Aging and dieting play a crucial role in our physical and mental health. As we get older, ensuring our bodies get enough energy and the right nutrients with the food we eat helps our seniors continue living happier, healthier, and longer lives.

Seniors living in care facilities with meals taken care of don’t have to worry much about getting a healthy diet, but seniors living alone have to pay more attention, as well as the caregivers that help prepare meals for them.

To help out, we’ve compiled a list of healthy foods seniors should include in their diet to stay healthy and happy.

1. Colorful Vegetables

Vegetables are packed full of nutrients. The more fibrous kinds — such as broccoli and carrots — also contain plenty of fiber that helps you feel full and improve digestive health. At the same time, they’re lower in calories, making it easier to eat to satiety.

Not all veggies need to be green, though. You can and should mix in veggies like carrots, bell peppers, garlic, some squashes, and eggplant. These veggies are different colors due to phytochemicals, which offer numerous health benefits (aside from providing a splash of color to your salads).

2. Fish

Fish is loaded with healthy omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids play a key role in brain health — making them perfect for helping seniors maintain cognitive function. They also help fight inflammation and are responsible for hormones that regulate blood clotting.

Fish is also an excellent source of protein, vitamins B12 and D, and several minerals. One of the most important for seniors is calcium, which helps strengthen bones and teeth.

Now, it’s important to watch your fish intake, both in terms of quantity and type. Fish like tuna, often have higher mercury levels than the smaller fish they feed on. Salmon, cod, and trout are some good choices.

3. Complex Carbohydrates

Seniors should avoid simple carbs like candy and opt for complex carbs like oatmeal and brown rice. These are more filling because the fiber makes them digest more slowly. They’re also a great carb choice for seniors with diabetes because they won’t cause the same blood sugar spike that simple carbs cause.

Some other complex carb sources include peas, beans, and quinoa.

4. Meat

Meat can provide protein, iron, zinc, and various other vitamins and minerals. White meats like chicken or turkey are great meats for seniors to add to their diets.

However, red meat offers benefits as well in the right quantities. The thing is to avoid fatty cuts and opt for more lean meat (in addition to moderating your red meat intake). For example, in terms of steak, sirloin is much leaner than a ribeye.

5. Water

This one may seem obvious, but adequate hydration is critical to the health of seniors.

You see, the body slowly loses its ability to hold onto water as we age. This makes you feel less thirsty, but you still need enough water for your body to be healthy.

Otherwise, you can slip into dehydration. If you’re dehydrated, you may feel drowsy, confused, or get headaches. As dehydration worsens, the symptoms can get extreme.

In general, it’s recommended to drink eight glasses of water a day. A good way to do so is to keep a water bottle near you at all times. If you tend to forget, you can set a timer to take a sip every few minutes.

Additionally, drinks like coffee, tea, and soda are not good replacements for water. Coffee and tea are diuretics, meaning they make you urinate (and thus lose water) more often. Soda is as well, but the sugar dehydrates even further.

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