Focusing on good nutrition is important throughout the year. However, it is especially important during the winter season when cold weather and longer days can impact a senior’s health and well-being. Factors like being isolated in the home, having difficulty preparing meals, issues chewing or swallowing food and loss of appetite can make it very challenging for seniors to get the proper nutrition they need to lead a healthy lifestyle.
Eating a well-balanced diet during the winter months can help seniors maintain a healthy weight, promote healthy glucose levels, boost energy levels and strengthen their immune systems to fight off viruses, like the cold and flu. The following strategies can help older adults maintain optimal health this winter.
Increase vitamin D intake.
The sun is a key source of vitamin D, which is why it’s easier to become deficient in the darker winter months. Since vitamin D helps the body use calcium, low vitamin D increases the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures. Foods naturally higher in vitamin D include egg yolks, seafood, healthy grains and fortified milk.
Include fruits and vegetables with every meal.
The winter months are a great time to add more fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamins and antioxidants to your diet. In most cases, the ones with the most color– dark green, red, yellow, and orange – contain the most nutrients. Include leafy greens, like spinach and broccoli, for extra fiber, and take advantage of in-season produce, such as winter squash, yams, beets and pomegranates.
Focus on healthy snacking.
Healthy snacking throughout the day is a great way to keep mealtime portions in check, rather than overeating. Some healthy, immune-boosting snack options include:
- Hardboiled eggs
- Protein-packed smoothies
- Raw vegetables with hummus
- Greek yogurt with fresh berries
- Nuts and seeds
Add omega-3 fatty acids
Foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation and decrease the risk for arthritis, heart disease, diabetes and even cancer. Avocados, flax seeds and different nut varieties are all excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids that can easily be incorporated into your meals.
Drink plenty of water.
It’s easy to forget to stay hydrated when it isn’t hot outside, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less important to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Proper hydration benefits all our bodily systems, aiding digestion, improving the performance of joints and muscles and even boosting concentration and cognitive function. Additionally, staying hydrated helps people recover more quickly from cold and flu viruses, which are prevalent in winter. In addition to drinking plain water, you can boost your intake of fluids by consuming more fruits, vegetables, soups or teas.
Worst foods for your health.
For better health, try to limit how often you eat from these categories:
- Cut back on sodium found in many processed, pre-packaged foods, including canned foods and frozen means. Too much salt may lead to high blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease.
- Limit sugar which can increase your risk for diabetes and lead to weight gain. Cookies, sodas, cakes, ice cream and cereal can be enjoyed in moderation, but not every day.
- Avoid eating too many refined carbohydrates, like white bread, French fries and crackers, which lead to inflammation, obesity, heart disease and diabetes, to name a few. To reduce your refined carb intake, select whole-grain varieties of breads, pastas, rice and breakfast cereals.
Consider your long-term care needs.
The chill of winter, along with the illnesses and loneliness it often brings, may encourage families to think about the long-term care needs of their elderly loved ones. Today’s senior living communities are designed to meet the unique needs of older adults and can be especially beneficial during the winter season when extra support is often required. Seniors can enjoy a variety of planned activities, a vibrant social calendar, resort-style amenities, 24/7 healthcare services and effortless dining options, all of which ensure a safer, healthier and more comfortable lifestyle when it’s cold outside.