Ways to Encourage Healthy Eating Habits in Seniors

Whether you’re helping your parents get their meals together for a normal week or making sure they have enough food to get through self-quarantine during the COVID-19 response, it’s always important to make sure that the seniors in your life have access to healthy food.

But sometimes it can be hard to encourage your loved ones to eat healthy foods. Many times this can be because they prefer to eat their all-time favorite meals (country-fried steaks and mashed potatoes, anyone?), but sometimes, that might be because it’s hard for them to get to the store on a regular basis to buy healthier food.

In any case, eating healthy food is important for boosting seniors immune systems and making sure that their hearts, cholesterol, and blood sugar stay at healthy levels.

Here are some ways you can encourage the seniors in your life to eat more healthy foods:

Keep a Well-Stocked Pantry

With new “pick-up”services at grocery stores across the country, it’s more convenient than ever to order groceries online for pickup. But for seniors with limited mobility, grocery pick up can cause problems of their own like driving and carrying heavy bags into the house. Instead, plan a trip to the store where you help your senior stock up on pantry staples.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics on EatRight.org recommends the following items for a well-stocked pantry:

Shelf-stable Products

  • Dried or canned beans, peas and lentils (such as black, garbanzo, kidney, white and pinto beans; green, yellow or split peas and lentils)
  • Canned vegetables with no added salt (such as tomatoes, green beans and corn)
  • Dried or canned fruit in 100% fruit juice
  • Whole grains (such as brown rice, quinoa, oats, millet and whole-wheat pasta)
  • Pouches of canned fish and chicken
  • Nuts, seeds, and nut butters
  • Olive, canola or other vegetable oils
  • Dried herbs and spices

Frozen Foods

  • Vegetables (such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and Brussels sprouts)
  • Fruit (such as berries and cherries )
  • Whole wheat pizza dough
  • Poultry
  • Seafood

Since it isn’t recommended that older adults go out in public during the coronavirus pandemic, plan to drop off a box at their front door. Encourage them to leave the pantry items on the front step for a few hours, and for frozen items, use gloved hands to disinfect the items with wipes before putting into the freezer. After putting away all boxes, encourage them to wash their hands thoroughly. 

Order a new recipe book

If your parents grew up on comfort foods like meat and potatoes, it might be time to help them venture into other recipes that include more heart-healthy foods like whole grains and vegetables. It’s possible that they just haven’t thought to look for new recipes!

Consider recipe books focused on heart health and overall nutrition:

Send Fresh Food to their Door

If your parent or grandparent has a well-stocked pantry of shelf-stable and frozen food options, they probably just need fresh fruits and vegetables to round out their meals. 

If it’s hard or ill-advised for you to leave the house, companies have popped up recently that deliver boxes of seasonal organic fruits and vegetables to your door. Misfits Market does just this, and their boxes have the added benefit of reducing food waste while also saving you money!

However, even with all the food in the pantry, there’s a chance that the senior in your life struggles not only with cooking meals on their own. In a situation like that, consider Meals on Wheels, a service that provides pre-prepared and healthy meals to seniors.

With these tips, you can make sure that your loved ones aren’t going hungry and eating a healthy and balanced diet. If your parent or grandparent needs extra assistance with shopping, preparing meals, or just a little bit of company, Care Professionals with Home Instead® can be there to help.