The holiday season can be difficult to navigate when you or a loved one has special dietary needs. Tables full of delicious yet fatty and high-sodium foods and trays of tempting sweets can pose major problems for seniors with various health conditions or who take certain medications. There are many things to consider when planning a holiday feast for seniors. Here are some tips to help make sure meals are satisfying without compromising health or nutritional needs.
Focus On Nutrition
One thing to keep in mind when planning holiday meals is that older adults often have special nutritional needs to consider. The process of aging causes many internal changes that can affect a senior’s diet like problems with digestion, slower metabolism, and decreased thirst and appetite. Things such as medication side effects and physical changes related to aging can impact not only energy levels, weight, and appetite, but overall health in general. This is why keeping a focus on nutrition is crucial at holiday get-togethers by incorporating health-conscious options and limiting dishes that are high in fats, sodium, and sugars.
Here are some ideas for a little lighter fare for your fall and winter festivities.
Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast- Rather than a fatty ham or deep-fried turkey, an herb-roasted turkey breast is a lean and flavorful protein that is low in fat but high in flavor. Red meat is higher in fat so by sticking with the breast there’s less room for unhealthy choices. Leave the salt out of your herb mix and allow each person to season with salt at the table according to their needs and taste. This way everyone can enjoy the main dish with no worries about compromising their health.
Stuffing- What’s a roast turkey without stuffing, right? Skip the high-sodium boxed stuffing mixes and opt for homemade stuffing using whole-grain bread, herbs, fresh onions, celery, apples, mushrooms, and walnuts. This makes the stuffing satisfying with fewer fats, sodium, and carbs.
Yams- Candied yams are a holiday staple but the high fat and sugar content does not fit well in a heart-healthy or diabetic diet. This doesn’t mean that you have to skip the dish altogether. Try roasting sweet potatoes with a drizzle of real maple syrup and a sprinkle of cinnamon to satisfy that sweet tooth while getting a healthy dose of beta-carotene and heart-healthy fiber.
Fresh Cranberry Sauce- Cranberries boast a whole host of health benefits. They are high in antioxidants and promote cardiovascular and urinary health, but canned cranberry sauce is loaded with unhealthy sugar. So kick the can to the curb and go with a low-sugar homemade version to bring these wonderful berries to the table in a healthier way.
Greens- Just because it’s a holiday doesn’t mean you don’t have to eat your greens. Make sure to include a healthy punch of nutrients with green veggies like roasted brussels sprouts, steamed broccoli, or spinach and romaine salad.
Give the Dessert Table a Makeover
Pumpkin Pie- Seniors can indulge in sweet holiday treats like pumpkin pie without going overboard with sugar. Opt for a natural sugar-free sweetener like stevia, fat-free evaporated milk, and egg whites in your recipe to make a lighter version of this treat that everyone can enjoy.
Fruit Tarts and Pies- There’s really no way to take all of the carbs out of a berry tart or apple pie, but you can take out the added sugars and reduce the carbs. Stevia comes to the rescue again to allow you to have your pie and eat it too. Look for recipes that use low-carb thickeners for the filling such as gelatin or xanthan gum to reduce the carbohydrates even more for those who need to count carbs closely.
By thinking creatively and adapting favorite dishes with healthier ingredients seniors can fully enjoy the mouth-watering flavors of the season and truly relax to share in the joy of the holidays with their friends and loved ones, all without sacrificing their health.
At Ashbridge Manor Senior Living we pride ourselves on creating an environment that enables seniors to lead a fulfilling, socially active lifestyle to improve their health. When it’s time to transition to a senior living facility, contact our professional staff members and we can help make it easy. You can find us at 971 E. Lancaster Avenue in Downingtown, PA, call 610.269.8800, or contact us online for more information. Ask us about our move-in special!