money in the long run, but can also improve your overall quality of life. For more special interest stories and informative articles about topics of interest to seniors and our community, check out our weekly blog here at www.villageparkseniorliving.com or follow us on Facebook or Google+ to get the latest news and updates.