The warmth exuding from the oven, the smell of sugary cinnamon rolls filling every nook and cranny, the taste of your mom’s homemade mac ‘n’ cheese—for many of us, growing up with home cooking was one of the best and most quintessential parts of home. As we grow up, however, we know that food trends are constantly evolving. Butter used to be in everything, then it was practically a taboo, and now it’s being added to make coffee bulletproof, and that’s just one example. Not only do we need to stay up-to-date on food trends and knowledge, but we also need to know what our bodies need as we continue to age.

Maintaining a healthy diet can become more of a challenge in our elder age. The fine motor skills needed to chop and cook might have faded, the trips to the store may have become more of an obstacle than an errand, and our diet can suffer as a result. At LifeCare Advantage, we are committed to helping New York residents who are enrolled in Medicaid get the help they need to maintain quality of life at home. By enrolling in the CDPAP, you have the potential to stay in your home and receive additional support from a family member or friend.

Find out some tips for maintaining a healthy diet in our older years, and work with LifeCare Advantage to learn the benefits from the CDPAP!

Avoid salt.

Salt is a tricky substance. Not only is it naturally in so many things, but for many people, it was a commonly used spice that had its own place at the dinner table. It was practically habitual to add salt to meals, even if the meals were already salted themselves.

As we get older, we are more at risk for heart issues. Too much salt in a diet can increase and heighten your blood pressure, which puts you at greater risk for heart attack, strokes, and even dementia. Especially if salt was frequently consumed in your younger years, you could be at even greater risk for heart disease. Too much salt can even lessen the efficacy of blood pressure medicine, adding just another reason as to why you need to cut back. Many experts agree that people should aim for less than 1500 mg of sodium per day, and absolutely not exceed 2300 mg of sodium (though this is for an assumed healthy person; people with blood pressure problems should talk with their doctor). Take a look at some of the ways you can actively avoid salt, while still maintaining flavor:

  • Check labels. Many of the foods that are most convenient to prepare, such as microwave dinners or prepackaged foods, are the ones that rely most heavily on salt to provide something savory. Always check the labels before you purchase some of these foods, otherwise you might end up consuming something that will harm much more than help.
    Nissin Top Ramen, for example, contains 1,820 mg of sodium—over the recommended daily amount, and that’s only one meal! Be sure to check the labels, and avoid consuming things with higher sodium counts.
  • Opt for other spices. One of the reasons people rely so heavily on salt is for the enhancement it adds to taste and flavor as a whole. However, there are so many other savory spices that are better for you—and some that are actually good for you—that it’s worth playing around with in the kitchen. Curry powder might get a rep for being spicy, but it adds incredible depth and sweetness to a dish, especially for stir fries and vegetables. Mix curry powder with olive oil and toss with cauliflower before roasting in the oven for a perfect side dish. Chili powder is great for almost anything, and adds flavor without too much spice. For another idea, substitute salt with garlic powder (but not salt!) for something that adds a bit of the tang you’re looking for with sodium.

Notice any changes in appetite.

Many adults experience a lack of appetite as they age, and while this might seem common, it’s far from normal. As a report from NBC News explains, this is the sign of a larger problem. In fact, geriatrics director at Saint Louis University Hospital Dr. John Morley states that “There’s a fair amount of evidence that suggests if you lose appetite as an older person, in the next six months, you’ll have a higher chance of dying.”

While this statement can seem pretty scary, it serves as a reminder that we need to pay attention to our eating habits. If you notice (or if you’re a caregiver who notices) a change in appetite, you should consult with a doctor to see if any other underlying problems might be taking place. This could be something as simple as getting on the right medication that is instrumental in keeping you healthier, and seeing incredible results in both your eating habits and life as a whole.

Have a normal eating schedule.

Part of having a healthy diet can be as simple as making sure you’re eating regularly. To be fair, “eating regularly” doesn’t mean eating a bag of chips all throughout the day. Rather, you should have meals planned that cover the essential nutrients needed for a healthy diet. Have trips to the store planned out, with ideas of what you’ll need and what you should get in order to create some tasty breakfasts, lunches, and dinners throughout the week. If getting to the store is a hassle, there are many grocery stores that provide a delivery service—contact a local grocer to see if this is an option, and if not, they might be able to direct you to a store that can help.

The aforementioned NBC article explains that “Older adults are more susceptible to malnutrition because the stomach empties more slowly in later years, and the sight, smell and taste that used to make eating so enjoyable are diminished.” Planning out meals and an eating schedule can be highly effective in preventing malnutrition from taking place.

Get the proper nutrients.

We all need to have the same nutrients and vitamins throughout our life, but as we age, our needs continue to shift and evolve. Bone density loss is fairly common in the elderly, which is why it’s essential to get good amounts of Vitamin D and calcium throughout the day. This is something that you need to be much more purposeful with in your older age, as osteoporosis and breaks are unfortunately more common. Drink milk, eat hard cheeses, try some yogurt, and take a supplementary vitamin to ensure your diet is fortified correctly.

In addition to protecting your bones, the antioxidants from fruits and vegetables offer so many health benefits, but can sometimes be more challenging to access as we age. Whereas cutting open that watermelon might have once been incredibly easy, this might require a strength and dexterity that have since diminished. Look for pre-cut fruits and vegetables at the store to make prep easier than ever. As another tip, buy fresh or frozen fruit, almond milk, spinach, and yogurt to create a delicious smoothie. This will be simple for most to consume, and is packed with the nutrients needed to keep you healthy.

Enroll in the CDPAP.

As discussed previously, sometimes the biggest thing holding us back from nutrition is, unfortunately, our own limitations. Kitchen prep might be much more challenging in this time of your life, and can make eating and dining especially frustrating. If you work with LifeCare Advantage to get invested in the CDPAP, however, you have the opportunity to continue getting help from your friend or family member, while they get paid for their services. Your personal assistant can help with food and meal prep, assist you on trips to the store, and take care of the clean up, ensuring that you get the nutrition you need. Get started with LifeCare Advantage today!