Navigating the Grocery Store as a Senior – What to Buy and What to Avoid

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While shopping for groceries may be a regular part of your weekly routine, the choices you make can be very important to your overall health. Eating the right foods starts with what you put into your cart, so you should know what foods to buy and what foods to avoid. But navigating the grocery store isn’t always easy. Grocery stores present a mountain of choices, which can be tough for seniors who may not have a set list of food to buy. 


Healthy eating is good for its own sake. But a healthy diet can help aging adults maintain the proper weight and mitigate the physical effects of aging. For these reasons, seniors should learn about the right foods to shop for and eat. Throughout this post, we’ll share guidelines for healthy eating habits, tips for easy grocery shopping as a senior, and other ways to create a balanced, healthful lifestyle. 


For seniors, eating well is just one aspect of a healthy lifestyle. Seniors who have a hard time getting around places like grocery stores because of mobility issues or other health conditions can benefit from an Alert1 medical alert system. Our devices offer immediate help to seniors who need it, even if they have an accident outside of the home. Even if you do not have a history of falling, opting for a medical alert system is a great way for those aging in place to have more peace of mind and immediate connection to assistance. 

Healthy Eating Guidelines for Seniors

Older adults have unique nutrition needs[1] to help maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of developing a chronic condition. Seniors experience muscle loss, weight gain, and dehydration more prominently as they age, and diet plays a key role in controlling these issues. Health professionals recommend a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, protein, whole grains, vitamins and minerals, and healthy fats. Here are examples of each food category and how it can support a healthy senior lifestyle. 


·         Fruits and Vegetables: Seniors should eat fruits and vegetables at each meal or snack. Fruits and vegetables tend to be low calorie and full of key vitamins. They are easy to buy in the store and eat throughout the day. You should aim to buy colorful produce, as those indicate a higher amount of nutrients. For example, you should opt to buy spinach instead of iceberg lettuce, or carrots instead of celery. Fresh fruits and vegetables have a shorter shelf life than frozen or canned options, so you should buy a mix of fresh and preserved to always have some on hand. Many frozen vegetables come in packaging that can be microwaved, making them convenient meal additions. 


·         Variety of Protein: As we age, we become subject to sarcopenia[2], the loss of muscle mass. A diet high in protein helps restore any lost muscle mass and gain new muscle along with strength training. Seniors should aim for the recommended amount of protein[3], which is around 20 to 30 grams per meal. Spreading the consumption of protein throughout the day allows the body to better process macronutrients and get the benefits. You may think meat is the only way to get adequate protein. However, a variety of foods[4] provide lean protein. Fish, beans, peas, and yogurt are all great examples of protein sources to include as snacks or components of a meal to hit the daily protein target. If you are unsure how much protein a food item provides, you can check the nutritional information on its packaging. 


·         Whole Grains: Whole grains provide more nutrients than refined grains. Some common whole grains are brown rice, oats, quinoa, and whole wheat products. The refining process strips the grain of the outer layers, which contain the healthy fiber and B vitamins. Searching for whole grain products ensures you get the nutritional benefits from the grain instead of just consuming grain that does not provide many nutrients. Aim to eat at least 3 ounces of whole grains each day. 


·         Vitamin D: Many vitamins and minerals are essential to a healthy senior diet, but vitamin D is a key dietary supplement. Vitamin D supports strong bones and overall strength. Seniors can get a proper serving of vitamin D through low-fat milk, cheese, or yogurt. Some foods are fortified with vitamin D, but many of the foods you eat likely do not have an adequate amount of the vitamin. Vitamin D is important for aging adults[5], so seniors need to make sure they include foods that give them the benefits.  


·         Healthy Fats: Seniors should strive to eat only polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These fats typically come in a liquid form instead of solid. Some examples of the healthier fats are vegetable oils, like canola, olive, and sesame oils. These examples of unsaturated fats have omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lower your risk for heart disease. The easiest way to incorporate these fats into your diet is to cook with them. Instead of using butter in a pan, use olive oil to cook your eggs, meat, or vegetables. 

Tips for Easy Grocery Shopping as a Senior

The next time you’re planning a trip to the grocery store, keep these tips in mind to make your experience easier. 


1.       Prepare a List Ahead of Time: Even if you have an established grocery shopping routine, writing out an organized list can help. You can order your list based on the layout of the store in which you typically like to shop. This means you’re less likely to forget items because you won’t have to jump around on the list. Additionally, taking time to write out a list in advance makes it easier to ensure that healthy food items, like the ones we listed above, make it into your cart. As much as you may want to rely on your memory to pick up the right foods, a list can help you stay within any grocery budget and help you to avoid too many impulse buys. 

2.       Plan Your Meals Ahead of Time: Pre-planning your meals for the week goes hand-in-hand with preparing a list. To get the most out of every shopping trip, you should have a rough idea of what meals you’ll want to eat to make sure you have the right ingredients on hand. Also, planning out your meals gives you better control of what is on your plate to meet your nutrition goals.  

3.       Read the Label: Food labels can be complex and hard to read. Look for foods with unprocessed ingredients that are low in sodium, sugar, and trans-fat. Many food products claim to be natural or low-fat, but always look at the label to see the real health facts before buying. 

4.       Shop with a Small Cart: If your grocery store offers small grocery carts, use those instead of a large one. Small carts are generally easier to navigate around the store, which can be important if you have mobility or balance issues. Additionally, a smaller shopping cart will fill up quicker with groceries. This means that you will be less likely to add items that are not on your list just to fill up the cart. 

5.       Wear a Medical Alert Device: For those seniors who have a history of falling or are at a high risk for falling, wearing a medical alert to the grocery store makes good sense. Alert1’s on-the-go medical alert systems allow you to wear a button alarm everywhere you go, including the aisles of the grocery store. Having a medical alert system can give seniors more confidence and peace of mind as they walk the aisles, knowing help is just a push of a button away. 

6.       Consider Grocery Pickups: Many aging adults are becoming more familiar with smart phones and computers. This means they can take advantage of the many online tools that help with grocery shopping. The pandemic highlighted the usefulness of grocery store pickup orders as a safer and more convenient grocery shopping alternative. Since it seems like grocery store pickup ordering is here to stay, older adults can look into placing their grocery orders online without even having to step foot into a grocery store. 

Not only does online grocery ordering keep impulse buys at bay, but it also allows you to browse at your own pace and ensure you are shopping within your budget. 

Why “Cheat Treats” Are Sometimes Ok

Seniors should not feel guilty about an occasional dessert or other sweet treat. Salt and sugar cravings are common for seniors as their taste buds become less effective over time. So long as seniors generally maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle, they can have a “cheat treat” here and there. Aging can be challenging for seniors, so comfort foods can provide mental wellbeing and temporary relief from pain or depression on tough days. It is important not to overindulge in unhealthy foods habitually, as complications could arise such as diabetes or obesity. 

Eating Healthy Is Just One Part of a Healthy Senior Lifestyle

Diet is a main part of a healthy lifestyle for seniors, but there are other factors to consider. Good nutrition is effective when combined with a multicomponent exercise routine that develops strength, coordination, and agility. Additionally, seniors can keep their brains sharp with cognitive activities and can keep their spirits up with social outings with friends and family. Another healthy lifestyle choice to consider is a medical alert device. 


Alert1 medical alert systems give aging adults peace of mind that wherever they go and whatever they do, help is at their fingertips. You can choose to have an in-home system, an on-the-go model, or a combination of both to suit your needs. Both device types can come with fall detection technology, which uses sensors to trigger an emergency call if a fall is detected. Accidental falls and other emergencies can happen unexpectedly. Many older adults and their loved ones feel it is better to be prepared with a medical alert system than to be caught in a situation without one. 


Alert1 pricing plans do not lock customers into lengthy contracts that are hard to change. You can choose a month-to-month plan for your device, or you can opt to sign up for a longer plan. A quality medical alert device can complement your lifestyle and provide security and protection in the moments you need help. Alert1 offers top-notch service and flexible pricing to help you age in place, supporting your freedom and independence both in-home and on-the-go.





[1] Ellis, Esther, Msora-Kasago, Cordialis. 2021, April 1. Healthy Eating for Older Adults. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Healthy Eating for Older Adults.

[2] Thorpe, Matthew. 2017, May 15. How to Fight Sarcopenia (Muscle Loss Due to Aging). How to Fight Sarcopenia (Muscle Loss Due to Aging).

[3] Stepko, Barbara. 2019, Dec. 16. Should You Get More Protein? Should You Get More Protein?

[4] Gunnars, Kris. 2020, March 3. 20 Delicious High Protein Foods. 20 Delicious High Protein Foods.

[5] Meehan, Meghan, Penckofer, Sue. 2015, Apr. 16. The Role of Vitamin D in the Aging Adult. Journal of Aging and Gerontology. The Role of Vitamin D in the Aging Adult.