5 Simple Ways Seniors Can Improve Nutrition & Health

improve nutrition

Everyone knows smoking is bad for you. But can you believe that your diet can be even worse? A 2019 study in The Lancet found that 11 million people across the globe die due to poor diet each year. That outranks the number of people who die from smoking. In the United States, about half of all deaths are a result of heart disease, which is linked to poor diet[1].

Just how poor is the typical diet? The CDC reports that only one in 10 adults get enough fruits and vegetables on their plate every day. And JAMA Network says that among older adults, two-thirds of those aged 65 and older eat an unhealthy diet that doesn’t include enough of fresh produce, fruits, fish, or whole grains.

How can you reverse that trend? We have some simple ideas.

1.       Put Fresh Foods Front and Center

A big bowl right in the center of the kitchen island, table, or countertop can encourage you to eat more fruit. Stock that bowl with apples, bananas, oranges, plums, and other delicious fruits that can serve as a healthy snack that. They are sweet without any refined sugars and you don’t have to do anything to prepare them except wash or peel.

When we get hungry, we tend to go for something with sugar. So instead of reaching for those cupcakes, a fruit bowl can make you reach for something much healthier[2].

There are other habits you can foster for better health, such as drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning to kick off your hydration for the day. Wearing a medical alert pendant is another example of an excellent habit for the betterment of your health and wellness. If an accident does happen, this habit of wearing the medical alert device will hold you in good stead! 

2.       Treat Food as Medicine

Most of us look at food as a way to sustain our bodies that happens to taste delicious, too. And most of us look at medicine as something that our doctor recommends or prescribes to help keep our bodies and minds in the best shape possible. But if we start looking at food as medicine, our health might improve. The idea is that good foods – such as fruits and vegetables – could serve as a front-line defense against illness.

There are many illnesses that can be alleviated by better food choices. Diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are three common chronic illnesses that are directly affected by the food you eat. To that end, some doctors are writing prescriptions for fruits and vegetables in the hopes that they will be seen as medicine and treated as such[3]. That turns the quaint phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” into a fact.

According to Advances in Nutrition, writing prescriptions for these good foods has led to a 22% increase in the amount of fruits and vegetables a person puts on their plate. That’s more than enough reason for the National Produce Prescription Collaborative to talk to physicians and healthcare systems to make these important prescriptions more common.

Okay, but those fruits and vegetables can get expensive, right? If you’re in a few lucky states, Medicare or Medicaid might actually cover the cost of the good food you need to help you recover from injury or improve your quality of life with chronic diseases.

3.       Grow Your Own

Studies have shown that households that grow their own food eat 40% more fruits and vegetables than those who don’t. In addition, they are 3.5 times more likely to get the daily recommended servings of these good foods[4]. Eating these delicious, healthy powerhouse foods can not only make you feel better but can also give you a deep satisfaction in being proactive in taking care of your health.

And more great news is that growing your own food can save you a great deal of money. Consider the cost of tomatoes – depending upon where you live, a pound of tomatoes can run anywhere from one to seven dollars[5]. However, a packet of seeds can be purchased for less than a dollar and produce numerous plants. Depending on the variety, each plant can produce between nine and 30 pounds of tomatoes[6]! The cost savings boggles the mind.

To make the gardening process easier, Harvard Health offers these tips:

·         Use a raised garden bed to make the work of gardening easier on your back. This also allows you to control the soil you are planting in.

·         Speaking of soil, make sure you choose some with no contaminants.

·         Start small. You don’t need an enormous garden of endless tomatoes and zucchini to get the benefits you’re seeking.

·         Plant what you know you’ll enjoy. If you absolutely love watermelon but despise blackberries, plenty of watermelon is a great idea. If you aren’t at all into squash but love green beans, forgo that squash for the climbing vines of beans.

·         Choose an area for your garden that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight per day.

·         Make sure there is access to plenty of water. Remember that lugging a hose across the backyard can be tough, especially for those with limited mobility. Try to position your garden near a ready water source to make life easier.

·         Ask those in your neighborhood about what grows best in your area and when to plant. Those who have a green thumb will usually be quite eager to share what they know!

When you are gardening, take steps to stay safe. Wear sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat. Don’t stay out in the sun too long. Stay hydrated by taking a water bottle with you. Consider wearing an emergency response solution, such as the on-the-go option from Alert1. This medical alert pendant (or our attractive medical alert watch) can go anywhere with you, from your backyard garden to the farmer’s market.

4.       Look to Farmer’s Markets

If you can’t grow your own, look to those who do. In addition to gathering in a lovely area with other members of your community, you can be rest assured the offerings at your local farmer’s market are at the peak of their ripeness and season, which means they are more nutritious for you. You can talk directly to the people who picked the peaches or harvested the okra. And you can not only get fruits and vegetables, but locally-raised meats, honey, and herbs. There are even some ready-made foods, like fresh breads.

But isn’t the food at a farmer’s market expensive? Not necessarily – especially when the farmers have a serious overload of a particular type of food, such as peaches or tomatoes. The Senior Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program is designed to help the elderly obtain the fresh fruits and vegetables they need to stay healthy. If you live in a low-income household and are at least 60 years of age, you might be eligible to purchase foods through the program at the farmer’s market, food stands, or directly from local farmers.

And if you qualify for SNAP, you might live in a state that offers the Double Up program. The program matches your SNAP dollars when you purchase fruits and vegetables, allowing you to get even more of the good stuff. Check it out here to see if your state is listed.

5.       Try Lifestyle Changes Before Medications

Did you know that diet counseling is considered preventative care, and thus is covered under the Affordable Care Act? Counseling about the foods you eat can lead to significant lifestyle changes that can protect you into your golden years. Diet counseling also allows you to make lifestyle changes before trying medications – for instance, if you have high cholesterol, your doctor might suggest changes in your diet before you try taking a pill for the condition.

That’s where fruits and vegetables come in. Increased fruit and vegetable intake is well-proven to prevent some chronic diseases. Eating these good foods can reduce your risk of stroke, obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, various cancers, asthma, and so much more.

Choosing a medical alert bracelet, watch, or pendant is a great idea to enhance your senior health and wellness efforts. If you do suffer a fall, whether you are out in the garden, getting out of bed in the middle of the night, or stepping out of the shower, help is literally a button push away. That peace of mind can make you more confident in your day-to-day life, which can in turn make you safer, not to mention happier.

Alert1 wishes you good health and much happiness!