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Whole-Foods Diet For Older Adults

Updated: Apr 6, 2023

Many of us have complicated relationships with food. It has a very direct, and very significant impact on every aspect of our health, both in the short-term and over time, with processed foods being one of the top leading causes of serious and deadly disease in the United States. As we age into elderhood, especially, food can affect us in an even more noticeable way. Being creatures of habit, however, we tend to stick to the foods we’ve grown accustomed to buying, preparing, and eating, and changing our diet can feel like an enormous goal from which we are constantly blocked off by time restraints, discomfort, inconvenience, high costs, and lack of education.

For seniors with existing health problems, nutrition might have to be highly specific. However, for those looking to generally improve their diet by incorporating more whole foods rich in proteins, fiber, vitamins, and minerals from natural sources without the extra additives and harmful preservatives, our team has put together some easy tips to incorporate into their lifestyle. The goal here is not to cut out enjoyable foods nor to add hurdles to eating. Rather, we aim to make adding delicious, nutrient-dense foods into our diet a no-brainer so they can slowly replace expensive takeout and highly processed meals and snacks reached for not by true choice, but out of convenience.

It starts with your grocery list.

Most people know that a good grocery list must include your basic staples, healthy protein sources, a variety of vegetables, fruits, and flavor boosters (such as lemons, onions, garlic, and spices). However, an important tip that most people do not follow is keeping your menu top-of-mind when creating your list. Buying the best ingredients won’t pay off unless you have a plan for what to do with each item you buy. So, before heading to the store, think of a few meals you like to have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and write out your grocery list accordingly. This will make meal-prepping much easier and will save you money as it allows you to buy the right quantities and cut back on food waste.

Next, start thinking of your food in terms of raw ingredients. For example, if you find yourself choosing mediocre store-bought salad dressings, look up some recipes for a better, homemade version. Swapping out a bottled vinaigrette containing unhealthy fats and binders, preservatives, and added sugars for a simple mix of balsamic vinegar, citrus juice, diced fresh herbs, and olive oil can make a huge difference! If you often use store bought tomato sauce, easily make your own by blending tomatoes, red bell pepper, garlic, and onion all roasted in one pan with your favorite seasoning and olive oil.

Choosing one day a week, or even bi-weekly to prepare some staples in advance can make it much easier to throw together a healthy lunch or dinner when you don’t have the energy to cook. A good example would be pre-cooking big batches of dry beans (which are amazing sources of protein, fiber, and healthy carbohydrates) with some herbs and spices and freezing them in Ziplock bags. Many people don’t know that beans freeze well for several months, and this method is an excellent alternative to using canned beans, which contain high amounts of sodium – YES, even the ones marked “low-sodium” – and can contribute to hypertension and heart disease.

A small step that can make an enormous impact on one’s diet and quality of life is to make including vegetables or fruits at every meal non-negotiable. An easy way to do so is to pre-wash, cut, and properly store fruits and veggies on your prep day and make them easy to access and use, weather to throw in the same pan as your morning eggs, cook alongside a pre-marinated protein, or add to some broth and grains for a soup. To make this even easier, you can opt to buy bags of frozen, precut veggies (or fruits to use in your smoothies or juices).

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