As people age and their metabolisms slow down, a common concern is weight gain. Weight gains are often associated with snacking, but snacks can be key to a healthy lifestyle if incorporated properly, explains Makenzie Jones.
Having an energy intake spread throughout the day can help people keep moving and keep up with the demands of life at any age. It can also improve nutrient variety and absorption all day long. For older people who may not be able to eat as much at one time, having smaller snacks during the day can ensure they get the nutrients they need.
Dietetics major at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Nicole Burhle adds that with age-related changes in the body, “things like your digestive system will slow down and your ability to break down food (chewing included) will decline. So we want to provide older adults with easy digesting/easy chewing foods” while keeping it nutritious and nutrient-dense to balance the lower calorie need.
Some of these easy chewing options include pudding, yogurt, cottage cheese, oatmeal, applesauce, other soft fruits, hard-boiled eggs, and hummus or chickpeas. These are healthy options that will provide necessary nutrients including protein and calcium as well as vitamins and minerals. Protein is important, as it helps maintain muscle loss that comes with age. Eggs contain the most bioavailable protein there is, so it quickly goes where the body needs it. Protein can be found in a variety of lean meats, nuts, and dairy.
Fruits are a great source of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants that help fight damage in the body caused by stress over time. They also help boost the immune system which is more susceptible in older people. Vegetables are also rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, and they are lower in sugar than fruits. With age, people are more susceptible to type 2 diabetes and other related issues. Maintaining bone health is a particular concern in older adults, especially postmenopausal women. Calcium is a key factor in bone health, as well as muscle and nerve function.
Now that we have some of the background on nutritional keys for seniors, here are some ways to incorporate them into daily snacks:
– Carrots and hummus-vitamins and protein
– Fruit and cottage cheese or yogurt-vitamins, minerals, calcium, and protein
– Oatmeal and applesauce-fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals
– Nuts-protein, healthy fats, fiber
– Eggs with vegetables or cheese-protein, healthy fats, calcium, vitamins, and minerals
– Peanut butter crackers-nutrient-dense for getting more in less
– Edamame provides all nine essential amino acids for protein and metabolism, as well as fiber, vitamins, and minerals
– String cheese-a simple and no-mess way to get protein and calcium
– Popcorn-a tasty treat of whole grains with few calories (not butter-loaded varieties)
– Shakes such as Ensure and Carnation Breakfast Essentials-provide a one-shot deal to hitting many vitamins and minerals, calcium and protein. These are extremely helpful for those who cannot handle much on their stomach and/or in certain nutrient areas that the diets of older people may lack.
If thoughtfully chosen, snacks can play an important role in the health of seniors and may help make their golden years longer and more enjoyable.