Filipinos are very family-oriented, so it’s normal for Pinoys to live with and care for their aging parents and grandparents. But the elderly require special care, from making sure that their environment is safe to serving them a healthy diet.
Seniors’ diets may be tricky though as they have different needs and requirements. They may have health issues, dietary restrictions, and other conditions that come with their advanced age. Nutritious snacks for the elderly might present a challenge as they may need options that are low-sodium, low-sugar, and low-fat.
Why Seniors Need Snacks
Experts at online resource Sharecare explain that appetites may decline as people age. Thus, seniors may not meet their daily caloric requirements and nutritional needs with three meals a day. Supplementing with snacks can thus help keep them healthy.
In a study of more than 2,000 adults, it was found that snacking is an important dietary behavior for those aged 65 and older. According to the Academy of Nutrition Dietetics, “Eighty-four percent of the study subjects ate snacks daily, with an average of about two and a half snacks per day. Those who ate snacks consumed significantly higher amounts of calories, protein, carbohydrates, and total fat throughout the day than non-snackers.”
But you can’t just load up the elderly in you care with empty calories just so they can hit their daily target; you need to make sure that the snacks they get are good for their health.
Some Senior-Friendly Snacks
Go for snack items that are nutrient-dense and easy to digest without being overly processed. Some examples:
Oatmeal, yogurt, and pudding. Some seniors may not have any teeth and may thus have a hard time chewing. Soft foods like oatmeal, yogurt, and pudding are easy to eat and easy on the gums. Choose those that don’t have added ingredients like sweetener: old-fashioned oats with fresh fruit over instant oatmeal with dried fruit; protein-packed Greek yogurt than a sugary flavored variety. Yogurt also has the added benefit of containing probiotics, which are microorganisms that are good for digestive and overall health.
Nuts. For seniors who still have a lot of bite left in them, nuts are a good snacking option. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, nuts can help keep chronic disease at bay, keep the brain sharp, and promote longevity.
Dairy products. Calcium-rich dairy products can help keep seniors’ bones strong and prevent them from developing osteoporosis, a condition that weakens the bones—especially alarming when seniors slip or trip and risk breaking a bone. Try low-fat milk and low-sodium cheeses. Not a dairy fan? The senior in your care can load up on green, leafy vegetables instead. (While you’re at it, put some on your plate—the best time to build up bone strength is when you’re young.)
Fruits and vegetables. Prune juice has long been associated with the elderly and is a go-to beverage for encouraging regular bowel movement. After all, an estimated two-thirds of people over 65 suffer from constipation. But first, you need to understand that there is no blanket bowel movement schedule for everyone—while some people may go daily, others may not. It’s just important to keep an eye out for signs of constipation such as hard, lumpy stool; straining during evacuation; the feeling that you didn’t get it all out; and the need to help the stool to come out.
The best thing to keep senior’s bowel movement regular is fiber. While prune juice helps give its combination of fiber and hydration, it may contain a lot of added sugar. It’s best to get fiber from whole food sources like fruits and vegetables.
Coming up with nutritious snacks for the elderly might seem like a challenge, especially if the senior in your care is at risk for diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and other health problems. But while you may be tempted to force them stick to a diet devoid of anything indulgent, keep in mind that taking steps to try and lengthen their lives while sacrificing quality of life isn’t ideal. Talk to their doctor and determine how often they can have treats—a little lechon or a piece of chocolate can go a long way in keeping them happy.